27 September 2007

A Monster’s Grin

Strange day it is today. I did something that I have not done for the better part of a year or was it two or three or more?

I did not wait till the last 20 seconds to bid, which usually guarantees victory; instead I bid almost an hour before the auctions ended, which usually means defeat.

I didn’t have a choice. I had to coordinate and go with a group of people to a showroom presentation on ‘Light & Hospitality’. We were to be picked up at a fixed time and I could not be late even if I tried. The auctions were slated to end an hour from when we were to be picked up and we would only return 3 hours later- the auctions would have ended and gone cold by the time I got back in front of a computer.

What were at stake was Monsterbot Grotesque MIB and Pretender Skull Grin MIB (and Smokescreen MIB), both from a reliable seller with Transformers of the most immaculate quality. If it weren’t from this seller, I wouldn’t be so hard pressed to bid and obtain them. In truth, Skull Grin was essential and Grotesque (and Smokescreen) was merely collateral.

It was Marvel Transformers #40 and #45. It was because I never had Skull Grin as a kid. It was also because I’ve never touched a Skull Grin up till now. So yes, I think I will have him, and MIB too, thank you very much.

I had to bid and hope against odds that I will win, I couldn’t stay a minute longer than the 12pm pick up time.

I put in my maximum bids before leaving: Grotesque at US$22.88; Skull Grin at US$36.88 (and Smokescreen at US$22.88). I became the highest bidder, for the moment. The bid amounts were Grotesque at US$16.78 and Skull Grin at US$21.78 (and Smokescreen at US#21.00). Not too bad, still a bit of fat to burn through before my maximum bid is breached.

I left with the thought of a certain and impending loss- because they weren’t that high, last minute bid snipers would breeze past my max bid amount like the wind.

Fast forward 3 hours.

I’m back in front of a computer and desperate to know whether I have won or lost.

Yes? Yes. Yes! I won! I was delighted but surprised at the same time. Had no one been interested enough to outbid me? Maybe, maybe not but who cares. I won Grotesque for US$21.72 and Skull Grin at US$31.00 (lost Smokescreen at US$28). That is quite a couple of dollars under my maximum bids and I am happy!

Now I wait for my Skull Grin (and Grotesque).


Monsterbot Grotesque MIB complete from eBay seller paulieconure

Decepticon Pretender Skull Grin MIB complete from eBay seller paulieconure

22 September 2007

A stunnin' asthma story Part 2 - Breakdown, Drag Strip & Wildrider

Previous Chapter- A stunnin' asthma story Part 1

Not long after my Motormaster asthmatic aquisition, maybe a couple of weeks or 1 to 2 months at most, my brother and I got really sick. Mummy was convinced that we had to see a Chinese doctor (TCM - Traditional Chinese Medicine in today's terms). We 2 little fellas objected violently of course. Afterall who likes the bitter tar like broth that was characteristic of most TCM remedies.

Mummy threw in her offer, '2 small Transformers, each, if you both go to the Chinese doctor now'. She sure knew how to work us back then.

'Okay!!!', we sprang up immediately. I smiled, knowing from the back of my mind that I will get another 2 of the 3 remaining Stunticons.

We went to People's Park to see the Chinese doctor and were made to take the medicine immediately (mummy was taking no prisoners and she wasn't about to be fooled by us little devils). We then hurried to OG (the same place I got Motormaster from) to get our '2 small Transformers each'.

We stood at the Transformers aisle for close to 30 minutes. I had to decide which 2 of Drag Strip, Breakdown or Wildrider i wanted; my brother had to decide which 2 of Air Raid, Fireflight, or Slingshot he wanted.

We came up with a plan. 'Mummy if you just buy us 2, we still cannot form the big robot. We need to get all 3 (each) so that the big robot will have all his arms and legs', we looked at her pleading with eyes moist.

