The Transformers line of toys from Hasbro that debuted in 1984 is one of the most successful toy franchises in the history of toys; and yet, it only began after a failed attempt by the Japanese company Takara to bring the same basic toys to the market in the United States in the early 1980s. Takara had two lines of toys, Diaclone and Microchange, and Hasbro hired Marvel Comics to come up with a way to combine both lines of toys into one cohesive concept. The concept became Transformers, which launched an iconic animated TV series to go along with the toy line (and a Marvel comic book, of course). The rest is, as they say, history.
Now over 30 years later, the original line of Transformers toys in the United States (the "Generation 1" line, as it has been retroactively titled) are some of the most collectible toys in existence. We're going to count down the 15 most expensive collectible Transformers toys. We're only counting figures that were officially released into stores in the United States (no mail-away items, no special tie-in products, like the Optimus Prime Pepsi edition). We're ranking these figures as if they were all in the same graded mint sealed in the original box condition, but collectibility sometimes outstrips value in the rankings (thanks to Transformersland.com for the images of most of these toys. The featured image is courtesy of Bob Chatlak's UltimateG1Reviewer page on YouTube)
15 OMEGA SUPREME
When the Transformers line of toys exploded in popularity, Hasbro was in a bit of a bind. Since they were just licensing these toys from Takara, there was a limit to how many toys that they could produce. The market was demanding more Transformers toys but they could only sell what Takara had for them to license. Therefore, they then came up with a clever idea - transforming robots were huge in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so Takara was not the only game in town.
So Hasbro then licensed the character Omega Supreme from the company ToyBox. Omega Supreme is a large guardian robot who transforms into a base with a rocket and a cannon. Since this character was not available in Japan, he is a bit more collectible than most. A mint condition, in-box Omega Supreme is worth around $2,000.
The Stunticons were members of the evil Deceptions who all represented stunt-driving cars. They would then merge together to form the mighty Menasor. The leader of the Stunticons was Motormaster (sometimes called "Motorbreath" on the Transformers TV series). Motormaster was basically an evil version of Optimus Prime. Really, when you see the figures all combined into Menasor, it seriously looks like Optimus Prime wearing a bunch of little robots around him.
In any event, most likely due to the attraction of having an evil version of Optimus Prime, Motormaster has become a very sought after collectible, going for over $2,000. This is an instance, though, where technical value is outstripped by collectibility. Motormaster might have gone for more money at auction than some of the other figures, but a lot more of them are sold, as more people are looking to collect them.
A perfect example of what we were referring to vis a vis collectibility vs. value is Galvatron. Introduced as a tie-in with the Transformers movie, Galvatron is a good deal less rare than some of the other, earlier Transformers releases, but the demand for the figure is much greater, leading him to crack into the top 15 (don't get us wrong, though, he's still a valuable figure, going for roughly $2,000 in a mint, in-box condition).
Interestingly, while in most continuities, Galvatron is a mutated version of Megatron (instead of a hand gun, he's now a futuristic blaster!), on the actual toy package it pretends as though he is a separate character vying for Decepticon leadership. That was probably to try to avoid spoilers for the film. Same thing happened to Rodimus Prime (who almost made this list for similar reasons to Galvatron).
This is another one where the figure is just very popular among fans because of how unique it is, as Blaster transforms into a miniature "boom box" stereo. A miniature Transformer can transform into a cassette tape and go into the cassette tape holder in the Blaster figure. Amusingly enough, though, when Blaster was released, they had not yet actually made a miniature Transformer cassette tape figure just yet!
This is because Blaster was actually a re-mold of a released Japanese figure, only the Japanese version of the figure actually worked as a radio! When Takara had to look at their list of defunct toys from their various other toy lines when it came time to do a second series of Transformers, they gutted the inside of this figure and made him into Blaster. A mint condition Blaster goes for about $2,000.
In the 1986 releases of the Transformers toys, a major new invention was the idea that you could transform some characters into bases, but these bases could then be connected to one another to form a sort of miniature city. It was not a huge part of the marketing in the United States, but in Japan, "Scramble City" was extremely hyped up in the marketing.
One of the most popular of these "cities" was the Decepticon Trypticon, who could transform into a big dinosaur who could actually walk with a pair of C batteries! You could add other, smaller robots to him to form cannons, like Brunt (who required a AA battery to light up his cannon). Trypticon goes for over $2,000 in mint, in sealed box condition.
Transformers was not the only example of taking multiple Japanese franchise and merging them together to form new franchises in the United States. The popular series Robotech was created by merging three separate Japanese properties (Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada) into one! The Macross series was part of a line of toys made in Japan by Takatoku Toys that were some of the very first ones where the robot transformed into a realistic looking vehicle.
As noted earlier, when Transformers' popularity blew up, Hasbro needed more product than Takara could provide, so they turned to Takatoku Toys and got their awesome transforming jet to adapt into the Transformers line of toys as the very popular figure, Jetfire. This figure goes for roughly $2,000.
9 FORTRESS MAXIMUS
There were certain toys in the mid-1980s that almost every kid wanted but almost no kid ever got. For the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line of toys, it was the U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier (which was over seven feet long!) and for the Transformers, it was Fortress Maximus, the nearly two foot tall Autobot who could transform into a base for the Transformers to use for their operations.
