Collectors of vintage Transformers toys in Singapore know that the best place to find them is at the regular Sunday flea market at China Square Central, where toys and antiques of all sorts can be found at the various stalls.
The flea market has been operating for 12 years, and before that, collectors would head to the flea market at Clarke Quay to find similar collectibles.
But now that the fate of mall is in flux, the flea market will be ending its run at China Square Central at November this year.
“We’ll be moving to Fook Hai Building from December onwards,” said Mr Michael Poh, 56, the flea market organiser.
There are also regular brick-and-mortar shops at China Square Central, but it’s likely that they might not stay on after the flea market ends its run.
Outside of China Square Central
But even before its impending closure, many collectors have looked to shops outside of China Square Central for their vintage Transformers.
Irvin Ngiam, who has been collecting for over 10 years, has bought vintage Transformers from Robo Robo, a quaint shop in the basement of Excelsior Shopping Centre.
The 35-year-old recounted his purchase of a vintage Japanese Transformer, Overlord, that was released in 1988.
“I told the shop owner what I needed, and he sourced from Japan for my needs. It was quite fast, one month’s time,” the self-employed collector shared. ”
The item was MISB, a popular collector’s acronym for “Mint In Sealed Box”. It means that the item was unopened and in good condition.
But why he would buy from a shop in Singapore as opposed to eBay?
“Trust. Trust is the key word,” he said, explaining that the shop owner was a trustworthy person.
“Considering it’s an MISB vintage, $1,700 was a good price after doing research on eBay,” said Ngiam.
Cost was also a consideration for Darren Tan, 41, who’s in the automobile industry. He had a collection when Transformers first came out, and restarted his collecting when the first Michael Bay movies were released.
“If it’s available locally, it’s easier. eBay can sometimes be more costly, or end up missing in the mail.”
Tan bought a vintage 1998 Special Convoy Skeleton Type, a transparent Japanese version of the popular Optimus Primal toy, from Robo Robo as well.
“It was BIB, meaning ‘Back in Box’. A used item that was not broken and had no missing parts.”
Other options include online stores based in Singapore, such as Collectors Baze and Oh My Primus.
Arnest Ng, 39, who runs Collectors Baze, gave three tips to ascertain whether an item is an authentic, and follows these practices himself when he buys vintage Transformers.
“We are very lucky in this era of the Internet, where everything is so transparent. Firstly, you need to do your homework and research on the Internet,” he shared.
“Secondly, if the price is too good to be true, than most of the time, it is.”
“Thirdly, the devil is always in the details. If you have owned vintage Transformers before, then you will know the look and feel of it. So if there is anything off, it will set off red flags.”
Dennis Dew, owner of Oh My Primus, also turns to the collector community when determining whether an item is authentic.
“There are actually a lot of write-ups online for comparisons between genuine and knock off products, so you are quite safe if you do your homework,” said the 35-year old.
“In the past, I have also sought the advice of experienced collectors on online forums.”
The rarest in the land
One of the rarest, and most sought after Transformers is a Takara Black Zarak. He was the Decepticon leader in the 1988 season of the Japanese Transformers series.
The Japanese manufacturer of Transformers is Takara (now known as Takara Tomy), while the American manufacturer and owner of the Transformers brand is Hasbro.
It is difficult to find a Black Zarak in good condition, as the gold plastic portions of his toy tend to crumble and shatter easily. Even unopened Black Zarak toys can be damaged if not handled carefully.
“For most people, Star Saber and Victory Leo are the most sought after Transformers,” said Dew.
Star Saber and Victory Leo are two Autobots who can combine in the 1989 season of the Japanese Transformers series.
He also mentioned the white Headmasters, tiny Japanese Transformers who transform into the heads of their larger Transformer partners. They were from the 1987 season of the Japanese Transformers series.
Ng pointed out that AFA-graded Transformers from the original American series can also fetch high prices, having sold an original Hasbro Optimus Prime that was sealed and given an AFA 85 grade.
AFA stands for Action Figure Authority, and is an internationally recognised body for rating the condition of a toy. The scale ranges from 100 to 0 (for toys produced before 1994), and 10.0 to 0 (for toys produced from 1995 onwards), with a larger number denoting better condition.
So where can you get vintage Transformers in the interim? We list 5 places (some virtual) where you can buy your childhood collectibles.
5 Coleman Street
Excelsior Shopping Centre #B1-17
Contact: 8288 3515
Opening Hours: 1pm to 7pm daily
Tucked away in the corner of Excelsior Shopping Centre is one of Singapore’s most famous vintage toy stores. Even other toy stores frequently recommend going to Robo Robo if you’re looking for a rare or difficult to find Transformer. The shop regularly restocks with new vintage items straight from Tokyo.
You can also make a request for a particular figure, although it is subject to the price and availability.
Formerly known as Toy Baze, Collectors Baze occasionally lists vintage Transformers for sale on its site. They also bring in items from Tokyo, and it’s run by a pair of brothers who are passionate fans themselves. Although they don’t have a lot of items available right now, they’ll soon be restocking.
Oh My Primus
Oh My Primus is a name that will make true Transformers fans chuckle. Primus is the name of the creator god of the Transformers, and he transforms into their home planet, Cybertron. So the name “Oh My Primus” is the Transformers equivalent of saying “Oh My God”.
They list vintage Transformers on their site, and they also take requests for such items.
Hobby Ark Toy Store
Hobby Ark Toy Store stocks collector-oriented Transformers and other pop culture figures. While they usually don’t have vintage Transformers in stock, they take requests for such items and will get back to you regarding their availability.
Suntec City Mall 3 Temasek Boulevard
Contact: 6336 6615
Opening Hours: 11.30am to 9pm daily
Previously located at Funan Digitalife Mall, La Tendo relocated to Suntec City after news of Funan’s closure. They sell collectibles and pop culture figures, including Transformers.
They also take in requests for vintage Transformers, so you can inquire with them if you’re after a particular piece.
With “Transformers: The Last Knight” just around the corner, vintage Transformers will soon be highly in demand again, especially the vintage versions of new movie characters like Hot Rod and Onslaught.
“Transformers: The Last Knight” opens in cinemas June 22, 2017.
Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, Crimewatch, and Point of Entry. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
Follow Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore on Facebook.