Friday, May 11, 2012

Figure Friday: Bootleg Toys part 1

Reposting the first of a trio of bootleg toy articles. It got lost, and yeah. Here it is again. Part 2 can be found here, and part 3 is here.

This will simply be an introduction to bootleg toys - something that in many ways split the community of toy collectors. Some like them, many hate them. But are bootlegs really destroying the big manufacturers, and most importantly - how big is the impact on the secondary market?

Expect none of these questions to be answered completely today, but read on for a couple more words.

Can you see the difference between the two dudes?

Let me first explain who this is. If you know nothing about Transformers at all, you still probably recognize a few of the characters. I don't care where you're from, you know who Optimus Prime is. Mostly thanks to the new live action movies, but also because he's a pop culture icon.
A few other Transformers characters are up there along with Optimus Prime, like Bumblebee, Megatron. Then you start going into characters that are well known if you simply were a kid during the 80s, regardless of how many robots you owned. Soundwave, Starscream, Jazz, Ratchet, Grimlock.

You have seen me post pictures of some of these before.

And then you have the robots you would recognize only if you were into Transformers.
Scorponok falls in this category.
Scorponok was the leader of the evil Headmasters, and on occasion the leader of the Decepticons. The thing about the Headmasters was that the robots had "human" counterparts that transformed into the heads for the robots. Incredibly fun. You could change the heads between the Headmasters.
Scorponok's head is the ruthless Lord Zarak!

Scorponok is huge, and I'm guess we all agree that he's equally awesome. When you roll him across the floor, the legs move eerily similar to how a scorpion would move its legs.
Another thing to note about Scorponok is that he's somewhat rare and expensive, mostly because he was expensive already back in the day and because he has quite a few easily lost pieces.
This is important for us today, because the prices that vintage Transformers demand has not gone unnoticed with people who have the ability to reproduce these toys.

If you're new to collecting toys, you actually have to be aware of the "dangers" of buying vintage toys. Just as with almost anything else collectible: There is a chance that the entire toy, or some parts of it is fake.

But is monetary gain the only reason to reproduce vintage toys? It doesn't really seem like it. Lord Zarak - the head of Scorponok - in prime condition sells for anywhere between $20-50, depending on the time of the day. To reproduce the figure costefficiently, to make it similar enough to be able to fool even the blindest collector, you would have to have access to a decent sized Chinese factory. As a private person, you'd have a hard time reproducing Lord Zarak for a price that would make it worth it.
So, without doubt, some are doing it to make money, but there are also a huge amount of people doing it for the love of toys.
Reproducing easily lost parts, like the Headmasters heads.

I bought this bootleg Lord Zarak for two reasons. The first reason is that I actually find bootleg toys fun. The second reason is that I wanted to find out if I was able to spot the difference. And honestly, if I didn't already have an original Zarak, I'd have a hard time. Side by side, they are obviously different, as they have slightly different color hue, but I'll ask you this:

Which one is original and which one is the bootleg?

I'll admit, I'm a big fan of bootleg toys. Many of them are hilariously bad, and the good ones can (if you're not picky about it) fill holes in a collection without selling the house and your kids. I'll show a few more in upcoming Figure Fridays.

It helps being aware that anytime you buy a vintage toy in uncannily good condition, it may very well be a bootleg, but as long as you know what you're buying, I don't see a problem.
But there lies the main problem. You cannot always know, and if the seller isn't totally honest, you can end up paying a lot more than you really should. Lord Zarak isn't really a good example, since he's already not that expensive, but the more rare Japanese releases - Even I would be very cautious.

The bootleg toys are not hurting Hasbro or any other big toy company. They don't even care that much about the third-party companies, specially not when it comes to Transformers. The vintage toys have already been paid for.

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