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Old 2004-08-07, 04:24 PM   #1
Shooty Dog Thing
Denyer's Avatar
Default was: Quick Transformers toy FAQ

A wide variety of comics info can be found on the main site.

Questions / answers contributed by various members, but especially Nevermore. A more general Toy Collecting Terms FAQ can be found in our Other Toylines forum. These threads may also be of particular interest:

- eBay seller blacklist
- Information about Chinese 'G1' episode DVDs
- 'G1' trademarks and what they mean to Hasbro
- Collection lists / collection photos

What new toys / reissues are available or upcoming?

Nevermore has compiled prodigious lists of recent and forthcoming releases. You can find those in the Toys section on the main site.

May I post auctions or items I have for sale/trade?

Only in the Trading Post. Please read the sticky thread in that forum.

Where can I get [insert name of toy/character]?

eBay is a main source of older releases. Links to a few online retailers can be found here:

Can you help me identify this *insert picture, link, description* toy?

Yes, we probably can, but the quickest way and first thing you should try is going to ...they have pictures, tech specs, and information on just about every Transformer toy ever made, including a nifty identification guide, albeit the site is currently on hiatus since the beginning of 2006. As an alternative, TransformerLand and Cobra Island Toys also have Transformer identification guides that allow you to search by picture.

What's the difference between Alternators and Binaltech?

The single biggest difference is that Takara's Binaltech releases feature a lot of diecast metal, whilst Hasbro's Alternators releases are plastic to keep prices down.

Beyond that, the differences between the two versions can range between anything of the following:
Being virtually identical at first sight (Hound, Swindle)
Sporting slightly different shades of colors (Ravage/Battle Ravage, Tracks, Shockblast/Laserwave, Meister)
Glaring differences in color due to use of flat plastic instead of paint (Smokescreen)
A lack of chromed rims and gun/engine pieces on the Alternators version (Grimlock, Wheeljack)
Minor additional paint applications on the Alternators version (Side Swipe, Wheeljack)
Non-chromed mirrors on the Alternators version (Smokescreen, Silverstreak, Meister, Shockblast)
Minor mold differences between the heads (Windcharger/Overdrive, Wheeljack)
Unpainted heads on the Alternators version (Wheeljack)
Different license plates (Windcharger vs. Overdrive)
A considerably different color palette and deco (Prowl, Skids)
Steering wheels being on the right side for the Binaltech versions of Japanese car models (Silverstreak, Meister, Shockblast, Overdrive, Prowl, Skids)
Missing gun barrels on the Alternators versions due to concerns on behalf of the local car manufacturer's licensing department (Windcharger)
Mold differences due to the vehicle modes being different domestic models (Prowl)

On top of that, both Alternators and Binaltech feature some exclusive variations and redecos, such as:
Smokescreen #7 (Binaltech)
Yellow Tracks (Binaltech; planned for Alternators but scrapped in favor of the blue version)
The "Smokescreen GT" retool (Binaltech; with an exclusive additional shoulder cannon; available in "#1" and "#2" variations)
Red Meister (Binaltech; aka "Zoom-Zoom")
Swerve (Alternators)
Decepticharge (Alternators; various plans for Binaltech counterparts got scrapped)
Blue civilian model Prowl (Binaltech)
Rollbar (Alternators)
Ricochet (Alternators)
Camshaft (Alternators)
Nemesis Prime (Alternators; a "Black Convoy" version was planned for the "Binaltech Asterisk" sub-line, but got scrapped)

On top of that, Takara had a short-lived sub-line named "Binaltech Asterisk" which featured redecos of Binaltech toys that came with additional anime girl figures. The only BTA toy with an Alternators counterpart was Sunstreaker (who sported a considerably different deco from the Hasbro version), whereas Alert (police retool of Streak) and Broadblast (silver repaint of Skids) were Takara exclusives.

Takara have since cancelled both Binaltech and Binaltech Asterisk and replace it with a new line named "Kiss Players", which is now the Japanese counterpart to Hasbro's Alternators. The toys no longer use diecast parts (yet cost even more than the Binaltech toys originally did) but come with additional anime girl figures that are now made the focus of the advertizing (often using overtly sexualized poses), plus CDs (which collect the background story that was originally told as an episodic radio drama) and artbooks. Thus far, Convoy is the only toy with a direct Alternators counterpart (Optimus Prime; albeit with a considerably different deco again), whereas Hot Rodimus is a red version of Mirage (whom Japan didn't get) with an all-new head sculpt, and Autorooper will be a police retool of Meister, also with a new head sculpt. Additionally, there are also miniaturized versions of the robots planned which will come with larger versions of the anime girls.