Till this day, I am still unsure about what it was that swayed her; was it our pleading or that she was simply too tired of standing at the toy aisle for close to 90 minutes waiting for us to 'decide'? In the end, she said 'okay, let's get 3 for you and 3 for you', pointing to my brother and me respectively.

Success! I brought home Breakdown, Drag Strip and Wildrider; my brother got Air Raid, Fireflight and Slingshot. I can form Menasor and my brother can form Superion- we can make them fight like they did in Heavy Traffic (Marvel US #22)! Woohooooooo....!


Epilogue: Mummy spent S$12.90 x 6 = S$77.40, a really large amount of money especially after also paying for TCM, but she made her 2 little kids really happy and gave me a slice of my childhood that I will never forget. I can't find out whether our pleading or her impatience made her give in because she doesn't remember 'such small matters as toys and Transformers', but in the end I guess it matters less what her reasons were and more that she did in fact agree to buy us the toys.

Sadly, my Stunticons (and my brother's Aerialbots) were part of the lot given away as detailed in Chapter I of the Origin Story but I have re-obtained a Menasor when I re-started collecting Transformers.

My present set of Stunticons forming Menasor, all in C9.5 condition

Stunticon cardbacks from eBay

Now all I need to complete the circle is a Motormaster box...

*edit 15 Dec '09 - Motormaster box acquired!*

20 September 2007

A stunnin' Asthma story

*This happened around June 1987*

'Wheeze, wheeeeze... mom, I can't... breath... properly...'

That was me in the 80s- Asthma, really severe asthma. I had to be hospitalized once or twice a month and was in very poor health. There was this occassion after a particularly bad episode when mummy wanted to cheer me up.

'How about I buy you a medium sized Transformer?' was what she said.

Medium sized in our terms means something bigger (and correspondingly more expensive) than a 2 pack cassette set or a mini-bot. It would be roughly the size and cost of an Autobot car or combiner team leader.

'I want Motormaster!' was my almost immediate reaction.

My infatuation with the Stunticons began when a classmate, DXF, showed me Transformers UK #91. He shoved the issue in my face and said 'Do you know who the Stunticons are? This cool new group!' I was fascinated and all the more so because he never even let me so much as peek inside the comic. @#$%%^;*

Cover of Transformers UK #91- Heavy Traffic Part 1 (left)

It's me taken from the 80s till recently to find out the story that Transformers #91 contained. It is a story I've always know, one that I've read and re-read countless times, it is the first half of the story contained in Marvel US #22. I never knew that till now.

Transformers #91 and cartoon episodes like The Key to Vector Sigma and Masquerade made the Stunticons sky-rocket to the top of my kiddy 'to get' list. The offer of a medium sized Transformers was met with a reply that says Motormaster rather than 2 of the smaller Stunticons. But i digress.

There i was, a pup, wheezing and puffing and breathing heavily but going all out and climbing the People's Park bridge that would lead to OG, where my Motormaster is! My condition was so bad that every step literally took my breath away. Every step was a struggle, every step was painful. But I had to do it because the prize was Motormaster.

It took me almost 15 minutes before I climbed up the bridge and entered OG. I stayed on course and nabbed Motormaster. The journey back home was equally torturous, but then I had Motormaster, safely cradled in my arms, to keep me company. (my brother scored Silverbolt that day)

Now for the rest of Menasor...

Next: A stunnin' asthma story Part 2 - Breakdown, Drag Strip & Wildrider

05 September 2007

Laserbeak mint on card

*this happened 2 years ago on around 5 September 2005*

Have recently obtained a most excellent speciment of the G1 series 1 Laserbeak and Frenzy cardback. The G1 Series 1 [ie 1984] cardbacks and boxes have always had a special place in my heart, further, such cardbacks is something of a rarity to be had in such good condition. The Laserbeak artwork is so beautiful that something had to be done.

Scanned the cardback and cropped out the Laserbeak artwork using Photoshop. It is now all the more beautiful having been freed from its background.

Laserbeak 'box art'

This high definition scan of the Laserbeak box art has also be contributed to the TF community and was submitted to Botch's Box Art Archive and can be seen here.

