New to collecting?  Confused by the lingo?  Wondering where to get the best deals or advice?  This page is for those of you who have realized that transforming robot toys are the coolest collectibles ever, but you've just started and need a crash course in collecting.  Click the area you need help on, or just scroll down to read the whole bit.  OR, if you want to be a helpful part of the community, you can contribute some advice or comments of your own.

 

 

There are thousands of aspects of collecting, maintaining, and researching Transforming Robot toys.  If you have suggestions or advice that can help fellow collectors, please let us know, and we will try to keep this page stocked with current and useful information!  If you have a question about something and see no help here, feel free to ask us directly.




TERMINOLOGY

In order to buy, sell, or trade these guys, you need to know how to describe their condition.  You'll see people use the following acronyms/words when referring to items they are looking for or selling (they are listed in alphabetical order).

***See General Advice  for  additional info*** 

.000, .001, .002 This is similar to the SKU number, but refers to an assortment.  When figures are released and coded for sale to retail markets, they are part of an "assortment."  The assortment number is a long number followed by a decimal point and a 000, 001, or 002 (etc.) suffix.  Sometimes the same figure is retooled, recolored, or even unchanged and released again in a new batch, or assortment.  The completist collectors will often search for the first assortment release (.000), or perhaps a change was made to the figure and the changed version is released in limited quantities, making the 0002 or 0003 (or whatEVER) the "hot" item.
+ (plus sign): This is just to indicate that an item being rated in terms of condition (usually via the C-scale) could be in better condition than the rating states.  For instance, a C-8 figure is an 8 out of 10, but a C-8+ figure is even better, but probably not as good as C-9.  Most people use decimals to be more specific (like C-8.2 or C-8.5).  Sometimes the "+" is added as a type of exclamation about how perfect a C-10 figure is (C-10++!!).
Backing: Any supportive or decorative surface to which a toy is affixed in some way for display in the retail market.  For the earlier Transformers figures, the piece of cardboard that the figure was sealed to in the bubble is the backing.  This is not typically the "card" of carded figures, but rather some secondary packaging inside a main box.
Blister:  One of the common ways for toy companies to package their wares for display in the retail market is to use a clear plastic shell that is affixed via some sort of adhesive to a cardboard backing.   This is most often referred to as the "Bubble," but many people use "Blister" as well.  It enables buyers to see the item for sale without being able to touch it before purchase.
Bubble:  See Blister.
C-1 (or C-2, C-3, etc. up to C-10): This is a basic rating scale used to describe the condition of figures or their boxes, packaging, etc.  It's no more than a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.  It is generally assumed that the "C" just stands for "Condition."  While everyone's definition is different (see General Advice for using or interpreting the C scale), C-10 generally means in perfect condition, as if the figure has just been taken out of a sealed box; no scratches, looseness, no flaws whatsoever.  C-1 would be a figure that is more than likely broken in some way, with dirt, scratches, bends, stress/tooth marks, total looseness, etc.  The same applies to boxes; a C-10 box looks as if it just came off the belt at the factory; no creases, dents/dings in the acetate windows (or what have you), no corner wear, etc.  Every item can be judged in its own way; the C-scale is just a way for us as collectors and sellers to standardize how to quickly present the gist of an item's condition.
Card: The most common ways for toy companies to package their figures are in boxes or on Cards.  Cards are the types of packages hung on hooks in stores instead of stacked on shelves.  In the U.S., the deluxe-sized Beast Wars figures were all on cards, as are most of the standard-sized Star Wars figures.
Case Fresh: This means that the packaging is in perfect shape, and usually also means it's sealed and in untouched condition.  It's as if the figure was just pulled from a case that was shipped to the retailer by the toy company.  Similar to MIMSB.
Factory (or Factory Applied): Most figures have some detail applied at the factory that made them, often a certain set of stickers.  If a figure only has the factory-applied stickers, it means the stickers that are already applied when the figure is removed from its original packaging.
Insert: Almost all toys are packaged with some secondary materials besides the figure itself and its accessories; there are usually promotional brochures, catalogs of similar toys available for sale, etc.  These are often referred to as "inserts."  Some people use the word to mean many things, however, so be sure to check the General Advice section.

