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

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Hasbro Canada G1 Pre-rub Cassettes

Vintage Generation 1 Transformers from Canada have always had their quirks, from the most famous toy variants like the red cartoon accurate Dinobot Slag to the full trailer sticker Pepsi Optimus Prime. Beyond that, there is the bilingual naming of every character, as well as the notable errors such as "Autobot Megatron" and Tracks-as-Swoop on the tech specs. For those who are interested in such things, there are also other gems to discover such as pre-rub minibots with the Robot Points on the front of the card, due to a lack of real estate on the back!

Hasbro Canada pre-rub minibots

For approaching two decades now, the common belief was that Canadian pre-rub minibots were the only official vintage Transformers to have the Robot Points on the front of the packaging, but as with almost every other aspect of this hobby, there’s always more to discover. With the ever-rising interest in collecting and documenting vintage Transformers variants, and the associated rising prices over the last few years, it is becoming trickier to find, afford and discover new things about the history of these toys. 

I'm not talking about personal discovery, that’s not the main issue. The fact is that not every collector is interested in documenting variants or sharing with other collectors, which again is fine, but because the stuff has become harder to find with greater competition and more eyes on all things variant and vintage, it’s not escaped my notice that there have been far fewer major surprises in G1 Transformers in the last two years. 

Hasbro Canada pre-rub Frenzy/Laserbeak

Enter Hasbro Canada once again. While browsing Facebook for what deals still exist on vintage G1, I saw a set of Hasbro Canada pre-rub Frenzy and Laserbeak Decepticon cassettes. Now when you spend as long as some of us have looking at Generation 1 packaging, when even the smallest thing is not consistent with what you know and have experienced, a spidey sense goes off. It took a second for me to realise what was special about these Decepticon cassettes - besides the bilingual text everywhere that is standard for Canadian G1.

Robot Points on the front - plus price tag!

Robot Points on the front of the card, just like the pre-rub minibots! Of course, why wouldn't they be!? The Decepticon cassettes would have had two tech spec bars on the back of the card in addition to the bilingual instructions, so if the simple pre-rub Canadian minibots didn't have space for the Robot Points on the back, how could the cassettes ever have managed it?

Hasbro Canada pre-rub Frenzy/Laserbeak card back

Looking at the back of the card, it's pretty obvious why the Points had to be moved over to the front. The bilingual tech spec bars and text all but swallow the available space. It's the same story with the pre-rub minibots. It's always lovely to see coloured instructions for G1 Transformers, and the 1984 carded range display them proudly on their card backs. You may be able to spot coloured stickers on the cassette modes in the stock photography on the card back, intended to cover up the "TAKARA" of the Micro Change Series toys that were being used in that pre-production imagery on early Transformers packaging.

"Frenetik" and "Vautour"

I've always been fascinated by the French Canadian names for the original G1 Transformers, and here we have "Frenetik" for Frenzy, and "Vautour" for Laserbeak which translates to "Vulture", despite being a condor! Notice also that Frenzy's tech spec has the French name printed over the English tech spec bio, and the English name over the French bio. Errors on Hasbro Canada packaging were not uncommon.


Going back to the image at the head of the article, I've been calling this a pre-rub set from the outset, but the Frenzy and Laserbeak clearly have rubsigns, so what gives? Well, there are two possible explanations, with the first being that this is not a sealed set but a resealed set, and the seller could not guarantee that the cassettes on the card now were the ones that originally came with it in 1984/85. That seems the most plausible explanation; later toys in good condition paired with pre-rub card and resealed.

The other explanation requires us to haul this pic back out again. The "TM/MD" above the "S" in the large "TRANS FORMERS" graphic on the card front indicates a pre-rub release, although it is not impossible to find toys with rubsigns on TM cards - just look at Mini-Spies for example. Additionally, the pre-rub Canadian Cliffjumper that comes on a similar card has a rubsign plastered over the toy's original Autobot sticker on the chest/roof, so it is not without precedent that Canadian pre-rub cards like this would have rubsign toys attached. There are probably earlier runs with pre-rub toys on these cards, also, just as with the minibots.

Furthermore, the price sticker has some interesting info on it too, potentially. Could the "8   85" signify an August 1985 retail date for this item? That would explain why there are rubsigns on the toys, and would confirm this item's nature as a transitional packaging variant. 

The logo in the middle of the price sticker belongs to Woolco, a Canadian chain store that was operational in the 1980s. From Wikipedia:

"Woolco was an American-based discount retail chain. It was founded in 1962 in Columbus, Ohio, by the F. W. Woolworth Company. It was a full-line discount department store unlike the five-and-dime Woolworth stores which operated at the time. At its peak, Woolco had hundreds of stores in the US, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. While the American stores were closed in 1983, the chain remained active in Canada until it was sold in 1994 to rival Walmart, which was looking to enter the Canadian market. All of the former UK Woolco stores were sold by Kingfisher, who had bought the UK Woolworth business, to Gateway who subsequently sold them to Asda."

Thanks to Francesco Lombardo and his sealed set of both Hasbro Canada Frenzy/Laserbeak and Ravage/Rumble, we can see that they did indeed come with rubsigns on TM/MD cards, but only Frenzy and Rumble! This has all the hallmarks of a transitionary period. Coincidentally, his Frenzy/Laserbeak also has a Woolco price sticker. His price sticker says "11 85", giving more credence to the possibility that it's a date, so potentially in November 1985, Canadian G1 were still using pre-rub packaging, and rubsigns were still being phased in.

Hasbro Canada pre-rub cassette and minibot cards

Placing the Frenzy/Laserbeak next to a Canadian Cliffjumper, you can see both with the Robot Points on the card front - something that still confounds and thrills simultaneously! Seeing how much smaller minibot cards are compared to the cassette 2-pack, it's clear why even with one tech spec on the back, Hasbro Canada still felt the need to transfer the Robot Points to the front on their earlier cards.

This purchase proved to me that there are still discoveries to be made in the niche world of vintage G1 Transformers variants, even if they are known to some Canadian collectors already or not of interest to the wider collecting community. I know cassette enthusiasts - of which there are plenty - will find this to be fascinating. It also proved that if you look hard enough, there are great finds hiding in plain sight, which is almost more satisfying in the current climate, to be honest.

As it stands, I'm now very much on the lookout for a Hasbro Canada pre-rub Rumble/Ravage set to go with this set, while also seeing if I can find another example of Frenzy/Laserbeak with pre-rub toys! Hey, if I can find this, and the stunning Milton Bradley single-pack Ravage you see below at a time when vintage G1 collectors are more resourceful and knowledgeable than ever, anything's possible, right?

Hasbro Canada pre-rub Frenzy/Laserbeak + Milton Bradley Ravage

Related reading:
Hasbro Canada G1 Pre-rub Bumblebee

All the best

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