The Unofficial Guide to Vintage Transformers: 1980s Through 1990s review

Transformers is one of those rare figure lines that’s truly generational. I remember the first Christmas I saw boxes of the original wave and being thrilled. And I’m just as thrilled now opening up the Masterpiece series. For other long-tenured Transformers fans like me, The Unofficial Guide to Vintage Transformers: 1980s Through 1990s is a nice companion piece and reference guide.

Written by J.E. Alvarez, Vintage Transformers makes for a fun stroll through memory lane. I especially loved seeing the unopened packages with stickers from former retailers like Bradlees. To start, Alvarez explains the history of the line dating back to its days in Japan as part of two separate lines of transforming vehicles.

unofficial guide to vintage transformers 1980s through 1990s - bluestreak

Even as a somewhat knowledgeable Transformers fan, it was interesting to learn Hasbro created Transformers in response to the popularity of Go-Bots. Alvarez opens each chapter, broken down in years, describing the climate of the brand from its infancy to the peak of its popularity and business decisions that led to some of the most popular figures in the line. These are some of the strongest segments of the book as Alvarez’s love for the material is evident.

Vintage Transformers includes an extensive breakdown of the seemingly endless variants from color swapped characters to international versions. Alvarez dutifully captures all the minutia that would appeal to hardcore and new Transformers fans.


The book offers a ton of pictures with at least two pictures — robot and alternate mode — for each figure. It was interesting seeing various Transformers lined up together and noticing with modern eyes the lack of concern for scale and consistency with the looks from the cartoon. At 8 1/12” x 11”, the book is a nice size to fully take in the pictures.

Given the massive amount of Transformers released through the 90s and 240 pages to cover them space is at a premium.

That leads to a somewhat busy page layout at times with a slew of panels and captions. Alvarez wisely address early on that the market and pricing for these figures fluctuates and is variable based on the current demand. With that being the case, the inclusion of pricing information isn’t essential. Ideally, there would have been a pricing index on the back to allow for larger pictures or a different style layout. I would have loved for placement of the bio cards as they were always an influential tool in determining the characters’ personalities.

unofficial guide to vintage transformers 1980s through 1990s

Some pages come off too busy and the pictures are smaller than ideal given the format. After reading for a while, the red text on white paper becomes a bit of an eye strain.

One of the best aspects of the book is the thorough coverage Alvarez provides to all eras of the vintage Transformers era. Alvarez doesn’t play favorites and he puts as much time with the Headmasters and Pretenders as he does with the original Generation 1 lineup.

At $30, this is a fair price given the photo and page quality. The Unofficial Guide to Vintage Transformers is well-suited for geek coffee tables.

Schiffer Publishing provided a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Photo Credit: Schiffer Publishing