***Quick summary of all the "MIMB," "MOC," "MISB," etc.***

M = MINT
I = IN
B = BOX
P = PACKAGE
C = CARD
S = SEALED
O = ON

MIB: Mint In Box.  The item in question has its retail packaging.  Some people use this to refer only to the presence of the packaging, not the CONDITION of the packaging or of the figure; see the General Advice section for details.
MIMB: Mint In Mint Box.  The seller is specifically stating that not only the figure is in Mint condition, but the box that it is packaged in is in Mint condition as well.
Mint: "Perfect" in terms of the condition of a figure or its packaging.  For car enthusiasts, a synonym would be "cherry."
MIMP: Mint In Mint Package:  Same as MIMB, but perhaps the figure in question was packaged in some way other than in a "box" per se.
MIP: Mint In Package.  Same as MIB, but perhaps the figure in question was packaged in some way other than in a "box" per se.
MISB: Mint In Sealed Box.  The packaging for the figure in question is unopened.  Most toy companies packaged their items in some way as to make this a definable trait.  Boxed Transformers had tape holding the opening flaps shut, as well as bubble/backing seals of the actual figure inside.  Some people use MISB to refer only to PARTS of the packaging being unopened; see the General Advice section for details.
MISMB: Mint In Mint Sealed Box.  Same as MISB, but the seller is specifically stating that the packaging is in perfect condition as well as the figure.
MISP: Mint In Sealed Package.  Same as MISB, but perhaps the figure in question was packaged in some way other than in a "box" per se.
MISMP: Mint In Sealed Mint Package.  Same as MISP, but the seller is specifically stating that the packaging is in perfect condition as well as the figure.
MOC: Mint On Card.  For figures that are packaged on cardbacks instead of in boxes (hung on hooks in stores rather than stacked on shelves).  The majority of the Beast Wars figures are packaged this way.  It means that the figure is still able to be held to the cardback by the packaging.  Not sealed, necessarily, but the cardback should be able to be hung on a hook without the figure falling out.
MOSC: Mint On Sealed Card.  Whatever packaging there is that holds the figure to the card (usually a bubble) has not been breached; the figure itself is provably untouched by consumer hands.
MOSMC: Mint On Sealed Mint Card.  Same as MOSC, but the seller is specifically stating that the packaging is in perfect condition as well as the figure.
NRFB: Never Removed From Box.  Same as MISB.
Paperwork:  Included in the packaging for most toys is some amount of documentation, usually instructions on how to use or transform the figure.  Most often paperwork refers to the instructions, but some people use it to refer to all paper inserts (catalogs, mail-away offers, promotional items, etc.).
Punched (or Unpunched): For figures that were packaged on cards and hung on hooks for display in retail stores, there was usually a little hole in the top/center of the card where the hook would go through.  Sometimes this hole was scored but not punched all the way through by the packaging manufacturers.  It's an added feature to a figure's "newness" and "untouched" quality.  Doesn't apply so much any more, as most carded figures now have shaped cards that allow for hooks, as opposed to "island" holes that needed to be punched.
Recolor: Toy companies (especially Hasbro) often release an action figure that is identical to an earlier figure, but has a different color scheme.  Sometimes they are marketed as separate figures with different names, sometimes they are considered "re-releases."
Re-release (or Re-issue): Because of popularity, or to correct an earlier error/recalled toy, companies may begin selling a figure again that was discontinued.  The new figure may have different colors or packaging, but is still considered the same character and has the same name.
Rock Bubble (or Rock Blister): A Beast-Wars specific term; several carded figures were altered in their packaging while still in production.  The earlier variations had bubbles on the cards that where molded to look like rocks.  The Bubbles were later changed to smooth rounded shapes with no special molding (known as Smooth Bubble or Smooth Blister).
Shelf Wear: General overall minor damage to packaging due to typical shelf activity in a toy stor; being slid along a shelf, or stacked and scuttled along over and over until some whitening appears along corners (for boxed figures), or some flat edges are a little bent and bubbles are a little scuffed (for carded figures).
SKU: In the world of collecting, some people are amazingly complete about getting variations.  Sometimes a toy or its packaging is altered in some way while it is still in production, creating two (or more) near-identical toys in the retail market at once.  Sometimes the variation is so minor that the only evidence is a different "SKU number."  SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit, and is the bar-coded number on packages that identifies the smallest marketable unit (ie. one action figure) sold by a company.  For some reason a SKU number difference can create a lot of excitement for the completist collectors, and so is referred to when describing the figure for sale (like "Transmetal 2 Cybershark, Sku# 0-76281-8054-2!!!!")
Smooth Bubble (or Smooth Blister): See Rock Bubble.
Variation (or Var): Oftentimes a toy company will alter the packaging or a small detail regarding an action figure's components while it is still in production.  This creates two items of the same name that are concurrently in production.  Sometimes it is a recolor, sometimes a very slightly different figure attribute (like an open fist in one variation and a closed fist in the other, or decals on one variation and paint on another), but the word Variation is most commonly used for a difference in packaging for the same figure (like roman numerals used in the first releases of the Transmetal II figures instead of the later Transmetal 2 packages).

 

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WHERE TO BUY

For vintage or specialty collectibles a collector has only a few options for acquiring pieces:

- Collectibles/comics shops:  this tends to be pretty pricey; for some reason a lot of brick-and-mortar (actual physical location) shops charge a LOT for their items, probably because a lot of the people that come in their shops are not very knowledgeable about the collectibles, but are instead swept away by a feeling of nostalgia and the "old days" when they see a toy they remember, and they assume the high cost is because the figure is old and that's just the way it is.  If you want to try them out, though, the best shops (meaning with the coolest stuff, not just dolls and wooden soldiers) are usually in very urban areas, like large cities.  If you're in California, the bigger cities there are LOADED with collectibles shops that specialize in robotic/sci fi toys, and they get a lot of stuff from Japan as well.

- Conventions:  At almost every toy, sci-fi, or comic-related convention you will find someone with cool transforming robot toys for sale.  Again, this tends to be a little pricey, since the sellers figure everyone there is a collector and will pay big bucks for anything and everything.  Sometimes you'll find a seller who specializes in something other than action figures or robotic toys, like baseball cards, who for some reason got his/her hand on some Transformers.  They may not charge so much because they either have no idea what they have or because they don't feel like carrying a bunch of stuff around with them that they don't specialize in.