What's the difference between a Hasbro reissue and a Takara reissue?

Takara originally tended to keep their reissues closer to the original, but later tried to improve on them by making them more accurate to the cartoon (usually achieved by changing colors, e.g. Starscream or Galvatron, or even by creating entirely new head sculpts, e.g. Bumblebee) or including accessories that were previously only available with different releases of the toys in question (e.g. "Collection" Megatron, "Collection" Stepper, "New Year Special" Convoy) or even completely new ("New Year Special" Convoy, "Collection" Convoy, "Collection" Starscream, Galvatron).

Meanwhile, in order to conform to US toy laws, Hasbro have to make some changes to some of the toys. They generally remove the springs from missile launchers, make any missiles that might pose a choking hazard longer, shorten anything that might be able to take out an eye, that sort of thing. But whenever they can, Hasbro also try to improve on a toy, in some rare cases even fixing errors found on the Takara reissue (e.g. a loose roof on Jazz) or releasing toys that were previously not available in the USA in that form (Ricochet, Astrotrain, Powermaster Optimus Prime with "Apex Armor", Soundwave as the two-cassette Soundblaster mould.)

Also, Takara have put out a number of reissues that have not found their way into American stores (yet), such as:
Thrust (all four planned for a US release, but put on hold due to the temporary faltering of the TRU reissue line)
A six-pack of Minibots (Bumblebee and some other Minibots not included in the pack were available as keychain pendants from Fun-4-All in the US)
All three Insecticons
Kup and Wheelie
Blaster and Steeljaw
G2 Laser Optimus Prime
Most notably, the only way to get a Megatron reissue is still to go through Takara.

On top of that, there were numerous exclusive repaints of those reissues, usually available either from Japanese online retailer e-Hobby, via mail order or as promotional lucky draw campaigns from Japanese hobby magazines or, in earlier years, from assorted Japanese toy shows.

On the other hand, several of the reissues that saw a wider (albeit still TRU-exclusive) release in the USA were only ever available as limited items at Japanese conventions in 2001, such as:
Also, whereas Silverstreak (Bluestreak) was a standard TRU reissue in the USA, his Japanese counterpart, Streak (in Diaclone/cartoon colors, aka "Anime Streak"), was exclusively available from e-Hobby.

Still, a few toys were even reissued multiple times in Japan (often with some minor, in some cases also major, changes), such as:
Convoy (Optimus Prime)
Lambor (Sideswipe)
Hot Rodimus (Hot Rod)
Bumble (Bumblebee)

Why isn't G1 Megatron being reissued in the US?

As a toy company, Hasbro must follow certain child safety laws. The US (and many other countries) no longer allow realistic toy guns to be sold. It's doubtful that Megatron could be reissued without being colored bright neon and with an orange cap on the barrel, and different states also have their own legislation—so, Hasbro is unlikely to offer a product it cannot sell in all of its markets, and doubtless doesn't want to run the risk of bad press due to some kid getting accidentally shot whilst playing with one of its products, either. It's also unlikely to produce Megatron to sell solely as an adult collectible, since the scale economics aren't in its favour.

The fact that Hasbro are releasing a Megatron with a gun-like alternate mode as part of their new "Classics" line isn't likely to change this either - his alternate form is based on a Nerf toy gun which doesn't have realistic gun proportions to begin with, he uses lots of purple and translucent green plastic and on top of that has orange caps both on the barrel and the scope. If anything, Classics Megatron an indication of what a US Megatron reissue would look like, and that doesn't even take into consideration the more realistic gun shape of the original Megatron toy. As a matter of fact, at a BotCon panel a few years ago, Hasbro presented a proposal for a possible US Megatron reissue in bright "safety" colors - and even that still didn't pass safety regulations.

How about reissues of Wheeljack, Mirage, Sunstreaker, Trailbreaker, Ironhide or Ratchet?

At the BotCon 2005 panel, Hasbro confirmed that the molds for Wheeljack and Mirage are "long since depleted". While it is possible to recast a new mold using parts of an existing toy, the process is supposedly rather expensive, and the expected profit from reissuing those toys might not justify the costs required to restore the molds.

The fate of Sunstreaker's mold is still a mystery (the toy was last released as part of the European "Classic Heroes" reissue line in 1991), and while there have been store listings for a "Sunstreaker" reissue a few years back, those eventually turned out to be placeholder listings for Ricochet (Hasbro's release of Stepper).

