Friday, March 16, 2012

Transformers Feature: Reveal the Shield Windcharger

For anyone who's spent any meaningful amount of time collecting things, it is quickly understood that some items are harder to come by than others. Transformers are certainly no exception. Convention exclusives, "Lucky Draw" toys, items sold only in markets outside of the United States... these are simply an understood part of the hobby. The limited nature of such items means that no one has a 100% "complete" collection. That's not to say that some folks don't come pretty close, of course!

Reveal the Shield Windcharger is, by all accounts, an oddity. As the first new-mold toy designed to be the original 1984 Generation One character since the original,1 it's no surprise that it was heavily sought-after by Transformers fans. But unless you knew in advance where to look, the odds are you've never seen this toy at the store. This is not because it was a convention exclusive, or some "Lucky Draw," or even that it was marketed only outside of the country. This was—or perhaps it's safer to say "should have been"—a regular, mass-retail released toy. And yet it wasn't.

So, what happened? There were several factors, but perhaps the easiest to blame was the apparent lack of success selling toys related to the second live-action Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen. Windcharger was intended to come out late in 2010, between Revenge of the Fallen's 2009 release and the summer 2011 release of Dark of the Moon, which itself was responsible for putting a massive amount of product in stores everywhere. But with many Revenge of the Fallen toys still at those same stores, retailers weren't eager to be ordering too many new toys, certainly not as readily, lest they linger when the stores needed to have the shelves full of Dark of the Moon product. Another factor was that the "Scout" size class has been slowly fazed out due to issues related to rising production costs and inflation. As one of the last Scout-class toys released before the Dark of the Moon line came out, Windcharger was one of the casualties.

And Windcharger was actually one of the "lucky" ones! A few toys designed to come out just after Windcharger, such as a new-mold Rumble (or Frenzy, depending on who you talk to), were cancelled entirely (at least for the time being). At least Windcharger was known to exist, although by the time of BotCon 2011, it still wasn't being found in American brick-and-mortar stores, and so many fans bought entire cases (including many figures previously released) at the convention just so they could get the Windcharger figure2 (in fact, only one other previously-unreleased figure was in the Windcharger cases, and that one really wasn't in anywhere near as much demand).

Windcharger, and other toys intended to be released about that same time, finally started showing up shortly after BotCon, but only at budget department stores, especially Ross (to this day, I haven't seen any Windchargers at any stores besides Ross, but TJ Maxx and Marshalls did get a number of similarly hard-to-find toys at about that same time, and I'm told that a chain called Five Below had them well after Ross sightings started to peter out). When I first started hearing rumors of this situation last summer, I started regularly checking out every one of these stores I could find. In the greater Southern California area, that makes for a lot of stores! I actually started keeping a list, but by the time I hit a couple dozen distinct Ross stores, I finally stopped keeping track. This went on for many weeks throughout the summer. Then, around mid-August, I finally found one! Persistence does have its rewards (oddly enough, I found a second one at another store that same day, which I confess to promptly snatching up and selling on eBay to at least partially compensate for all that time running around and using gas)! Thus, Windcharger holds the record for the most effort I've ever put into owning a single Transformers figure.

1There was an Alternators Windcharger, but that mold was actually designed to be a new version of Overdrive, and then had a name change for the US market. Arguably, Alternators Decepticharge was designed to be Windcharger—or at least the head was—but the rest of the mold was the same one designed to be Overdrive, and Decepticharge ended up being a different character, anyway.
2Of course, there were those two lucky kids who got a Windcharger for free from my very own hands while I was volunteering Saturday morning!

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