Collecting Dangers

Complaints from Around the TF-World!

Note: This page is not to be confused with the TF-advice page, found here.

Welcome. This section started out several years back as a complaint simply against the multitude of errors in a single price guide. They were misleading a number of collectors with inaccurate variant-listings (blue bluestreak, american bruticus giftset), and refused to make corrections. It has since expanded into other issues, not just about them, but about the business side of toys in general; price manipuation, shills on eBay, fixed deals on guides, that sort of thing. Making a profit is one thing; manipulating a market to make a bigger profit is quite another. Magazines and dealers are accused of this. Sellers on eBay are accused of this. Everbody is accused, but who is guilty?

This section would not have been created, or needed at all were it not for a very few rotten people out there who don't care about the customers or the hobby. It's a dangerous minefield out there folks, and both the good and the good-intentioned sometimes get sucked in. Luckily, thanks a close-knit community, we are able to weed out most of the rip-offs. But we must not let our guard down for a moment. Be ever vigilant, my friends! And as always, take anything said here with as many grains of salt as you need to be comfortable. Opinions are just that: opinions. OTHER people's opinions. Maybe you agree with them, maybe you don't, but you can't change them just because you want to. :-) People say bad things about many folks, whether deserved or not, yet still continue to deal with them. I don't have any opinions on it either way; at least, none that I'd be silly enough to share. :-) Heheh. I just type what people tell me to. :-) Beyond that, have a read, and love it or hate it. Or don't worry about it! Kick back, relax, and have a doughnut. Or a bagle. Or just a cup of coffee. Or a glass of water; I'm happy to accomodate whatever.

| Fakes and Knock-Offs | Botcon vs OTFCC | The Lee's Multi-Error Fiasco! |

| Outrageous Pricing, Dangit! | eBay: Fakers, and Ripoffs | Shills: Our Auction Nightmare |

| Dealer Tries to Raise Prices Further? | is a Thief? | PayPal Sucks |

| Getting Out of TFs for Good |

Fakes and Knockoffs

Originally, this was part of the eBay-ugh section. However, as the number of knockoffs has grown, so has the information needed to identify them. Basically, a knockoff is a bootleg; a toy made to look like a Transformer, but isn't made by Hasbro/Takara (usually, they come out of factories in china). Many are easy to tell apart; either they're the wrong size, or a totally odd color scheme. Others, however, are more insidious. The color and plastic quality are the same; they even have faction symbols! However, there is no copystamp, which gives it away as a knockoff.

This has been going on for as long as there have been transformers. The fake microx reflector looks spot-on, but no copystamp. That was 20 years ago. Today, we see the powermaster Doubledealer completely knocked off, right down to the faction symbols. It's the nature of the business.

On the one hand, KOs are neat to collect, and fun to play with, especially if they're an odd version of your fav character (like maybe a Micromaster version of Deveatator). On the other hand, companies argue that this is illegal bootlegging; stolen intellectual property, which cuts into profits and affects the health of the company. From an American-centric doesn't matter anymore, as both the legitimate factories, and the ones doing the knockoffs, are located in China.

(See Also: Knockoffs)

(See Also: China)

Botcon vs OTFCC

The Synopsis: in 2002, Glen forced the Hartmans out from their own convention. Raksha has more to say here. Eventually, he called his convention OTFCC.

My opinion? Doesn't matter. You read it, and decide for yourself. This particular drama hasn't played itself out yet. There's more to come. We're currently in the bottom third of the play. :-) By the end of 2004, the whole story will be lived out, and we can add more info.

For a comparison of the competing 2004 conventions from a fan point of view (who attended them both) have a read here. Of course, at this stage, it's a moot point, as in 2005 Master Collector took over it all. They got the Hartmans name (Botcon) as well as Glen's license (from Hasbro). The best of both worlds? You decide. I'm finished.

Getting Out of TFs for Good

Sound scary? It is. It takes some people two years, and other people 20 years, but everyone from the 7-yr-old to the Hartman brothers eventually give up on TFs. Is it because of the storyline? The market saturation? Do people just grow up? Give up? Read the link below, and decide for yourself.

(See Also: The New TF Advice Page)

That page contains everything from tips on collecting your favorite characters, to articles on the eventual wholesale elimination of all tfs from your life. Just in time for Halloween. Scary.

Versions and Variations: What does Lee's AFN Mean?

Answered by Mr J

As always when collecting our favorite toy, I have come across some conflicting information in Lee's AFN. My questions have to do with versions and variations, and what they mean by them.

