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I don't do a lot of book reviews, but I suppose I've done enough of them at this point to stop considering it a true exception. I've looked at books on vintage Star Wars, 80's toys, Simpsons Collectibles, Marx action figures, and even the artistic process behind toys. Tonight I'm adding to the list with a review of a terrific new book by Mark Bellomo on vintage Transformers.
Mark has been writing about toys for 15 years (almost as long as me, but he's a lot younger...), and has a slew of guidebooks under his belt. His focus has really been on the toys of the 80's, including G.I. Joe and Star Wars. It only makes sense that he'd do an 'ultimate' guide for Transformers, a critical line beloved by many kids of the era.
After a brief introduction and history, along with a simple guide on how to use the illustrated pages, Mark jumps right into the line up starting with the first series in 1984. Sections are broken out by year/series, and within each year it is further broken down by Autobots and Decepticons. These two categories are also color coded on the edges of the page, making it easier to jump to their section in any one year/series chapter.
Within each section on Autobots and Decepticons, there may be further categorization. For example, in 1984 Hasbro had a series of Decepticons that transformed into cassettes which could then fit inside the transformable Soundwave. These are organized together, and putting sensible groupings like this within the larger categories makes the book far easier to use as a reference manual.
The book begins with the first series released in 1984, and runs through 1990, the 'vintage' years. Each figure gets it's own section, with photos including easily lost and removable parts, as well as regular and transformed modes. Descriptive text adds flavor and background, while key attributes - like the 'ability scores' from the Tech Specs bios - are provided. There's even a rough price guide!
All of this information is laid out in a very attractive format,
easy to read, easy to find, and extremely informative. The soft
cover binding is high quality and unlikely to break down under
normal use, and the photos and graphics are all well done and
useful. The layout also mimics some of the designs and graphics from
the line itself, always a great visual treat.
All this nostalgic goodness will run you $28 if you pay full
retail. Shopping around a bit might net you a deal, and your
local Barnes and Noble should have it in stock as well.
Overall - ****
I've talked more than once about doing several collectibles books myself (yea, I know, I should get off my ass and get cracking), and when I ponder the format and style that looks best, I always come back to the work Mark has been doing these last few years. He covers all three critical aspects of any collectibles book: 1) he knows his material; 2) he conveys that knowledge in a clear, understandable way; 3) he presents it all in an attractive, easy to use package.
Of course, certain features may have less value than others. For example, I'm not a big fan of price guides, since constant market fluctuations makes the best of them inaccurate. But the beauty of this tome is that the price guide isn't the key feature or central theme - it's merely one of many pieces of information being provided. There's so much here that every fan, from neophyte to expert, will find something of value and worth.
Where to Buy
I'd hit the local Barnes and Noble first, but you can always pick it up at Amazon as well. Expect to pay round $28.
Related Links -
I've looked at Mark's book on vintage Star Wars and his book on 80's toys. and I've also looked at books on Simpsons Collectibles, Marx action figures, and the artistic process behind toys.
You should also check out Mark's youtube show the Collectible Spectacle.
You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.
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