Article: Vintage G1 Transformers Reissues and Pricing
In July of 2018, Hasbro officially announced the release of a line of Walmart exclusive "Vintage G1" Transformers figures. These toys were all re-releases of previous reissues (mostly from Japan) but they featured packaging that was based on the design of the original Generation One boxes. Old assets were pulled from Hasbro's archives to recreate these boxes, making them special and quite different from the reissues that have been seen in the last eighteen years or so.
While many fans have celebrated these reissues, others have not been as enthusiastic. Specifically, many fans cite the prices of these reissues as being too high. With prices like $74.00 for the Devastator boxed set, this initial gut reaction is understandable. But as with so many things in the world of Transformers, there is more here than meets...well, you know.
Pricing, Value, Worth
First, let us differentiate between "pricing" and "value/worth". When companies plan out a product, be it a new action figure or a food product, they have to take many factors into account. This includes a lot of factors such as the cost of materials, the cost of labor, whether there is a market for the product, development costs and regulations around the product. Working with retailers a price is ultimately decided long before you see a product in stores. In my conversations with Hasbro over the years (and during some Botcon panels), all these factors have come up when discussing prices. While maximizing profits is a definitely factor in pricing, it is hardly the only factor.
On the other hand, "value/worth" to a specific individual (not the economic theories) is a very different matter. In many respects this is a very nebulous concept. Ten different fans could look at the same action figure and cite its "value" or "worth" across ten different prices. For some a toy is all about "What can it do? How complex is it?" to others it is about the character they love and yet others care more about the packaging because they never intend to take the figure out. There is no real way to lock this down to any specific set of factors given the personal nature of the emotions a toy can evoke in a person.
This article seeks to offer perspective on the pricing of the Vintage G1 Transformers figures. When it comes to what the figures are "worth", that is a very personal question that every fan needs to examine for themselves regardless of how "right" or "wrong" the prices may seem.
The Vintage G1 reissues represent new production runs of action figures that were originally released between 1984 and 1986. When looking at current prices, we need to factor inflation into account. Wikipedia defines inflation as "a sustained increase in the price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.". That means as time goes along, goods (be they action figures, food or car parts etc.) all go up and thus, the same amount of money in say, 1984 simply does not go as far in 2018. This is a critical factor to take into account when looking at prices of figures that were originally released in the 80's.
Using Google searches, I dug up some images of Mini-Bots on card (with price tags on) and Sears Wishbooks and found the following 1980's prices for the figures in the Vintage G1 line (in USD):
- Devastator: $34.99
- Hot Rod: $12.99
- Starscream: $12.99
- Mini-Bots: $3.00 (average)
Now, taking inflation into account (via https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl) this is what those prices translate into in 2018:
- Devastator: $80.72 (https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=34.99&year1=198512&year2=2...)
- Hot Rod: $29.64 (https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=12.99&year1=198612&year2=2...)
- Starscream: $32.14 (https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=12.99&year1=198401&year2=2...)*
- Mini-Bots: $7.42 (https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=3.00&year1=198401&year2=20...)
And here are the prices currently listed for the reissues on Walmart.com:
- Devastator: $74.00
- Hot Rod: $29.84
- Starscream: $34.76*
- Mini-Bots: $7.99
Once you factor inflation in, the prices are fairly close to the 1980's prices, putting lie to the assertion that these are somehow hyper inflated prices.
*Note: Starscream comes with an extra accessory and uses some extra plastic that the G1 figure did not (most notably for the extra long missiles due to safety concerns) so the price being a bit higher than the calculated $32.14 is not a huge surprise.
Some fans have pointed out that these are not newly created figures and thus they are virtually no-cost to Hasbro and thus they should be priced significantly lower. However, such an argument ignores several factors:
- Some retooling has been done, meaning metal has been recut, possibly with a new set of tooling. This is most notable on the Devastator set which features many sculpting differences from the original (mostly around the trademark information).
- These figures still require materials to create. From plastic to metal to the cardboard for the packaging these toys are not created out of thin air.
- The original packaging assets had to be brought out of storage and reworked for these releases. This is done by Hasbro employees who then incur a cost for their time and material to recreate these boxes.
- The Vintage G1 Transformers are manufactured in China. That is because the tooling for these figures is stored there (unlike modern figures which are largely manufactured in Vietnam). This means the cost of manufacturing is higher than the cost of figures made in Vietnam.
The Vintage G1 Transformers prices are well within a reasonable range of the original prices, factoring in inflation. That said, it is perfectly valid to also point out that the dollar does not stretch as much as it used to. Salaries have not gone up in proper proportion with the cost of living. However, these are larger economic issues that Hasbro and Takara Tomy do not control outside of their own employees and vendors.
Whether or not you choose to spend your hard earned dollars on these figures is entirely a personal choice. Some fans think between the nostalgia of the packaging and the ability to scoop them up from a Walmart shelf is enough to make them worth it. Other fans do not agree, but part of the joy being a modern age Transformers fan is the wide array of products you have available to you. If you don't want the G1 Hot Rod reissue, why not go for the "Power of the Primes" Leader Class figure instead? Having choices is a wonderful thing for fans and as a fandom we are better off having the choices than the alternative.