- Yard Sales/Garage Sales/Flea Markets:  This is actually an excellent resource if you're not hugely nitpicky about the condition of your figures.  A lot of moms or people who finally grew up use these sales to clean house and make a few bucks, and want more to get rid of clutter than to become millionaires by taking advantage of your collecting vice.  Very seldom will you get C-10 complete figures or packaging, though; anyone who sells their Transformers at a yard sale is not a serious collector, and so probably didn't treat the toys super well; you'll find a lot of C-3 to C-8 items this way.  And, of course, you may get lucky and find someone who took care of everything and kept all the instructions, Tech Specs, etc., and just wants to rid themselves of it all in one fell swoop.

- Friends, friends of friends, and family of friends:  Another excellent resource for the non-finicky collector.  A lot of people have toys from their youth just stuffed away in their attic or basement and forgotten.  Tell your buddies you're into collecting these things, and ask if they or their buddies or siblings have any laying around their house.  Luckily, EVERYONE remembers the Transformers, so people should know right away without having to dig through all their stuff.  Remember, though, most of these will be very played with and not too complete; not many people are overly careful about stuffing forgotten toys in the attic to generate some space in the house.

- The Internet:  By far the largest and most varied marketplace for collecting.  The World Wide Web has made all of us each other's neighbors, so finding someone with a similar interest or a seller with what we want has become a sure bet.  This resource is so vast, in fact, it can be subdivided:

- Newsgroups/Interest groups:  Almost every major search site/ISP (Yahoo, MSN, AOL, etc.) has interest groups that members can join.  Also, Usenet's newsgroups are being added to every day.  These are just servers that contain categorized public postings and responses by people who share a common interest.  And yes, there are several Transformers newsgroups out there.  The most popular and/or longstanding ones are:

  • alt.toys.transformers (more for discussing them and asking questions than for finding items)

  • alt.transformers.classic.moderated (ONLY for discussing them, no sales or buys allowed)

  • alt.toys.transformers.marketplace (ONLY for buying/selling/trading)

To join and post to newsgroups you need to have a newsgroup server.  If you have no idea how to get to these places and make use of them, ask us and we'll try to help you (it's different depending on how you connect to the Internet and who your ISP is).  Remember, there are newsgroups for almost every toyline/collectible, not just Transformers.  And also remember there are dangers associated with trading online this way.  See our General Advice for more.

- Personal Web pages:  There are a lot of collectors and fans who have appreciation sites that also want to buy/sell/trade.  There are THOUSANDS of these pages, and getting to them can be difficult.  There are a few very helpful links to help you ease your search in our Links page.  You must be careful when collecting this way; see the General Advice.

- Online Stores:  Lots of these are popping up as the Web progresses.  Several collectibles shops and individual sellers have gone legit and taken their business to the 'Net (like Botcollector, for instance).  This is the way you will find a lot of what you're looking for.  Again, though, be prepared for some pretty serious prices; the online stores know that collectors want these things pretty bad, and so you can't expect too many price breaks.  Also, remember that the people running these stores are just that; people.  Some are professional and try to make collectors happy, and some don't really care about your happiness, they just want to buy low, sell high, ship 'em in, get 'em out.  Our Links page has links to the sellers that we have dealt with before and so can speak about in terms of service.  You can find reviews of other sites via some of our other fan-based links as well.

- Auction Sites:  The biggest of these is Ebay, of course.  Yahoo auctions also serve a large collectibles market, and there are many others.  The GOOD thing about sites like Ebay is that you are almost guaranteed to find what you're looking for.  The bad part is you're competing with the rest of the world to get it.  You may often find, though, that you can save some money at auction sites over some of the online stores.  Never depend on it, though.  Make sure you read up on how to use the sites and the policies before getting involved.  It's a pain, but it's necessary and VERY worth it.  There's some advice on how best to handle auctions and sellers/bidders in our General Advice section on this page.

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WHERE TO SELL

If you're getting rid of a few items or an entire collection, using the Internet is really the best way (be sure to see our General Advice section about this too).  Selling items to brick-and-mortar collectibles dealers or at conventions is usually a good way to get taken advantage of.  This is not necessarily because all dealers are dishonest (although many are), but because they have a much higher overhead than a typical online merchant or auction buyer; rent, electricity, security, etc.; it all typically costs more than a web server and some Internet space.

- If you're TRADING, the best places are newsgroups (see the Where to Buy section for specifics); post what you have and what you want.

- If you are selling but remaining very active in the collecting field, then do some research among fellow collectors who are buying, like on personal web pages.  Many collectors have Want Lists, and may be looking for what you have.  If you want to save time, though, and know exactly what you want to get for your figures, post what you have to newsgroups first, including your prices.  If no one wants your stuff, then you can easily get about the maximum payoff using Ebay. 

- If you're looking to just unload and don't care to trade or stay in the collecting field, auction sites are a good way to go.  However, consider very carefully how much time you want to spend on selling these things.  If you only have a couple things to sell, no problem.  If you have an entire collection, and want to sell each item individually, be prepared to deal with a lot of deadbeat bidders, bounced checks, excuses for late payment, no payment, account maintenance with the auction site, questions upon questions about your items, etc.  There is more about this in the General Advice section.

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HOW TO RATE

Knowing how to describe your figures accurately is important when you're selling, and knowing how to interpret other people's ratings is important if you're buying.  Be sure to see our General Advice about this topic; it's a doozy.

