The Transformers franchise has come a long way since 2007. Under Hasbro and ILM's (Industrial Light and Magic) guidance, the Transformers mythology and its characters would have major changes, changes that would be reflected in future iterations of Transformers yet to come. Present day, to commemorate the film's 10th anniversary, Hasbro, in collaboration with Takara created a Masterpiece sub-line dedicated to delivering the best action figure representations of these robots. But historically speaking, Transformers: Masterpiece figures have been around since 2003.
What is Transformers: Masterpiece? It is a line of Transformers figures dedicated to satisfying collectors of high-end memorabilia. These Transformers toys are designed as loyally as possible to their source material,and have spawned into physical representations from different imaginings/continuities of the Transformers franchise. These toys are unique with how they are designed with the most recent toy engineering, contain die-cast components, and boast an array of accessories unique to each character. Simply put, if 9 year old me thought spending $30 on a Bumblebee figure only worth $10 was heaven at the time, 19 year old me certainly believes I am in Valhalla now.
Step 1: Decision-making
When it comes to collecting Transformers: Masterpiece, the first process is determining which version of a character you want to purchase. Hasbro's releases happen at a slower pace, involve lesser selection and color choices, whereas Takara's releases are padded out by repaints/reissues and extra premium touches to other components such as more paint applications and exquisite packaging. Sometimes, the differences can be a little less obvious, so you'll need to scour collector sites to see what makes or breaks the figure for you.
Collage compiled from images sourced here w/ permission
To date (not counting repaints), there have only been 11 domestically released Masterpiece figures (all of which have been either Walmart or Toys R US exclusives), whereas there are 24 internationally released Masterpiece figures. The task gets trickier once one realizes there are some repaints of characters made to stand in for another existing character, but luckily there are resources such as TFWiki that can help to track all variants of a particular mold. There is a domestic deficit of 13 Masterpiece figures that were never made available, meaning if you want 1 of these 13 figures, you will have to import it.
Step 2: Know Your Dealer
The next process for obtaining a Masterpiece is deciding which retailer to buy from. As every e-tailer attempts to paint themselves in a good light, the only reputable way to determine trustworthy sellers is to consult with collector-centered Transformers communities such as TFW2005 and Seibertron.
In rare occurrences, some don't need to search further than those sites as they meet other reputable collectors they can barter Masterpiece figures with.
In the event you are not so fortunate, it would be in your best interest to obtain a general consensus from community members regarding which retailers to shop from. Be warned, just because a website sponsors a community site doesn't mean it is vindicated of potential wrongdoing! Even so, any action figure retailer with an ounce of decency is not out to get you. The task falls upon you to familiarize yourself with the corporate policy of the e-tailer of your choice (this will come in handy later too). More often times than not, you can discover great perks such as combined shipping, guaranteed to "transform" your shopping experience.
Step 3: InspectionFinally, the moment of truth! You've bored through all my overbearing jargon and managed to land a Masterpiece figure in your possession! Congrats! But wait, there's more! (rest in peace, Billy Mays) You have to inspect your figure, because spoiler alert, humans and the goods they produce are susceptible to imperfections. It's time to assume your true form as a TSA agent.
Images sourced: damaged MP-36 Megatron barrel, bad connection and reversed panel flap assembly on Masterpiece Movie Series Optimus Prime, snapped canopy on MP-28 Hot Rod, missing yellow collar piece on Masterpiece Movie Series Bumblebee
- First of all, it would be wise to open the package carefully, preferably with a fine edge blade such as an X-Acto knife. In the event you want to return your figure due to imperfections, retaining the packaging's original condition would increase the chances of a refund or exchange. If you are a MISB (Mint in Sealed Box) collector, and find your box damaged/opened upon arrival, drop everything and begin escalation with your e-tailer.
- Next, use a pair of scissors or snips. The toy inside is typically held in place by plastic ties. Be careful to cut around the figure, and do not cut into the figure. Incompetence does not look in favor of those that are impatient. Before freeing the figure, make sure that all the aforementioned accessories and an instructional manual is included. If you find yourself short of an accessory, drop everything and begin escalation with your e-tailer.
- Finally, gingerly lift the toy from its plastic prison. Savor the joy of handling a mint figure, then turn it over a few times to inspect for visible damage/paint chips. Follow the instructions thoroughly, or refer to a YouTube review to transform the figure from whatever mode it's package in to its other form. Repeat the process of inspection. If you find yourself with a factory quality control issue, drop everything and begin escalation with your e-tailer. If the figure has a more minor flaw such as one small paint chip, accepting your loss and appreciating the positives of your purchase is the best course of action. Remember, not everyone will be fortunate enough to receive a figure they are satisfied with on their first round, and it would be an unspoken courtesy to let owners of more flawed figures have priority to replacement figures.