After setting out some preliminary thoughts in the previous post, "How rare is rare? (part 1)", I'm going to try and illuminate how rare (or not) Marlboor Wheeljack is.
Since this is a topic I have to confess I am wholly inadequate in, I needed help! I managed to obtain some expert advice and commentary from veteran TFW 2005 member Maz.
Enclosed below is Maz's commentary on the issue, which he has generously agreed to allow me to publish on this site.
"The Marlboor Lancia has always been a very sought-after Diaclone. It was first featured on a very famous and popular collector site back in the late 90s and early 00s called Devvi.com, before many ever knew what it was. At that time Diaclones were very fresh news to TF collectors and discoveries + new info that we take for granted now were being uncovered for the first time. So it took on a very legendary status. Devvi's page had the power and gravitas at the time to make whatever variant he featured on his site to take on holy grail status, like the MB Red Tracks and Mexican minibots.
There was a case find of Marlboor Wheeljacks in Japan around 2002/2003 and a number of collectors got their perfect specimens from that find for about $300 apiece. There were probably 5 or so in total sold on Yahoo Japan, and who knows how many more in private.
It is a rare piece in the condition you have it in, but more than anything it is hyped and desireable because it's such a wild variant, a totally new livery and head sculpt.
The Marlboor is rarer than the Blue Bluestreak and yellow Trailbreaker, but there are much rarer Diaclones such as the Yellow Sideswipe, Black Skids, Powered Convoy DX set and Diaclone "Truck Crane" Grapple, not to mention the recoloured Trainbots. The Marlboor is a very tough find, probably 2 or 3 mint specimens turn up for auction on average per year, and what makes it even more desireable is that they always go for a lot of money, making it harder to score one...making it more and more sought-after. A vicious cycle really.
Another reason it's a tough find is because at the time of its release, much like the yellow Sideswipe, PCDX and Diaclone Grapple, in Japan Transformers would have been on the shelf too, and you can imagine what most kids would have been more interested in. My theory is that just not many of them were sold, and so less found their way onto the second hand market, hence the number of unused specimens floating around. Many of the specimens around today are likely to be old store stock.
So to conclude, as far as Diaclones go it's in most collector's top 3 because it's rare, but not the rarest, however it has a huge appeal because of its great looks, has great status (and affords the owner status), and the price it commands on an open market. Not to mention Wheeljack is a very popular mould, so any variant will be treasured."
Fellow TFW 2005, vf1, briefly mentioned his view of the rarity of Marlboor Wheeljack:
"I don't believe there has been one auctioned on eBay since 2007 or 2008, so it seems a lot of collectors have been waiting impatiently to get their hands on one during this time and this is reflected in the prices offered. The marlboor wheeljack probably is not the rarest diaclone, but it definitely is one of the most highly sought after as most collectors after obtaining one will not plan on reselling it again."
My buddy Hotspot17, also from TFW 2005, also commented on rarity in my previous post.
He said: "From my collecting experience, as you find rare items, you will learn about other rarer items raising the bar of rarity."
That's also very true. The Marlboor Wheeljack has opened my eyes to even rarer items - Yellow Sideswipe, Powered Convoy DX and I heard, the Finnish exclusive Black Corvette (Tracks)... the list goes on and kind of puts my favourite blue Fairlady Z (Bluestreak) to shame a little.