Since Mr K and I supplied AFN with their original TF price guide waaay back in 1995, I feel I'm pretty qualified to comment about the whole AFN price guide fiasco. I'll preface this by saying that the original version was a *lot* more detailed than the current one and was fairly error-free. Over time, though, AFN added more sections to the price guide and increased the number of columns per page. This resulted in a drastic simplification of the TF listing and an as equal increase in errors as they got away from our original text. All of the points you make come back to this.

Let's start with Cassettes in the 1987 listing. They show a Frenzy and Ratbat with painted details. I have been told that a painted details Frenzy was never released in America; and further that it may not exist at all. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

The original text indicated that only Ratbat was painted. There was never a US-released painted Frenzy. On the series 4 1987 listing for Autobot Cassettes, we see a listing for Rewind/Steeljaw, and Ramhorn/Eject with painted details. Please note that as far as we know, this painted detail designation applies ONLY to Rewind and Eject. There were no painted details Ramhorn or Steeljaw released in America. The only variation we have on record for them here is silver versus gold weapons.

Second, let's talk about Micromaster Transports in the 1989 and 1990 listings. Lee's shows a version one and version two. What do they refer to? Was it just a packaging variation? If so, why don't they say package 1 and 2, as they do with some of the G2 Gobots? what does Lee's mean?

Our original guide made the distinction by saying package 1/2 for package variations and version 1/2 for toy variations. When AFN condensed the list they weren't consistent with the designations. The Micromaster Transports had two different package variations. The first was with a plain silver background behind the toy and the second, released in 1990, had a green background to draw more attention to the toy.

Let's also take a look at the Generation 2 listings. First up is the 1993 large jets listings in Lee's that shows a version one and two for Starscream and Ramjet. Again, same problem; was this a packaging variation, or a toy variation? I was told it might be a packaging variation. Can anyone confirm this? If so, then again, why not specifically say package 1 or 2?

This was actually a package variation. In the first package the missiles were grouped separately and in the second package they were grouped together. There was also some shifting of text and graphics on the front of the package.

Same problem with the Megatron large tank. It says versions 1 and 2. What's the difference here that they are trying to express? I have been told that the small G2 tank variation they list was a difference either in the chest decal being blank, or in having megatron's name on it. But this blank chest decal was supposed to be a European variation. So why is it listed? Or are they implying something else?

There were actually three package variations for the G2 Megatron tank. The first package had a white insert with the back panel printed upside down. On the second package the back panel was printed correctly, and it still had the white insert. The third package had a yellow insert. The third package was released in 1994 as the toy continued shipping.

As you can see, AFN has really done TF collectors a disservice by the way they botched the price guide. (And, until recently, the organization of the Beast Wars section was an absolute joke. It's better now, but still not right.) This was of the reasons I quit getting the magazine. Hope my explanations help.

Mr J, as always, you rise up to light my darkest hour. :-) Thanks for the info. I can now breathe a little easier, knowing where I sit with regards to the variations.

Glad I could help.

...I suppose it's useless for me to complain to the editor of Lee's, eh?

Yeah, pretty much. I'd sent them several corrections to the price guide and they never made them, complaining that they don't have the staff to make corrections in a timely manner or some such garbage. Whatever...


Outrageous Pricing, Dang-It! What's up with Lee's AFN?

Answered by Jerunski

Futuristgroup wrote:

What's up with Lee's pricing? In one month, I've seen prices double on some units like Jazz. Over $120 bucks loose? What happened?

The whole Lee's pricing thing came about because of a certain net dealer (who shall remain nameless) who wrote them an 8-page letter talking about how the boxed units should be going for more. Lee's, in their wisdom, raised the prices on the boxed units. But they also raised their prices on the LOOSE toys. Contrary to what they say, Lee's does NOT base loose toy price on the market. They simply list the price of a loose unit as 1/3 to 1/2 of boxed price. While the boxed units may in fact be worth as much as they list, the loose toys certainly are not. Of course, Lee's will never admit to this, nor will they adjust the price of the loose toys accordingly. They will leave them, and simply wait for the market to catch up.

END of Message 1

I am refering to the "LEE'S" toy price guide. How can so many old transformers still be worth hundreds of dollars??

Who in there right mind would pay $100 to $300 for a G1 Autobot car? I mean lets be logical, why pay $300 for G1 Jazz, when you could pay $30 for a G2 Jazz, or even a reissue Dreamwave one? Not to mention he's now a TRU-exclusive. The same scenaio goes for Hot Rod. $120 loose? NOBODY is paying these prices. Yet they don't seem to go down. Why?