The most common rating method for collectibles is the C-scale (see the Terminology section).   With something as complicated as collectibles, though, where every square inch and possible joint, sticker, paint job, etc. can mean so much (or NOT as much to different people), the most important thing to remember is that you need to describe the faults in as much detail as possible, and point out the good things as well.  Just saying "C-5" will not do it; you need to explain WHY it is a C-5.  The most important features of Transformers and transforming robot toy collectibles for potential buyers seem to be:

- For FIGURES (and their accessories):

  • Paint (any scratches, nicks or dimming?  Where the parts come into contact with each other, has the paint worn or streaked?)

  • Plastic (any discoloration due to the sun, or marks like toothmarks, smudges, scrapes, stress marks from overextension, etc.?)

  • Stickers (applied correctly?  Are they scratched, scraped, or losing their color from contact wear?  If not applied, is the sticker sheet included?)

  • Joints (are they loose?  Will the arms stay up if you put them up, or do they fall back down?  Do they squeak?  Do the wheels roll?)

  • Rubber (are the tires/rubber parts cracked from age?)

  • Metal (is there any rusting, like on the screws?)

  • Contaminants (is the figure very dusty, or dirty?  Is there dried-up soda in the chinks and crannies?)

  • Completeness (is the figure missing any parts?  Are all of its accessories included, even extra missiles [or whatever]?  If they are included, are they still on the little plastic tree?)

- For PACKAGING:

  • Color (is there any fading due to age?  Is there a scrape or smudge where a price tag was removed?  Is it still shiny and bright?)

  • Surface (are there any wrinkles, bends, or dents in the cardboard or plastic?  Are there any rips or tears where tape was removed?)

  • Corners (is there whitening along corners due to shelf wear?  Are the corners still sharp and stiff?)

  • Completeness (are all the inserts included?  Are secondary parts of packaging still intact, like the inside bubbles/backing?  Are all the twisty-ties, etc. included?  How about sticker sheets, catalogs, and instructions?)

  • Integrity (Is the whole package sealed?  If not, are ANY parts sealed, like internal bubbles/backing?  If all parts were opened, were they opened all the way, or just enough to fit the contents through?  Were they opened carefully, with an eye for later appearance, or just torn open?)

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WHO TO TRUST

Using the Internet as a medium, it's very difficult to be sure that the person/company you're dealing with is on the level.  In fact, it's impossible.  Let's face it, no matter how good a reputation is, or how much good feedback they have, there's always a chance that your transaction will go wrong.  You can only lessen your chances of trouble by doing as much research as possible.  These are some signs that you're dealing with someone who's on the level (remember, these are just SIGNS.  If the person displays none of the following, they still may be totally on the level.  Or, if they display ALL of them, they could still rip you off; nothing is CERTAIN):

  • They send merchandise/payment first.  Lets face it, no matter how shady someone may act, or how bad their reputation is, if they send the payment or the figures to you first, and wait until you're happy before you send your part, how can you lose?  Just don't take advantage of them; take care of your obligations and start building up your own good reputation.

  • Excellent Ebay feedback.  Feedback with no negatives or a LOT of positives shows that at least the TREND is that they provide good transactions.  A good amount of the Ebay users that left good feedback for the person in question should have large positive feedbacks themselves; a bunch of 3 or under feedback users may mean that the person just made a bunch of false ID's to leave misleading positive feedback to increase their credibility.  Most collectors use Ebay at least some of the time, and so should be able to provide you with an Ebay ID.  Since Ebay has made it so you can't see User's email addresses any more, you should use their forms to contact the User ID just to confirm that the email addresses are the same (otherwise someone can just give you ANY user ID and say it's theirs).

  • An established presence and good reputation on newsgroups.  Most people selling, buying, and trading collectibles have frequented newsgroups about that interest, and have done some business with people there.  No one minds if you publicly post a reference check for a particular person (eg. "anyone done business w/ Botcollector?" or "Reference check:  Botcollector").

  • A residential or Business address (as opposed to a PO box):  This is only because PO boxes are often used in mail-order scams.  There's nothing wrong with using a PO box, in fact there are sometimes good reasons to (Botcollector uses one).  Basically, only if the person is ALREADY acting very shady is this just an added sign that things may go wrong

  • An established fee-based email address.  A lot of people use the free Yahoo and Hotmail addresses to continue changing their identity and making false deals.  This is a tough call, since a LOT of people use Yahoo and Hotmail, and there's nothing wrong with that. Like the PO box thing, this is only another hint if the person's ALREADY acting shady.

The bottom line, collectors, is just BE CAREFUL.  If you feel uncomfortable about dealing with someone, just don't do it.  

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WHO TO AVOID

Like the Who To Trust part, there's no way to be sure someone will rip you off.  Some people are totally honest, but just don't communicate well.  However, these are some signs that they MIGHT not be on the level (remember, if the person has ALL these signs, they may still be legit; or, if they have none, they could still rip you off; there's no way to be CERTAIN):

  • Bad Ebay feedback.  Obviously, if someone's looking to screw you, they won't tell you their Ebay ID where they have a bunch of negative feedback.  Here's a little trick, though:  You can search for bidders/sellers by email address instead of User ID, and you will still find them.  This won't work if the person uses many different email addresses besides the one they talk to you with.  And remember, an overall good feedback is good; a couple negatives may just be crazy people or totally unreasonable kids jut trying to screw with the system.

