Saturday, 30 December 2017

An Alternative List

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

I don't really do lists. 

I certainly don't take part in the tradition of gathering all the toys I've bought in a year and select the best of the bunch. Yet, as we come to the end of another year, filled with fond memories of the mountain of plastic accrued over the many days, weeks and months, I find myself looking over my collection as whole and lingering on the purchases which have in some way had a profound impact on my buying habits or fulfilled some collecting goal of mine. Be it a key piece I finally managed to acquire or an example of a very purposeful direction I have tried to take my collection in, certain toys have dictated the course corrections of my collection. While I won't be presenting any sort of top picks of the year I will still mention a few key purchases and highlights of the year as well as commenting on how I tried to take control of my collection in 2017. 

This year more than ever I trimmed, pruned, cultivated and curated my collection as never before and as I to take you down my path of 'Top of the Pops of Bots Bought' I will tell you where each purchase has found its place in my collection and how it has added to the whole. The patchwork that is my collection is slowly changing into into a grand tapestry, one with a broad theme that is also replete with smaller displays therein.

While it's common for a lot of collectors to put together their own list of Best Bots, I feel they hold the most for me as a reader or viewer when someone can tell me why a certain bot made the cut. Reasons beyond "I liked it more than the others" or "it's a cool toy" which tell us why a few purchases are ranked above all else from the year. At times there are some wondrous posts, articles or videos where people can creatively express their choices through critical reasoning backed up with great photography, editing or even just a healthy dose of personality. Unfortunately this isn't always the case and at times these lists can feel more like a run-down of a bunch of shiny toys and that's it. Show and tell but it's all show and no tell. I am often left wondering where these bots stand in a collection? How have they affected a collection at large? 

As I mentioned at the beginning, this year I have reduced and focused my collection in a bid to align more and more of my purchases with a greater mindset towards my collecting goals. This has seen me concentrate on certain lines such as Masterpiece with a focus on the Diaclone repaints or particular Third Party companies, picking up certain toys I would normally pass over or even older releases to fill some gaps in my collection. For example, thanks to my purchasing habits of 2017 I now have enough toys to populate two exclusively Fansproject shelves which incidentally, allows for quite a range of aesthetics for such a narrow selection. From the now outdated but still incredible Colossus to rounding out my Function-X Headmasters, these purchases signify a very purposeful purchasing choice, that being, eventually, to own the complete catalogue of Fansproject products. Possibly a strange collecting choice to some but one I made nonetheless. So it is that I would place Colossus in my list of Best Bots, not necessarily because of how good the toys are (and they are indeed, very good) but because of what the toys represent for me as a collector and my collection at large. 

Next on my list is the magnificent, radiant, Maketoys Hyper Novae. This toy. This Gods damned toy. I have wanted this for years an eternity! Time and again I have searched forums and eBay and on the rare occasion it does pop up, it has either been for a ludicrous price or is in some way flawed or damaged. This year, shortly before TFNation (which meant a good chunk of my convention money was eaten up before doors even opened!) I came across one on a sales board. Complete, in good condition and an early run with the translucent orange wing inserts. It was mine. After years of waiting and biding my time, it was mine and for a more than acceptable price. The toy itself is incredible but it doesn't receive a spot on my list because of how well designed or how aesthetically pleasing it is, no. It earns a spot as it was an enormous tick on The List. Ah The List, the fanciful list of the bots I will one day own, ones that I passively seek out, waiting for the right time and of course, the right price.

Speaking of The List......while I have a passing interest in Diaclone car robots I am currently in no position to own any of the more desirable releases from that line. I am left to seek out the Diaclone repaints of Masterpiece toys to quench that thirst but those I do buy and proudly display are influenced by the real Diaclone cars I would one day love to own. So it is that MP31, Delta Manus finds a place in my Best Bots of 2017. Truth be told, MP-23 Exhaust is actually my favourite Diaclone repaint in and of itself but Delta Magnus represents my burning desire to one day own a Diaclone Powered Convoy. This will probably never happen as rarely do I find myself with a few thousand dollars lying around but for the time being I can enjoy this modern interpretation of such a beautiful Diaclone toy.

And finally, we come to my third pick. When I think of the lists I'm sure to see over the coming weeks I imagine they will be filled with everything from the lowliest Legends to the most mighty Masterpieces. There are also those who would have a few novelty purchases in their top ten, maybe a gift or a prize of sorts. I could point to some oddities I have acquired over the year myself and highlight one which presented a moral conundrum. While on holiday in London earlier in the year I popped into Orbital Comics on the recommendation of some local collectors. In their cabinet was a knock-off Gaihawk and not some tatty Poundland special but a 'vintage KO' if such a term even makes sense. Being quite the fan of Liokaiser (also on The List) and hoping to one day (probably in the far future) own the real thing, I bought it. Now, I am vehemently anti-KO but this was something special, something strange that I would likely never come across again and furthermore, something that would give me the barest taste of what it'd be like to own what will surely one day be the crown jewel of my collection. Throw in the location and the events surrounding the purchase and this charming figure is definitely deserving of a spot on my list, not because of how great or how well made the toy is (it's actually pretty good) but because of the story surrounding it. Still, I have let a dirty KO enter the ranks of my collection and I feel all the more tainted for it so maybe I should have hid my shame and omitted 'Flyhawk', part of the 'Bestforce' from my list..........

And there we have it. Hardly a Top 10 and certainly not Top 17 of 2017. Of course there are other wondrous bots I picked up this year, Thunder Erebus, MP-39 Sunstreaker or even Generation 1 Prowl but, the ones I have chosen all hold much more significance than just being a pretty dolly. 

Even now, as we bid farewell to one year and welcome the next, I am mindful of how my collection will change in 2018 rather than dwelling on my collecting achievements of 2017. Hopefully I will continue my recent trend of ending up with fewer toys than I began the year with, a further trimming of the fat until only the best cuts remains. It's difficult to forecast future purchases when a bombshell could be dropped from either Hasbro or Takara or any number of Third Party companies within the first quarter of the year but nevertheless, I intend to continue on the path I have chosen for my collection as best I can. 

One notable side effect of concentrating on select lines of transforming robots means I have passed over a number of releases, regardless of how much the community raves about them or how much I fancy taking a punt. While I have picked up a handful of Titans Return releases they were largely bought as they would fit into a pre-determined display. Topspin and Twintwist were bound for my Wreckers, LG Wheelie was shipped off to my Season 3 shelf and as for Quake and Shuffler, well okay, there were some impulse buys but they were few and far between. How can anyone resist a tiny robot Oliphaunt?

In other cases this means I have sold off toys which, by my own displaying decisions, no longer have a place in my collection. These were not necessarily bad or uninteresting toys and in some cases I wasn't 100% set on getting rid of them but as the years tick away I find myself ever driven to refine my collection to fewer and fewer pieces and some sacrifices will be made for the greater good of that ever elusive, ever changing, Perfect Collection (a misnomer if there ever was one). 

I hope this article has given you some things to think about, that it is the larger collection which should be reviewed rather than just reducing it down to ten purchases you have made in the past year. 

Until next time, keep it #Refined. 

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