Lastly, Trailbreaker, Ironhide and Ratchet have all been reissued by Takara in 2001, so there's a good chance those molds might still be intact. In fact, store listings from a few years back confirm that Hasbro had plans to reissue at least Trailbreaker and Ironhide, but due to the unexpected faltering of the Commemorative Series line for the time being, those plans were put on hold. If there are going to be any further reissues beyond Soundwave, there's a good change Trailbreaker or Ironhide might be next.

It's not clear whether a reissue of Trailbreaker could be released under its original name either - there have been numerous cases with Trailbreaker-inspired toys in the past few years which ultimately all ended up having different names, so there's a good chance Hasbro don't have the rights to the "Trailbreaker" trademark anymore.

Why can't they reissue Shockwave/Jetfire/Omega Supreme/Deluxe Autobots/Deluxe Insecticons?

The molds for these toys weren't created by either Hasbro or Takara, and they don't own the rights to them. Back in the 80's TFs were such a smash hit that Hasbro wanted to get as much product out on the shelves with the Transformers name on it as possible. Since they were running out of old Takara molds to use, they obtained licences to use the molds of other companies' robot toys in the Transformers line. Shockwave, Jetfire, Omega Supreme, Roadbuster, Whirl, Chop Shop, Venom, Barrage and Ransack were among those molds. The licences expired a long time ago, so Hasbro and Takara no longer have legal rights to those figures.

Why haven't they reissued [insert name] G1 combiner team?

Thus far Hasbro/Takara have only given evidence of the Bruticus and Piranacon molds having survived, although we know that the Predaking mold survived because Takara released it as part of their TF 20th anniversary year! It's probable that widespread cheap bootlegs of the other teams are considered by the two official companies to have damaged the potential for sales. This has, in fact, been all but confirmed by sources close to Takara, who would be responsible for the mold work.

Why isn't Hasbro bringing over Fortress Maximus?

At OTFCC 2004, Hasbro officially confirmed that they cannot bring Fortress Maximus to the US due to the toy being unable to meet US toy safety regulations. Specifically, the "drop test," where a toy is dropped from a height of 3 ft. and deemed safe or unsafe depending on the size of pieces that break off.

Why don't Transformers come with tech specs anymore?

Many do, as of fairly recently. It depends where you are.

With the launch of Cybertron, Hasbro dropped the trilingual packaging (which is still used for Canadian and Central/South American releases) for the US market and started using bios and tech specs on the packaging again. This trend appears to be a mainstay for the foreseeable future, seeing as how the toys from the "Classics" line were also available in English-only packaging, complete with bios and tech specs.

The downside, however, is that the situation for European toys has become worse rather than better - instead of six languages (English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Dutch), which have been the standard ever since Armada, European Transformers toys now sport no less than twelve languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Polish and Turkish) on their packaging. Needless to say, the packaging looks hopelessly cluttered and doesn't leave any room for more descriptions than one or two brief sentences in each language.

Is $x a good price for toy 'y'?

Prices change all the time, depending on demand. The best way of finding out an answer to a question like this is to check for similar auctions on e-bay and find out what prices they're selling for.

Which should I get? ____________ or ___________?

There is no definitive answer. It's a personal preference. However, this site (as well as others you can find from our links page) provides reviews for a number of toys that may aid in deciding which toy to purchase.

Which reissue will be worth the most in the future?

Probably something that had limited availability in its previous reincarnation, either through being only available in Japan, or from a limited production run. Conversely, people often want most to own toys of characters they remember fondly. Other than that rather vague advice, it's really impossible to tell.

Why do Transformers from newer series have the same names as the G1 characters, even if they're in a different continuity and not the same characters? / Why are some of the names of the G1 reissues or Alternators (which appear to represent G1 characters) changed? (eg, Autobot Jazz, Rodimus Major, Shockblast etc.)

First of all, there's of course the cash-in factor: A toy called "Megatron" gets more attention than one named "Armorhide".

A more complicated answer would be: Trademarks. In order to retain the rights to a toy name, it must be reused by the same company in a certain timeframe. If it is not used, Hasbro's "lease" runs out, so to speak, and another company can take over the rights to the name.

For more details on trademarks and why certain toys are still able to use the same name as older toys while other names had to be changed, see here.