  • Bad reputation on newsgroups.  Always do a reference check if you've never dealt with someone before.  No one minds public requests for reference checks.  Naturally, if they never use newsgroups, this is useless.

  • People who act hostile, unstable, or otherwise unreasonable.  If someone swears at you, acts angry or strange in some way in their emails, you probably don't want to deal with them.  Would you buy something from a street vendor that tells you to quit asking so many stupid questions?

  • Impatient people.  If you're buying, you need to know as much as possible about what you're getting.  Get pictures, detailed descriptions, etc.  Someone who openly avoids telling you things, or acts like they just don't have the time to talk about any of it (ex. "look, do you want to buy these or not?") is not someone you want to buy from.  Even if they're honest, or not out to screw you, a good seller will understand that you need to know these things.

  • Domestic residents who refuse to use a trackable shipping method.  If they live in the same country you live in, then using tracking on shipping services IS available, and doesn't cost that much.  UPS, FedEx, the U.S. postal service, and most other courier companies have an option to track the parcel, or in some way guarantee that it reaches its destination.  If they refuse to use this option, whether you pay for it or not, something is amiss.

  • Free Email accounts.  Many scammers use multiple email accounts by continually signing up for the free email services (Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, Altavista, etc.).  Many honest people use these services, too, however; this is only a possible bad sign if the person ALREADY acts shady.

  • PO address.  Again, this is only a bad sign if the person ALREADY acts shady.  Lots of mail order scams make use of PO boxes to avoid speedy investigations.  Plenty of honest businesses use them too, however (like Botcollector).

Again, you just have to be careful.  Dealing via the Internet is always a chance; sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised, sometimes you'll be very disappointed.  Just educate yourself about who you're dealing with as much as possible.

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CARING FOR TOYS

Whether you're in it for love or money, keeping the toys in the best shape is the most important part of collecting.  Every figure and packaging type has different things to watch out for, but the following needs apply to all toys:

- PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE/CARE:  The best way to keep these toys in the best shape is to not mess them up in the first place.  Below are some general tips in the proper care of your collectibles.

  • Dark/sunless environment:  Of all the things in the world that cause the most damage to toys and their packaging (besides firecrackers), the sun is the worst.  It only takes a few days for the sun to bleach a box's color, or yellow a figure's plastic pieces.  Continued exposure to sunlight will DESTROY.  Windowless rooms are the best for storage/display, but if you don't have any, then put your figures in something that you can close or cover to keep the sun out COMPLETELY.

  • Smoke free environment:  Second to the sun is tobacco smoke.  After continued exposure, the smoke starts to leave a grimy residue on box and toy surfaces, which, if built up and left alone for long enough, will be unremoveable.  Smoke also discolors a lot of plastics; ever go in a room where someone smokes all the time and taken a picture or poster off the wall?  A yellow wall used to be white.  That can happen to your figures too.

  • Dust them every once in a while.  NO environment is absolutely dust-free, unless you're some mad evil villain with inexhaustible resources and you have one of those futuristic science-domes where earth-blasting laser beams are being built, and you also happen to keep your Transformers in there.  If that's not you, then dust off your figures and boxes every month or so; dust will build up and create a damaging sticky film if left long enough.  Plus, it just looks better.

  • Dry environment:  excessive humidity can really wreak havoc on packaging.  Cardboard will warp, tape will separate from surfaces, stickers will peel or come off.  Paperwork will often begin to stick to itself too; ever see those Transformers instructions that ripped when you tried to unfold them?  Moisture.

  • Careful/moderated stacking:  Even though it LOOKS like a tall stack of toy boxes is stable, there is a lot of play among cardboard over time.  Stacking a lot of toys on top of each other begins a slow but certain compression of the boxes.  Leave 5 to 7 Transformers boxed figures stacked up for a year or two, and the bottom 2 will show some pretty heavy creasing at the corners.  Don't overstack, even if it looks like nothing bad will happen at first.

  • Careful moves:  If reorganizing or moving, pick the boxes/cards straight up and set them straight back down; sliding them along surfaces will rocket the packaging to the state of "shelf wear."  Cardboard and plastic bubbles seem pretty tough, and you don't see anything happen after one or two slides along a shelf, but it catches up to you very quickly.

  • Careful opening:  Doesn't apply to you "keep it sealed" folks, but for us collectors who think these are too cool to leave in their boxes forever, just be careful.  Don't open flaps or bubbles ALL the way if you don't need to; just open them enough to remove the figures.  Hinges and corners will crinkle and whiten very rapidly.

  • Careful play:  Again, just for us "play with 'em" types.  Be knowledgeable about where parts rub together during transformation.  Stickers are usually the first to show scrapes, but even if it's just plastic on plastic, scuffs will form and painted details will streak.  Try and transform with an eye for where pressure creates a lot of friction and account for it.  And sheesh, just go slow; it's not a race.

 

- CLEANING:  You can't clean all the figures the same way, but here are some general tips for shining up those dusty or dinged up pieces:

  • Dust everything very well first; you may not need to go further.  Just because something looks dirty doesn't mean you need to go straight to Ajax and scrubbies.

  • If an area looks like it will need more than a dusting, try wiping at it with a slightly damp cloth; this will clear up the area and show if further steps need to be taken.