SORRY FOR THE RANT but the LEE'S toy magazine does a horrible job on their toy price guide. There are hardly any accurate prices. To think the G2 re-releases & Takara and TRU re-issues would have lowered the original TF G1 prices by at least 33%. Maybe more. They sure did on eBay! Just not in the guidebook. I heard a rumor that the guy who owns the LEE'S magazine (Lenny Lee) runs a toy store on the side, too. Conflict of intertest? I also heard he has a huge toy collection of assorted toy lines & whatever he has in his collection, the guy tries to up the price values in his price guides. This has to be the only logical reason because it's hard to stomach any other reason. If there even is one.

(Editor's Note: I agree. But I also still buy Lee's, along with three other price guides. I guess I enjoy a good laugh. :-)

END of Message 2

A dealer tries to raise the prices even further?

A letter was sent out by a dealer (name withheld) involving his view on the TF market. Included are a snippet of his words, and some responses from the community.

"...we were asked by based on our five years experience in selling Transformers to compile a complete and accurate Transformers price list. The price list will be based on our experience, not what the price guides say or what eBay says. eBay does not control the market value for Transformers and you won't see $180.00 for a loose complete Bluestreak in the pricelist either like in other price guides.

We have data in our database going back 5 years and we've sold perhaps every single Transformer loose complete at least 10 times and at least 5 times on boxed items. Our prices will based on a world-wide market and not just within the US as most guides are based on. We will be attempting to list every variation along with price adjustments for those variations etc. More information on this coming in the future."

END Dealer snippet.

The short version? The prices from the dealer are purported to be higher than what you would find similar toys go for on other sites. The prices in some cases were higher than other price guides. This would mean that if the dealer makes a price guide based on his database, it would list prices that are higher than what other price guides already list the toy, not lower like the claim. Does this accurately reflect the TF market, or just one dealer's ability to go the extra mile while making an extra dollar?

Responses were varied, many outright negative. Take it with a grain of salt. is a Thief?

June 7, 2001, Trent Troop began a net-wide campaign to get an exclusive from ToyFare magazine, a popular source of "information" that often offers toys exclusive to its magazine. As the link reads, Trent thought we could show ToyFare that there is demand for a Transformers exclusive out there. He posted it to every group and message board he could find, rallying support at AllSpark, ATT, IRC, and...

Soon after, put up a page similar to this. The only differences are that Trent's name USED to be on it. Nearly all the words on that page are Trent's, including the "suggested letter" that Trent wrote which changed into a form letter, inserting its own name in front of the project in several locations.

Renaud, the webmaster, refuses to answer any questions regarding this. In fact, he's deleted all posts I've made regarding the subject on his own message boards, seconds after posting.

Renaud is a thief.

I remember Walky on ATT starting two or three threads about this a little while back. All his calls for renaud to defend himself went unheard apparently. This fandom has its bastards, and don't you forget it. -Maz

Note: The rest of Walky's story can be found here: Plagiarism

eBay: Fakers and Ripoffs

What do I think of eBay? It's great as a buyer. It's also the most useful 'priceguide', as it is a constant flow offering a person data on exactly what something is selling for on-line at that precise moment. Priceguides are unwieldy, and often incorrect. Let the market decide, I say. It all averages out. It's also a great place to find items that are not offered in your area, as well as a place to pick up rare and vintage items that you might not get otherwise.

That being said, eBay sucks. If you are a seller, you have to deal with zero and negative feedback bidders, feedback bombing,'s not worth it to be a seller. Truth be told, it's almost better to work a private deal with someone when it comes to selling...or be a dealer at a convention. That's my recommendation. As a buyer, you have to be careful who you buy from. Always check the feedback. And CAREFULLY read the auction description. Ask questions. So many things can go wrong. You could never get the item, or have to pay an outrageous shipping cost, or perhaps the true condition of an item is hidden in a description so as to mislead a person without getting into trouble.

Heck, the item you're bidding on may not even exist! There are those who run off 'lunchtime specials' for example, either by doing some plastic through the mold at the factory, or by customising it themselves, or by trying to pass off testshots as a prototype or luckydraw item. Cases-in-point:

1) "Ministry_of_toys (used to be called Goddraven)'s associate was making kitbash Black God Ginrais from Nucleon Quest Super Convoy reissues, and painted black Godbombers. Goddraven took these customs and put them in a God Ginrai reissue box, slapped on a TRU exclusive sticker and sold them on eBay as "LUCKY DRAW BLACK GOD GINRAI" for a BIN of $999.99. His friend Robert Sia (Transform65) was doing the same thing. They ripped a lot of people off. Never gave refunds when they were caught. Artfire was one of our buddies that got nailed with this scam."

