One of the most appealing feature of collecting Japanese Transformers is the inclusion of collector's cards with most releases, from just after the start of the Takara vintage Generation 1 era all the way through reissues, Car Robots, Binaltech, Animated and present day Masterpieces with many other lines in-between. These cards would almost always feature attractive character artwork, character or toy specifications and backstory. Their highly collectible nature lends itself nicely to modern adult Transformers collecting and the need to preserve the condition, originality, prestige and completeness of our toys.
|Vintage Japanese G1 collector's cards|
The Japanese G1 collector's cards started in 1986 with toys like Cyclonus, Scourge, Wreck Gar, Hot Rodimus and Kup. Their design was just a red or purple background with a couple of yellow diagonal stripes and the box artwork. Very shortly afterwards the format changed to what you see above; more detailed, grid pattern and very attractive indeed. Hasbro Transformers tend not to come with such collectible extras, is that because they are invariably marketed towards children? Possibly, though quite why we didn't get them with reissues is beyond me. Maybe it's another cost-saving measure. Just one more reason why significant numbers of collectors plump for Takara over Hasbro for certain things. Classic Japanese names for characters include "Butt" for Blot and "Wipe" for Mindwipe. If you don't believe me, enlarge the images above!
|VIntage Cybertron cards and reissue exclusive cards|
|Stock images used for reissues|
After the vintage era of collector's cards in Japan, the reissues carried them as well albeit with a more classic sort of design, especially the E-Hobby exclusives of the Autobot cars, jets etc. These cards were especially nice when it got to the point where E-Hobby were focusing on Diaclone or completely new repaints of existing moulds, as most of those colour schemes never had collector's cards as Diaclone or Micro Change Series toys. So, despite how strongly we associate collector's cards with Japanese robot toys, it's not really fair to say that Japan has a history of including collector's cards with all their famous toy lines. If we look at Henshin Cyborg, Jumbo Machinders, Macross, Diaclone, Micro Change Series etc, those toys did not come with collector's cards, and robot toy lines don't get more significant than that!
|Binaltech and Asterisk collector's cards|
|Masterpiece and reissue exclusive G1 Tigertrack card backs|
Moving to more modern lines, Binaltech also had collector's cards right up until Takara became Takara Tomy and cost-cutting measures slaughtered the toy line. We had no more nice instruction/manufacturer booklets or collector's cards, just monochromatic folded instruction sheets a la Alternators. That was actually a desperate shame for exclusive figures like BT-17 Black Convoy and BT-18 Electro Disrupter Rijie, and goes to show that while they aren't an integral part of why someone would buy a toy, their sudden disappearance from a line which previously featured them can be significantly felt.
What collector's cards do is appeal to the core instinct of 'collectors' - not necessarily adult toy enthusiasts or buyers - but 'collectors' if I can use that term separately. They encourage collectors to do just that, collect, add to their collection, buy more of the same series and line them up, take the cards out and store them in a folder, revel in the uniformity of the universe and the tapestry of little bits of extra paperwork that make a package more attractive, and heaven forbid one should be missing a toy - and therefore a collector's card (a NUMBERED collector's card!) - from the set. It's a marketing ploy, it bloody works, they're beautiful and I wouldn't have it any other way. I wish all my Transformers had collector's cards, one day I'd like to display them alongside the toys themselves as many already do.
All the best