Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Optimus From Yugoslavia - Part 2

Behold, the original 1980s Generation 1 Transformers Optimus Prime from the former Yugoslavia. Yesterday we got our first look at this seemingly Mexican Optimus Prime from the notorious and fruity Plasticos Iga. Spanish text on the box and the toy itself clearly indicated a Mexican variant - which we will explore more carefully in part 3 - but it was bought in Serbia mere days after another similarly boxed Mexican G1 Optimus showed up, also in Serbia. What really set this apart, made it unique and another significant chapter in the history of G1, was the fact that the box bore the logo of a new (to us) company, not Iga.

This is the logo of Marčanka who were a "small toy company from today's Croatia (Istra peninsula) and we don't know much about that company nowdays" says Serbian collector G1 Aerialbot. Fellow Serbian collector Nikola Todorovic adds:
"Marčanka is a factory in Croatia (as far as I can tell, it still exists) which specialised in plastic and die cast toys. Since the toys were available in Serbia, they must have been available prior to June 1991 (when Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia)". 
The feeling of seeing a new logo on a vintage Transformers box, a package so deeply ingrained in our psyche from our childhoods, is a most bizarre experience, not unlike the first time I saw a Transformers G1 box with a Milton Bradley or Plasticos Iga logo on it.

Other than the Marčanka logo on the front and back of the box, it is almost identical to a series 1 Optimus Prime Iga box, right down to the lack of white borders on the box front for the 3 small stock photographs above the cab and the lack of a tech spec graph on the back. I say nearly identical because the Yugoslavian box does not have a barcode on the back, just a blank white rectangle, and the red bar across the top of the techspec goes all the way, whereas the Iga box stops just short. There's also the giant Marčanka on the techspec of the Yugoslavian box. For comparison, here is the back of the Iga Optimus Prime box from my Mexican Optimus article, followed by the blank barcode on the Marčanka box:

So why didn't the other Mexican Transformers I got with my Optimus Prime, also sourced in Serbia, come in Marčanka packaging like this? G1 Aerialbot goes on to say:
"Marčanka Optimus Prime hit the Yugoslavian market (especially Belgrade city) in late 1988, just before New Year 88/89. Other Iga stuff in regular Iga boxes hit the market 2 years later - late 1990"

Regarding the availability of the Mexican Transformers in Yugoslavia, here are the recollections of G1 Aerialbot:

"The main TF distributor for Iga stuff in Yugoslavia back in the day was Robna kuca Beograd (biggest department stores in the state) and shops called Ateks, Beteks - all of the shops were state owned (like in all communist countries back then). I forgot to mention in my previous message - a shop called Komision (Belgrade - today Serbia) sold everything that came from the West back then - expensive stuff including Hasbro Classic Transformers in gold boxes + Marčanka Optimus Prime + regular Iga stuff".
Inner box flap

Nikola Todorovic's recollection is very similar:

"The early stuff we got was practically all Iga, and it was initially sold in shops called 'Komision' - these shops sold all sorts of imported stuff, including toys - MOTU and TFs were the most prominent. 
A few months after the 'Komision' shops, the large department store chain Robna Kuca Beograd started selling TFs as well. This was probably in 1989 (again, from memory). They also sold Iga TFs - I recall seeing Optimus, Ironhide, Ratchet, Hound, Sideswipe, Blitzwing, Grimlock, Snarl, Inferno, Smokescreen, Wheeljack, and the Constructicons (which were so common they were later also sold from newspaper stands). TFs continued to be available in 'Komision' shops and Robna Kuca Beograd stores in the early 90s - we got Micromasters, some Pretenders, gold box UK Classics, and even some Japanese stuff (a friend of mine has a Metalhawk in pretty good condition). I think early G1 Iga toys were available until 1993 or so, but I can't vouch for that".
This of course isn't the first time that Japanese G1 was imported into Europe, even Iceland had it in the 1980s to a very small degree. In Part 3 we'll look at the Yugoslavian Marčanka/Iga Optimus Prime itself.

End of Part 2

Part 1 <<< Click to catch up
Part 3 <<< Click to read on

All the best

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