  • Dingy plastic can often be shined up extremely nicely with some Q-tips and rubbing alcohol.  TEST A SMALL HIDDEN PORTION FIRST; some plastics are painted, not cast in the color they appear to be, and alcohol could take the paint right off.

  • NEVER LET ALCOHOL TOUCH STICKERS; it will take the color off the stickers with one tiny swipe.

  • Detergents are usually NOT the way to go.  If something isn't coming clean with just elbow grease or warm damp cloth, detergent probably won't help either; these aren't cooking pans, they're toys.  If you MUST use some form of detergent, make sure you rinse/wipe it off COMPLETELY; if it stays on the plastic it will more than likely deteriorate it rapidly.

  • Use a pencap or some pointed object with a rag or napkin around the tip to get into those hard to reach corners/crevasses.

 

- REPAIR:  There's no way to tell you how to fix everything (soon we'll have a repair reference in the Guide, but that's a way off).  Until then, here are some general repair tips for the most common Transformers/transforming robot toy problems:

  • PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE.  You will not have a successful repair session if you're quick to anger or get frustrated easily.  Some of these repair jobs can get pretty time consuming and repetitious; if you're not patient, you may wind up doing more harm than good.

  • DEFINE THE PROBLEM.  If it's possible to see what the problem is before disassembly, do it.  Try tightening any LOOSE screws, see if the problem is affecting other parts as well.  For instance, a loose shoulder joint might not just be that joint; it could be a piece that's internally centered in the back and affecting BOTH arms.  It's almost impossible to tell exactly how all the internal pieces are put together for some of these figures, so do as much as you can to define exactly what the problem is before using tools.

  • If disassembly is required, get the tools together first.  It's always easier to fix these guys if the tools you need are AT HAND.  The most common necessities are:

    • Precision screwdrivers (Phillips and regular) for those really super-tiny screws

    • Relatively small screwdrivers with LONG narrow shafts, for those sunken screws that are at the bottom of a "well" in the plastic

    • Rounded needle-nose pliers (called rosary pliers), for reaching inside narrow spaces without scraping surrounding plastic, or for bending plastic pieces with as little breakage or stress marking as possible

    • Flat needle-nose pliers, for gripping things that are inside small openeings or out of reach of normal pliers

    • A putty knife, for gently separating pieces that are stuck or glued together at seams

    • A razor blade (any young children need to be helped or supervised for this one) for removing stickers to access screws or split seams

    • A magnet, for finding lost small metal pieces

  • Work on a solid, flat, dark or light uniform surface.  The worst frustration of all is to lose small pieces because of rug knap or strangely patterned surfaces.  Be sure to make plenty of room for yourself, too.

  • Set parts/pieces aside in a pattern similar to where you removed them from.  For example, if you remove two screws from each foot of a figure, set them aside in a pattern that matches where they were on the figure; two screws on the left, two screws on the right straight across from them.  If you remove one from the head, put it above the feet ones and in between them.  If you remove the right arm, place it to the right of the head screw, etc.  This helps when putting the figure back together again; after you remove four or five pieces, it's VERY easy to forget how they all went together if you don't do this.

  • Take time to study the best way to get to the problem; don't assume that if the problem is in the arm then you just need to take apart the arm; many of these things were put together in such a way that half the figure needs to be disassembled in order to get to one particular joint mechanism.  For us, it's easiest to take apart the largest pieces that need to be taken apart first, then begin getting into small stuff.  This helps with setting the pieces aside in an organized manner as well.  For instance, if you need to get into the shoulder socket, and the arm needs to be taken apart in 4 pieces, and the torso needs to be opened in order to get to the socket, start with the torso.  If you open the torso first, then take the arm out to work with, it's easier and more manageable than breaking down the arm into 4 pieces and then digging into the torso for this hidden joint.  Take apart big parts first, working down as you go to smaller and smaller pieces.

  • REMEMBER THE STICKERS.  Many stickers are placed over seams, and if two pieces are taken apart, the sticker will rip where the seams come apart.  Carefully remove any and all stickers that will be in the way when you are taking a figure apart.  Be very familiar with all the places that the pieces will split apart during disassembly.  Also, remember that a lot of stickers are placed over screws.  You can usually tell where there are screws under stickers because of a slight round depression in the sticker.  You can most often remove stickers without damaging them, and here are some tips how:  ONLY PERFORM THE FOLLOWING IF YOU ARE EXTREMELY CAREFUL AND STEAD-HANDED.  MINORS SHOULD ASK PARENTS TO DO THIS, AND NO ONE SHOULD DO IT IF THEY ARE NOT SAFETY CONSCIOUS.  BOTCOLLECTOR IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY CARELESS COLLECTORS)

    • Very slowly and very gently nudge a razor blade under a sharp corner of the sticker

     

    • VERY slowly press the blade towards the other end of the sticker, working the angle of the blade back and forth laterally, not up and down (not sliding the blade like you were cutting or slicing something, but moving the angle of the blade's approach back and forth).  Do NOT have any of your body on the side of the blade that's sharp; always move it away from yourself.

     

    • Continue the process, keeping pressure OFF of the downward slope of the blade; you don't want to cut into the plastic underneath.  Be careful also not to slice right through the sticker; it takes a very steady hand.

