Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More than meets the price!

Many specific details of the period I call "The Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s" have been lost over time. This is partly because many toy robots historians of the present were mere children during that era and their half-remembered recollections are little better than speculation and conjecture. Of course the Transformers with its legion of present day fans has had a wealth of research done on its history but there is still much unknown about it and some fans can't even agree on what an Autobot car cost in 1985. It also doesn't help matters when Hasbro, the victor of the 80s Toy Robots Wars, rewrites history on their website to make it seem as if they singlehandedly invented the very concept of transforming toy robot vehicles. Why would they do this? Well mostly because a) nobody gives a shit and b) Hasbro is a bunch of fuckers.


Hell, Hasbro isn't the first or only player in the toy robots wars to put their spin on how things went down. I found one ad from 1984 where one store claims Bandai invented Transformers. Yeah I know I'm making it seem like this is the biggest geopolitical scandal of the 20th century and these marketing people are committing war crimes but believe me, I'm not crazy. Nor am I afraid of exposing the conspiracy to cover up the truth about what happened during the Toy Robots Wars of the 80s. God gives me secret information when I listen to my Soundwave and he says if the bad men from Hasbro come he'll send an Autobot space shuttle full of Leader-1 and the rest of the good Go-Bots to take me away to moon base two. Tell me where you live and I'll see if he can send one for you, too.


Now I can't do anything about the propaganda meted out by the corporate overlords of Optimus Prime, but I can at least shed some light on the cost of toy robot cars in 1985. A while ago I wrote about an argument two internet professors of toy robots were having about whether or not Autobot cars ever cost $15 back in the day. Basically one guy thought they were ten bucks and the other guy said Jazz cost fifteen, but nobody had any proof of either claim. I seriously doubted the $15 Jazz claim because based on my experience with toy robots ads a $15 Autobot car was unheard of. I considered the possibility but I put $15 Jazz up there with chupacabras and missile launching Boba Fetts-I know they exist but I ain't never seen one. Since that webpage's comments section has been locked by the site administrators I couldn't go back and ask each of the arguers for more details on their claims. In order to finally resolve this debate I will have to proceed on two key assumptions: a) that the debaters were talking about the price of Transformers in the United States and b) that anyone gives a crap.


Oftentimes when I'm collecting ads for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace I'll find that some libraries have better quality microfilm than others. If I find an ad that's too dark or blurry sometimes I can find it again in another city and they'll have a better copy of it. This was the case with one Sears ad that ran 01 December of '85. The first few times I found it in Pittsburgh and Houston I couldn't get a good copy of it. I kept trying in other cities and eventually I did get a decent enough picture. While I was collecting this same ad over and over I was also inadvertently collecting a record of the differences that Sears charged from region to region. Talk about Mighty Shifty Robot Prices!


Cincinnati's Sears prices were the same as other Sears in cities like Houston, Pittsburgh and El Paso. The Autobot cars were in the $10 range in those places and even Fort Lauderdale stayed in line although their prices on minicars, Dinobots and Decepticon planes were $1 to $1.50 higher. But then we have Sears in Alaska going $2 over the Cincinnati prices on minicars and Dinobots and $4 higher on Decepticon planes and Autobot cars! I had finally found the elusive $15 Jazz. It kind of ticks me off because I had to go all the way to Alaska to do it when a simple bibliography at the end of that Jazz article would have worked.


So after much congratulating myself on solving the greatest internet debate of our time (or at least the greatest debate of my living room in the last few months) I am free to pursue the truth behind many other untold mysteries of the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Did the GoBotron Fortress playset ever get released? Was there ever a yellow Diakron DK-1? HOW MUCH ROBOTECHS CAN I BUY FOR TEN BUCKS? I am sure that the answers to these mysteries and more await me, buried in the microfilm reels of some run down library in the ghetto of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is not easy being the seeker of such arcane knowledges of roboplasticos but I do it because it must be done (also because God in the Soundwave tells me to).


agentmorris said...

I knew that they seemed expensive when I was a kid, but damn. They kind of were in Alaska, and even here in Florida. I'm pretty sure that most of the TFs I got as a kid that were not mini-bots were like $8-$10. Nowadays the only retailers I see now that have usually crazy prices on the new stuff is K-mart and Kohls.

I was in a Kohls recently and they had some Robot Heroes going for $9.99. And those don't even transform.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yeah the smaller chains are really having a hard time keeping up with the MSRP of $9.99 for the Animated deluxes. TRU's been charging $10.99 for deluxes for a while now. I don't think ShopKo or KMart has ever kept deluxes under $10. The only stores I see left that charge in the $9.99 range around here are Target and Wal-Mart.

I don't know why Kohls is so out there on the Robot Heroes. Maybe they're using eBay to calculate what they should charge.

And Hasbro seems to be all over the place with their product assortments. I'm a little confused because I saw those activators toys priced really close to $9.99, which I thought was the exclusive price point of the deluxes. I thought it odd that Hasbro had two seperate SKUs or what ever they call them so close together in size and price and no basic size class. I don't know if activators are the new basics or if the basic size class is dead. I guess the era of the entry level $5 Transformer is long gone.

Paul said...

I love this article. Love it so much I want to marry it.

Yeah, I'd expect to see that kind of price difference. When I worked at Walmart we were always told that we "compete within our own market" so we couldn't match prices of other Wal-Marts in surrounding cities.

Weasel said...

It still holds true, Paul, though it's not such a big deal these days--ESPECIALLY these days--as with the elatively sky-high prices of gasoline, who in their right mind is going to do much comparison-shopping between WAL-MARTS?

BESIDES Prime and Shawn T, I mean. God, they're doin' that TOMORROW....and I have to work.....(/cries)

Lord High King, have you come across enough TF ads now that you can claim to know a somewhat-standard or median price for a given TF, i.e. "Jazz generally sold new for $X.XX."? Prime's working a project that could use such info....

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yes, I believe I can.

The Perceptor length explanation would be that I can probably come up with a "most common regular price" for the more popular case assortments from '84 to '85, no problem. Stuff like Autobot cars and the leader figures got advertised heavily by many different stores so there's a lot of data to draw from for those. I can say with a high degree of certainty that the most common retail price for deluxe Autobot cars was $8.99 in 1984.

However, less frequently advertised assortments like the Decepticon cassettes or the deluxe Insecticons would be harder to get a representative average for. I do have ads representing every case assortment from '84 to '85 and a good number of popular figures from '86 but after that my sampling pool gets depleted. It's not that ads for those other figures don't exist, I just haven't had the time or inclination to dig them up when I'm visiting the various libraries.

I could come up with some really good estimations which would be more accurate than many people's guesses on the prices of the '84 to '85 stuff. What exactly are you guys looking for and how authoritative of a reference do you need? I know Joe (necrotron) is a goldmine of info on this type of stuff. He's the only guy I know who still has toy receipts from the 80s!

Mick said...


I said that?

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Yeah, there's a really funny bit around 50 minutes into episode 111 of the Moon Masters where you guys start making jokes about me collecting toy robots ads. I thought it was pretty funny and I wanted to do a reference to it here as an inside joke between me and any Moon Masters fans out there.


Minibox 3 Column Blogger Template by James William at 2600 Degrees

Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.