Back when it debuted back in 1987, it retailed for over $100. So thirty years ago it was $100! Oddly enough, though, proportionally, it has not gone up by as much as you might expect, as it goes for roughly the same price as most other Transformer figures at this point on the list (which is approximately $2,000).
One of the most popular Autobot figures is Grimlock, part of the wave of Dinobots who (naturally) transform into dinosaurs (Swoop, the Pterodactyl of the bunch, almost made this list. He's a very popular figure). When you realize that Transformers toys were made up of a bunch of different products, it makes stuff like the Dinobots make a whole lot more sense.
Grimlock was part of a Takara Diaclone series called Dinosaur Robos. They were each piloted by a tiny figure, who could be removed for the Transformers release. Also, it is worth noting that the teeth on the Japanese version of Grimlock were filed down for the higher safety standards of the United States. That's long been a problem with Transformers in the United States-- lots of little parts. Grimlock goes for a little over $2,000 graded mint condition sealed in the box.
Starscream is a strange case. The toy was one of the most popular of all of the original figures from the original Transformers release in 1984, but because of that popularity, Starscreams are also in higher supply on the secondary market because they kept re-releasing the figure. By 1986, Starscream was one of the only original Transformers toy still being produced.
However, the character is so popular that he is still in high demand as a collectible. It also helps that the design of the original Starscream was such that when the toy was transformed, there were parts that were only used when it was in one mode or the other, so can you imagine how few people kept track of those excess parts? A graded mint in box Starscream probably goes for a bit under $2,000 but come on, everyone still wants one!
If you're talking iconic Transformers toys, it doesn't take long before you're naturally going to think of Soundwave, the Decepticon who transformed into a Walkman-esque device. Soundwave was even more popular than Starscream and they both were continued to be made well after their fellow figures from that original 1984 release stopped being made (the little micro-figures who could be inserted into Soundwave's "player" continued to be made for a couple of years after that).
Soundwave came from a special figure Takara made for their Microman line called Cassette Man, so he was one of the easiest figures to translate into the Transformers line, as he was basically just re-painted (amusingly, the Transformers release accidentally kept a couple of stickers intended for the Cassette Man version of the figure). Graded mint and sealed in-box, Soundwaves go for over $2,000.
5 BUMBLEBEE (RED)
As noted up front, we're not looking to spotlight rare and obscure variants of Transformers toys, like, "Oh, this figure was only available in Greenland for two weeks in July 1985" or anything like that. However, when the "variant" was an intentional part of the toy release, that's a different story.
That was the case with Bumblebee, who was part of the original Transformers release in 1984, but as part of their "mini-figures" line (again, when you're mixing in different toy franchises, the results are going to be all over the place), which put out tiny Transformers. In an attempt to make the toy line look bigger than it was, Hasbro released red versions of Bumblebee as well as the more common yellow. An original graded red version of Bumblebee recently sold for almost $3,000.
Now we are getting into the tricky listings. You see, whenever Hasbro would create groups of toys that could be put together to form one larger robot, the toys were sold separately but they were also available in one giant giftset containing all of them (the term "giftset" only applies to sets of five figures or more). Naturally, then, when just regular Transformers figures sometimes go for close to $1,000 in graded mint condition, you can only imagine what an original set of said figures would go for!
And sure enough, Defensor, the robot that the Protectobots (Hot Spot, First Aid, Blades, Streetwise and Groove) combined into when they were formed together, typically sells for nearly $3,000 in graded mint condition when found sealed in the original giftset box.
Perhaps one of the most controversial action figures of all-time, Megatron was adapted from the Takara Microman "Gun Robo," which came in two versions of the Walther P-38 pistol. The more specialized version made the gun look like the Walther P-38 pistol used in the TV series Man From U.N.C.L.E. That's the version that was released as Megatron in the United States.
The Japanese version of the toy was spring-loaded and could shoot out tiny plastic bullets (holy choking hazard, Batman!). The American version eliminated the spring-loaded aspect. However, Megatron is well-known for being one of the most realistic-looking toy guns on the market, making it very controversial. A graded mint in box Megatron goes for over $4,000. There is an even more expensive mail away variant of Megatron that came out with the Transformers movie.
Computron is the combined form of the five members of the Autobot Technobots group (Scattershot, Afterburner, Lightspeed, Nosecone and Strafe) and, like the aforementioned Defensor, was available in a giftset. A graded mint sealed in-box Computron recently sold for over $5,000!
It is important to note exactly what we mean by "graded." You see, the Action Figure Authority is the leading grading company when it comes to toys like the Transformers. They grade figures from 1-100 (but usually between 60-90) on box, display window and figure. They then put the box into a special holder to protect it. Since grading has been introduced, just like in the comic world, prices have exploded. The exact same Computron, had it not been graded mint officially, would probably go for less than $1,000.
1 OPTIMUS PRIME
It is typically rare for the most popular action figure in a line to be also the most valuable, since usually that is reserved for more obscure figures. However, in the case of the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, he is unique. The most important reason is that while Starscream and Soundwave kept being produced until 1987, Optimus Prime was done after the initial release. Many other different versions of him were released in the years since, but the very original Optimus Prime is still rare.
The multiple variants have all found fans, as well (they did one where Optimus Prime's truck had a Pepsi logo on it that would be in the Top 15 if we counted variant figures), but that original Optimus Prime is still the Holy Grail of Transformers collectors and that's why a graded mint in sealed box edition recently sold for over $12,000!
What is the most expensive Transformers toy that you own? Let us know in the comments section!