     

    • Continue SLOWLY moving the blade back and forth, not in a slicing motion but rather in a horizontal "rocking boat" motion.  Lift removed portion of the sticker up off of the blade as you go, so it doesn't stick to the blade and tear as you move the blade forward



     

    • Once the sticker is off, set is carefully aside, sticky part UP.  It can usually be reapplied and smoothed out without any further work, but you may need to help it stay with some type of adhesive

 

  • Repeatedly test as you reassemble. If you finally get everything figured out, and the joint is tight again (or whatever), keep making sure it stays that way as you put all the pieces back together; nothing sucks more than taking 2 hours to reassemble a figure perfectly and then find out that SOMEwhere along the way the fix was negated.  Put the arm back in, then test the joint.  Screw the back of the torso back in, then test the joint, etc.

  • DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN SCREWS.  It's easy to fall prey to the idea that if the screws were all tighter, the problem would be fixed, or that if they are super tight upon reasembly then the problem will never happen again.  Tightening screws only works for screws that are LOOSE; you do NOT want to strip these screws OR split the plastic casings.  This WILL happen if you over-tighten.  To REMOVE screws that have been stripped, you need to remove all the OTHER screws that are holding the pieces together, then use the piece that the screw's head is in to pull on, removing the body of the screw from the stripped hole.  Wiggle the piece back and forth as you pull.

  • If you have a specific figure you want to fix, and need help, feel free to contact us with the figure and what you're trying to do.  We'll try to help as best we can.

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COLLECTING FOR LOVE

If you are very into these figures you're going to have a much more difficult time collecting them; you will probably be much more picky about small flaws, missing pieces, etc., and you will be much more emotionally involved if a transaction goes poorly.  You will definitely be appalled by how some people package the figures or what they call "perfect" condition.  Below are some things you should get in the habit of doing, and hopefully you will eventually find the individual, small group, or community of people who share your ideas and standards very closely.

  • Ask plenty of questions and get pictures before buying.  You may feel like you're being a real pain, but after 10 or 20 times of getting stuff that's nowhere near as good as you thought it would be, you'll find it's worth it.  Set up a list of questions that you will always want answered about figures so you can paste it into emails instead of always typing it.  If you hate loose joints, ask if the figures have them.  If you hate scratches or nicks in stickers, ask about them.  If you hate dusty toys, ask if they're dusty.  If you hate when there's a crease in the packaging, ask if there are any.  It's very rarely that a seller has the same hangups about figures that you do, so you'll have to address yours.  If the seller doesn't want to answer all your questions, you shouldn't buy.  Maybe you'll miss out, but odds are against your being perfectly happy when you don't know everything about what you're getting.

  • Address the packaging issue.  You should write up a blurb about packaging to use in your emails too; many people are either inexperienced with shipping services or don't think superficial damage to toy packaging matters; most of the unhappiness caused with our transactions when we're buying is poor packaging.  The figures leave the seller in perfect condition, and then get beat up by the shipping service.  This can REALLY ruin a deal for you.  Ask specifically for careful packaging, and even give the seller advice on how to do it; ask them to use new boxes, not real old ones that are already weakened and bent.  Ask them to use enough filler material so that nothing inside the box moves around when it is shaken.  If there are going to be loose figures rolling around inside of toy boxes (not held down by the factory blister or twisty tie, etc.), ask that the figure be packaged outside the toy's box, or that the inside of the toy's box is padded; lots of times the toys will bang the acetate windows and/or bubbles and scuff the hell out of them.  A well-packed box should not make noise when it's shaken up and down.

  • Remember to thank people who provide you with a pleasurable transaction.  If you buy enough on the Internet, you'll really learn to appreciate people who package things well, answer your emails right away, describe things accurately, etc.  Let them know you appreciate it; it's probably hard for them to find considerate buyers too.  Maybe you guys can deal with each other on a regular basis.

  • Keep track of the names/emails/addresses of people who gave you a hard time or were horrible to deal with.  In 4 or 5 months they may be out there again with a new identity trying to start all over again.

  • Always be polite and professional; if you plan on using the Internet to collect, your reputation will be the most important thing; don't build up a bad one.  If someone treats you horribly, or scams you, don't just fly into a rage and retaliate with cursewords and threats; report them to the appropriate agencies, tell your story if asked for a reference check, and that's it.

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COLLECTING FOR DOLLARS

Collecting for the sole purpose of selling later to make money is a lot easier than being personally involved in the coolness of the toys.  People like you don't have nearly as many problems as people like us.  The only things you'll have a harder time with is knowing about all the accessories, names, etc.; with the huge universe of transforming robot toys, it's hard to remember all that stuff unless you grew up with them or are very into them.  We don't know much about doing this only as a business, so don't have a lot of advice, but the following applies to making money off of anyhting:

  • Keep up on price guides; they are good sources of info in terms of what you should (or should not) be charging and/or buying.

  • Want to see about how much your figure is worth in real time?  Check Ebay's COMPLETED auctions for that figure; that's a good random sampling of what the Net-ready world of collectors is willing to pay.

  • ALWAYS be polite; you will never see a customer again (if they're smart) if you act like you don't care about making sure they like what they get, or that they enjoy doing business with you.  And guess what will happen if someone does a reference check on you?

  • You should keep up to date on new releases and what's causing hububs in the collecting community.  Reading posts in the newsgroups is a good idea.