Hmmm... just browsed Botch's site and saw his article that Rumble is red, Frenzy is blue [ie RIRFIB]. Cannot agree with that, but that is a debate for another day.

04 September 2007

How do prices like these make commercial sense?

Australia (AU), the land down under. Great place, good climate, excellent lifestyle… and very high standard of living (in Economics terms).

This is a great place and I love it. I love the chill of winter when the sun cowers behind the thick cotton like clouds. What I don’t love are the high prices - prices are high for just about everything.

General Prices
I have found that the prices for food, sundry items, furniture and a host of other things needed for daily living are roughly 30% higher than in Singapore (SG). My colleagues, WD and VL, respectively buy Remote Control car accessories and perfumes direct from the US. They refuse to buy them locally because it is cheaper to buy from the US, even with the cost of freight factored in. That is further proof if any is needed.

What all these means is that collectible prices are corresponding high. I’ll not talk about vintage or secondhand TFs in speciality toy shops because there really aren’t any around (or if there are, I would not be driving 1 to 2 hours to get there). I will touch on new releases available at normal retail.

David Jones, K-Mart, Myer and Target
For a simple comparison, I would use an average Transformers Movie (2007) Voyager class figure as an example. On the average a Voyager class figure costs between AU$45.00 to AU$49.99 (I am disregarding when Myer priced their Voyagers all wrong at AU$31.99. That was a pleasant joke at least). Averaging AU$47.50 per piece, Australia bought Voyagers are already numerically more expensive than S$40.00 Singapore Voyagers even without allowing for exchange rates. Once exchange rates come into play, we see that each AU Voyager costs approximately S$59.38, almost $20 more than an SG Voyager – therefore AU prices can be considered to be generally 150% higher (or 50% more) than SG prices for new releases. This is generally accurate across major retailers.

Kinokuniya & Hobby Co.
They have the occasional newly released Transformer but their prices are usually skyhigh. Where a Binaltech costs around S$55.00 to S$65.00 in Singapore, the same one is sold at Kinokuniya for AU$99.00 and Hobby Co. at AU$120.00. After factoring in exchange rates a Binaltech in AU costs approximately 200% (or twice as much) of its SG price. Another example is the Star Convoy reissue which cost S$130 back in SG but AU$220 in AU. Unsurprisingly, this is again 200% of its Singapore price after exchange rate conversion.

Prices in different countries
Just to set the record straight, I must say Singapore is not underpricing its toys. Give or take 15-20%, the Singapore price is in line with Japan, Hong Kong and even Korea. USA and Malaysian prices are roughly 20-30% higher than Singapore. Besides Europe, North Pole, South Pole and the Middle East, Australia is the most expensive place in the world to buy new Transformers.

What do all these mean?
In summary, sundry items costs 30% higher, new toy releases costs 50% higher and TF reissues cost 100% higher than Singapore (all percentages approximate). If TF reissues are taken as an exceptional occurrence and disregarded for this analysis, I can assume that AU prices are generally and on the average approximately 40% (average of 30% and 50%) higher than SG prices.

If an average TF collector in AU with a yearly income of $40,000 spends 10% of that on Transformers which he/she loves, it would total AU$4,000 worth of spending a year. Since prices in AU is generally 40% higher than SG, this would be AU$1,600 more than he/she would have to spend if he/she were in either SG or HK.

The price of my Christmas peak period Singapore Airlines round trip SYD to SG to HK to SG to SYD ticket costs AU$1,500 all up. The simple conclusion is this: a collector can go to SG and HK and buy all that he/she would otherwise have bought in AU and still have AU$100 ($1,600 minus $1,500) pocket money to throw away. He/she gets all the Transformers he/she wants from places with selections far superior to AU and gets a ‘free’ trip to Singapore and Hong Kong to top it all off.

Now tell me that the prices in Australia are not completely outrageously ludicrous.

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