Why do I see so many prototypes of still unreleased toys being sold at eBay? Where are these coming from, and why can't Hasbro/Takara do something about this?

Technically, those are not really "prototypes". Real prototypes are usually flat grey without any colors at all. The only pics of actual prototypes we occasionally see are printed in Japanese magazine articles and have been officially provided by Takara. If an actual prototype or pics thereof are leaving Hasbro/Takara's offices, expect them to do something about it in no time.

Meanwhile, what we see being sold at eBay are so-called "test shots", from various stages of the production run. They're done to test how the molding or specific color scheme combinations work, or to present upcoming toys to dealers or on conventions. Usually, they are ordered to be destroyed after they served their duty, but more often than not, some Chinese factory workers sneak them out and sell them to "proto dealers". Also notice that the vast majority of test shots we see are of upcoming Hasbro products, since test shots of Takara-only releases rarely surface. It would seem that Takara's factories have better security than Hasbro's, even though Hasbro are technically using factories provided by Takara.

As to why Hasbro aren't doing anything about this situation: it would appear they can't (except maybe for improving their security.) Therefore, they intentionally mark or even damage the test shot molds. Examples such as the infamous "NOT FOR SALE" markings, scratched in tracking numbers on test shots for the more recent Alternators, off-colored faction symbols or ugly, brightly-colored splotches of paint on the toys' faces such as on early test shots for the Classics Optimus Prime/Megatron two-pack spring to mind.

What's up with these strange toys that look like Transformers, but don't feature the actual name on their packaging? Are they legal? If no, can't Hasbro/Takara do anything about them?

There's two possibilities what you might be thinking of:
a) Products from other toylines (Gobots, Brave, Macross etc.). The concept of transforming robots by itself is not patented by Hasbro or Takara, and therefore other companies can have their own lines featuring robots that turn into other things, as long as they aren't direct rip-offs of existing Transformers toys and they aren't advertized using the trademarked term "Transformers".
b) Unlicensed recreations of existing Transformers toys, also known as "knock-offs" (commonly abbrevated "KOs") or "bootlegs". They are of varying quality, sometimes they are flat-out imitations of the real thing, down to the packaging, sometimes they differ from the originals in size, sometimes they use different (often rightout bizarre) colors, and sometimes they feature drastic mold changes or even only use a few parts of existing Transformers at all. In most cases, they feature generic names on their packaging, such as "Super Robot Transform" or "Warrior Car Fighting Machine", with glaring spelling errors and apparently meaningless names/phrases being anything but unusual. Regarding the legal situation: Those tend to come from countries such as China or Korea, countries that don't have copyright laws as we know them, therefore Hasbro have a rather difficult legal stand in this case. Also, it would appear that Hasbro can't do much about people selling those knock-offs either, therefore you're likely still to find them at stores such as Big Lots or Walgreens in the future.

And while they may indeed look like a cheap alternative to the expensive Hasbro originals, be warned that many of these knock-offs are lacking any sort of quality control, which means parts might not fit together properly or tend to break rather easily.
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Old 2008-05-10, 04:45 AM   #2
Triple Changer
burnitall's Avatar

Thanks. Your info on alternator/binaltech and reissues is most enlightening. Knowing the differences between the japanese and us issues will save me money and get me what I want.
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Old 2009-10-13, 03:09 PM   #3
The man who painted heaven
Paul053's Avatar
North star where bananna froze

Great info. Thanks a lot. I think Japan now has another Binaltech line which is Alternity. Is it possible HASBRO will do this line also?
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Old 2009-10-13, 03:51 PM   #4
Keiner versteht mich.
Nevermore's Avatar
Autobase Germany

Hasbro said they have no plans for Alternity.

Looking for a complete Energon Sky Shadow (from Superion Maximus).
Offering: Binaltech Hound, Swindle, Ravage (Corvette), Skids.
Can buy in stores: Robot Heroes Tigatron/Inferno, Ricochet/Predaking.
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Old 2015-06-23, 10:10 AM   #5
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This is in need of updating. The production of Mechabot 1 and Shuttle Dinosaur (Pre-Omega Supreme and Pre-Sky Lynx) was in fact subcontracted to Tomy, which has long since merged with Takara, and so the both of them got Encore reissues a few years back.
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Old 2015-06-23, 06:56 PM   #6
Shooty Dog Thing
Denyer's Avatar

If you have the time and inclination, go for it. After this much time I don't think there's much need for a FAQ when more information is available online, personally, which is why this was unstickied and left to fall down into the thread history.
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