  • Keep EXTREMELY accurate pics/records of what you sell; you have to know if it's the same thing coming back to you in case a customer returns it; lots of people buy something, remove or exchange a part they need, and then try to return it (this is only if you allow for returns....which is kind of a good idea)

  • Take note of things that displease people and try to change them; if 9 out of 10 people comment to you that the figures were in a little worse shape than they expected, you need to modify your description technique; start getting a little more nitpicky when talking about flaws.

  • Package your outgoing items well.  There is NO substitute for making sure these things don't get hurt while en route.  The bane of successful collectibles trading is damage during shipment.  Spend a little extra money and time on professional packaging and filler material; you won't regret it, and your customers will love you for it.

  • Wait until payments clear before shipping the figures.  Just because a check or money order arrives, that doesn't mean it's cash.  Many payment types can be fake, or stopped from being cashed by a phone call.  This applies mostly to first-time customers; after you do business for someone for a while you build a trust (hopefully).

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GENERAL ADVICE

Unfortunately, none of what we have said so far is concrete; everyone collects different things, has different preferences for how they do things, and different ideas of what's what.  Therefore, there is a very general set of advice for the areas we've touched on:

- When buying:

  • NEVER assume that the seller's idea of "mint,' "MIMB," or C-8 (or C-9, C-10, C-7, etc.) are the same as yours; get specifics, asking specific questions.  Just because someone says "all inserts included" doesn't mean that what YOU call inserts are the same inserts they're talking about.  It's best to get EVERYTHING straightened out before the transaction takes place.  If they say it's "100% complete," they may not even KNOW about something that's missing.  It saves money, heartache, and time to ask all your questions, even if it seems redundant.  Just remember that anything you didn't ask you will see after paying for it (and the shipping, most likely), and fixing problems after the item's already traveled all the way to you is time consuming and expensive.  No one wants to ship things back and forth, especially with how rough the delivery services are and how much it costs.

  • Take as few chances as possible.  You'll ALWAYS have to take some kind of chance when buying from a stranger who could be halfway around the world, but try and get a feel for what you're doing before you commit.  If you're buying from a personal web page, auction site, or from a newsgroup entity, see if the seller has Ebay feedback, or a reputation on a newsgroup.  Do reference checks, exchange a little correspondence with the seller first.  See if they are willing to do partial shipments upon partial payment (not for auctions), etc.  If you're buying from an online business, check around to see if others have bought from there as well.  Most people are willing to share their experiences to help others like themselves.

  • Know EVERYTHING about the transaction before committing.  If it's an auction, like on Ebay, read the ENTIRE auction page.  Find out what the shipping charge will be, if they accept checks, money orders, where they will ship to, etc.  Ask any questions that are not completely answered in the descriptions.  If you're buying from some other individual, like from a web page, ask all the same questions.  Will they ship right away?  What shipping method do they use?  Is it traceable?

- When selling:

  • Wait for payment to CLEAR before sending out your items.  Tell your buyer that this is necessary, and inform them of the time it will take (if you know them or feel comfortable with them after a lot of deals, then this is unnecessary).

  • Consider how you want to sell; are you looking to get rid of a lot of stuff at once?  Or would you not mind waiting a while and getting to know people as you sell items?  Newsgroups are a decent community environment to sell in, and it's easy to get references on people.  If you're using Ebay, consider how much time you want to spend on selling your items; remember that anyone can sign up with Ebay, and you'll be receiving bids from pranksters, 6-year olds who have no money or bank account, etc. as well as legitimate bidders.  Remember that for each auction you could be dealing with payment delays, bail-outs, etc.  Selling a lot of things on Ebay at once can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming.  You may want to weight the advantage of putting all your items together as a group and having one auction.  Try a few things at a time first, and get familiar with potential problems.

  • If you're using a third-party sale site (like Ebay), LEARN how to use it, and read about ALL of their services, policies, and agreements.  This seems like a huge pain, but it MUST be done if you want to conduct successful transactions, or deal well with unsuccessful ones.  Learn how to deal with problems, how best to describe your items, what things to mention in your descriptions that people always want to know, etc.

  • Do everything you can to get pictures of your items.  This will make everything you do SO much easier; when people can see what they're buying, it takes about 3/4 of the guesswork out of these transactions.  It also makes buyers feel a lot more comfortable with dealing with you.

-Whether buying OR selling:

  • Know as much as you can about the person/entity you're dealing with; do reference checks, ask for references, check Ebay feedback, etc.

  • ALWAYS ask for or use some form of trackable shipping method.  Nothing's more frustrating than the whole "I sent it" -- "Well I didn't get it" thing.  If you need to pay a little extra, do it.  Sometimes tracking numbers and delivery confirmations cost way too much (like a lot of overseas shipping scenarios).  In that case, you should take a lot more precautions with finding out about the seller/buyer, because it's now entirely a matter of trust.

  • When the deal is settled and everything seems ironed out, write out a full last-time confirmation just to make sure everyone understands everyone.  Include all the details in the confirmation, like how much is being paid, how payment will be made, when payment will be sent and to what address, what is being sent out in return, how it is sent, when it will be sent, to where, etc.  This helps to iron out any miscommunications or forgotten details.

  • Retain ALL correspondence regarding the transaction until it is ENTIRELY complete.  This means until BOTH parties are completely satisfied; payments have been cashed, items have been received and inspected, everything went great.  If anything goes wrong, you will need everything (emails, payment stubs, cancelled checks, etc.) to report any unlawful goings on.


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