The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Transformers Action Figures by Mark Bellomo is exactly how he describes it in the acknowledgements; a tome. Originally published in 2016 by Krause Publications, The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Transformers Action Figures has a few layers to it that make it a unique bible. It covers series 1-7, which spans from 1984-1990.
While intimidating at first because of its size, The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Transformers Action Figures is actually extremely well organized and adheres to a formula. Therefore, once you understand the way it reads, you find yourself in a rhythm. I read the whole thing cover to cover in about an hour.
Before you get to the meat of the book, which is the different series of Transformers toys per generation, Mark Bellomo explains some basic collecting knowledge. This includes abbreviations for different boxing conditions such as Mint, Mint in Box, Mint Loose Complete, and so on. He also breaks down the history of Transformers in America, such as their Japanese origins, the early ties with Marvel Comics, the creation of the name Optimus Prime, and one hungry writer’s struggle to build a world of Autobots and Decepticons over the course of a weekend.
Moving into the toys themselves, my favorite part of the organization is Mark’s consistency. I love that all of the photos are sort of posed and styled the same way (because remember, unless Mark has the toy, he won’t photograph it. Therefore, I love knowing that he actually has all of these). Secondly, the decision to include the character mottos from the back of the original boxes just delights me to no end.
For example, I already knew that Soundwave was one of my favorite Transformers. Come on, just look at him! He’s so thick and chunky and deliciously 80s with a cassette tape deck on his chest. But when you learn that his motto is as amazing as he is? It takes the love to a whole new level.
“Cries and screams are music to my ears” – Soundwave the Decepticon
And so, the book continues on as such, separating the toys by their generation. Then, breaking them down by Autobot or Decepticon. From there, we get their mottos, price range per condition, and pieces that are most likely to be lost. For example, if the action figure was given to a child during its original first run and came with a variety of guns, add ons, or a alternative face, clearly those items are more likely to be lost to either the toy abyss, or chewed up by a kid and lost to time.
While I’m not a big Transformers collector and my relationship with the series and toy line don’t straddle the lines of obsessiveness or deep seated fandom, I was surprised by how many of the toys and characters I was aware of. And on that note, I was surprised by the characters I assumed were from the G1 collection, which actually didn’t come out until the late 80s. Another thing I’d forgotten was that Megatron was originally a gun. And man, what an intense gun that toy was. I was more acquainted with him as the tank, but once I saw that image, I recalled the history of the character.
See? Nostalgia triggers nostalgia.
Whether buying this book to use as a toy guide if you’re a vendor, or even just to read about the history of one of the most fascinating toy lines in the world, Mark Bellomo creates a masterpiece that functions on numerous levels. The layout is stellar, the pictures are sharp and clear, the text is a blend of factual information and Mark’s intelligent snark, and the love and passion for every single bit of information going into this thing is undeniable. While there were many collector’s guides of yesteryear that predated the internet, Mark Bellomo has established himself as the collector’s authority in a modern world where it’s just as easy to go onto eBay and see what these toys have sold for.
But even with that, it just feels better to hold the beast in your hands. And really, this book is so, so fantastic.
I give The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Transformers Action Figures By Mark Bellomo 5/5 Robots in Disguise.