Pic of Toy In Question

"When asked about it Goddraven claims he was ripped off too, that some guy in Canada (Spencer) was making them. He was trying to shift the blame onto Spencer who makes customs, and sells them *AS* customs. Goddraven is lying and is trying to cover himself. The guy lied and stole thousands. The real pisser? People will still buy from him, even knowing this. And even when folks like him get caught, it does little or no good. They simply get a new eBay user ID, and start again. Assuming eBay even kicks them off. Lemme dig around and find that article about how eBay does nothing to stop this kind of fraud..."(in-process)

2) The most annoying fraud I've come across is when people pick up sets of euro-classic TFs (Prowl, Jazz, etc) take them out of their gold packaging, and insert them into american boxes, therby decieving the buyer that he is purchasing a 'sealed to bubble us original'. The worst offender seemed to be Prowl. Since the Classic version came with the diaclone sticker markings on the side, sellers would try to pass it off as a pre-rub Prowl.

3) Some time back, a Euro-seller got ahold of a reissue Prime, peeled the tape back, altered the feet so that they would be red, then resealed the box and claimed it came that way ("in-homage" to the original red-foot Prime). No where in the auction did it state this was a custom. (Pic)

4) Lunchtime Specials: First coined by the Autocon group, lunchtime specials is a term used to describe the plethora of clear TFs that started coming out of the factory a few years ago. Thought to be either testshots (to check for mold imperfections) or pieces belonging to an employee-contest, these things sure do cause a lot of problems. More...

5) "Mattingas: He's a dealer in Italy who buys toys for himself, throws random parts together, then tries to pass them off as rare finds. Case in point: he bought a diakron red Sunstreaker mib. He took the toy out, stuck a regular yellow Sunstreaker in the box, then put it on eBay and tried to pass it off as real! Yellow Sunstreaker never *came* in diakron packaging! Another example; a yellow Tigertrack. He took the (yellow-tipped) launcher and gun out of a reissue, put it with his personal collection, then stuck a standard white Red Alert launcher (and a white Sideswipe gun) in the package and tried to pass it off as factory error! I could go on, but you get the idea. Do *not* trust this guy."

Shills: Our Auction Nightmare

Several articles/posts from transfans about their experiences in the trenches...

A word to the wise...

If anything originating from the Philippines, Singapore, or Hong Kong ever sells abnormally high, it is more often than not a crooked auction. If you don't know the person who wins, or if they aren't a regular eBay/Yahoo! bidder, that probably means that the high bidder is in some way connected to the seller. There are many of us. Most of us can depict regulars from newbies. You know who bids if you regularly follow the listings. It's funny how these strange names pop up from time to time and bid on stuff from South Asia, then disappear for 3 months... until that seller needs to jack up his/her price again...I'm not saying that this one was rigged, but I wouldn't discount it either. -Josh

One example offered by the Autocon group was a set of two auctions on eBay. They were fixed so that only 'approved' people can bid on it, they start and end at a description, no picture. It looked as though the dealer was creating two new accounts from which to drive up his prices on future auctions (note that both accounts were brand-new, at zero, etc.).

Thoughts from other members went along the lines of, "Yeah, reminds me of that VSX set on eBay that Michael Fong sold himself for a dollar. Geeeeeeee what a goooood deeeeal. ;) Well they can build up their feedback as much as they want, as long we know the whole story we won't bid. =) -Maz"

And another listing, this one from crf121: Why I post, is because of auctioneers like this:

If you check the feedback, all by people in that same circle of friends. I remember people a while back posting how blackaces, sale!!! and meleon are all friends irl, and often rig auctions and scams. Guess we'll find out in a few weeks if he gets booted or tons of negatives start pouring in, what the real story is. I have had great transactions with people from Singapore before, but in the TF realm, there are several of them to avoid."

Paypal Sucks!

Just one of many sites you can find when you do a search on the term, 'paypal sucks'. I've heard many horror-stories from my friends; it's caused me to avoid even trying paypal. Click on the logo to find out some of what goes on.

This is just a small sampling of the difficulties we run into as collectors. I wish I could say more here, especially something along the lines of offering a solution to all of this. But I guess we must all find our own way for now. Click here, and find one way of dealing with it. Thanks for reading.

| Fakes and Knock-Offs | Botcon vs OTFCC | The Lee's Multi-Error Fiasco! |

| Outrageous Pricing, Dangit! | eBay: Fakers, and Ripoffs | Shills: Our Auction Nightmare |

| Dealer Tries to Raise Prices Further? | is a Thief? | PayPal Sucks |

| Getting Out of TFs for Good |