Welcome to the first blogpost in a new series here on FWS that is all about military science fiction toys! While this will not appear as frequently as Forgotten Classics or the Armory, but I think is worth covering a few of the important military sci-fin toy lines. While there were many war-toys devoted to capturing young boys hearts and their parents' cash in the 1980's, none sparked my desire more to throw my money at the toy company like a drunk rapper and his posse in Vegas strip-club, than the 1986 Matchbox/Harmony Gold official ROBOTECH toyline.This blogpost was much more work than original intended, and a labor of love because of my history and emotions associated with ROBOTECH. What you are seeing here is two months of writing and research. There will be more MSF toys blogposts in the future devoted to: the LJN DUNE toys, STARCOM, Battletech and ALIENS. So, if you have a military sci-fi toyline you wanna see FWS cover, send it to me! If you liked this new blog-series than let me know!
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The Historical Context of the Matchbox/Harmony Gold ROBOTECH line
The Story of the Matchbox/Harmony Gold ROBOTECH Line
In 1985, Carl Macek and several other Harmony Gold employees made a presentation to retailers using prototype toys and this is the best piece of evidence we have on the early days of the toyline. Fortunately, this was packaged with the "Protoculture edition" DVD boxset by ADV. On the video, he had several prototype figures, both three and six inch, several mecha, and art. It was during that several facts were established: in 1985, ROBOTECH was in 97 TV markers, Matchbox was committing $15 million dollars to the project, and there the toy line was going to be released in January of 1986, which is a poor time of year in toy sales. Six months after the initial release, in May of 1986, another group of figures were going to be released. this initial shipment in January was going to be ten markets, then nationwide shortly after. 1986 must have one of the best and worse years for Harmony Gold and Matchbox. It is believed that the ROBOTECH toyline sold well initial, spurred on by specialty toy shops, comic book stores, and little ROBOTECH freaks like me. But, it didn't last long. It seems by the time that the second wave of figures for series one were to be release, the line was in trouble and discounts were already being used and the factories slowing down on production. This would give credence to the rarity or non-production of some of the figures in wave two, like Rook, Lunk, Roy, and Minmei.
The Original Matchbox 1986 Toy Line
The 3 3/4" inch Action Figures
The heart of any toy collection is the figures, and the Matchbox ROBOTECH toyline was no different. In 1985, G.I Joe was the most popular action figure, and Matchbox used similar technology and size to allow for cross-play. Carl Macek cited this fact in the 1985 toy presentation. Harmony Gold and Matchbox would pick just 16 characters from all three generations of ROBOTECH for their 3 3/4 inch figure line: 7 from Macross, 4 from The Masters, and 5 from the New Generation. There more enemy three inch figures from The Masters than any other generation, with more heroes from Macross. The majority of these figures were packed with some sort of weapon, and helmet, sold for about $2.99 in all manner of big box stores. What is interesting is the clothing that most of the figures wear. Some are dressed in their flight suits, others in their standard clothing, but it is the Dana Sterling figure that is the standout. She is in her full battle armor, complete with shield, laser rifle, and helmet. The packaging came with a data-card, original art, and other available figures in the series, both six inch and three inch...even though some figures were not released. According the 1985 presentation video, Carl said that there would be two releases of figures, one in January of '86, then May of '86. It is that second release of figures that were most of the rare or not produced, given some indication of the line being in trouble.
- Rick Hunter
- Roy Fokker (rare)
- Lisa Hayes
- Scott Bernard (rare)
- Lunk (not released in America, released in Canada by Irwin, and not r-reeleased in 1992)
- Micronized Zentraedi Warrior
- Lynn Minmei (not released in the '85 line, released in the 1992 reissue, but still rare)
- Rook Bartley (rare)
- Zor Prime (with mallet!)
- Dana Sterling
- ROBOTECH Master
- Bioroid Terminator
- Corg (released in 1985, but not in the 1992 re-release)
- Max Sterling (rare).
The 6" inch Zentraedi Figures
In an interesting move, Matchbox/Harmony Gold designed a line of six 6 inch Zentraedi figures that were sold in packaging similar to the three inch figures. This was designed to highlight the size difference between the normal Zentraedi and the micronian they were fighting. All of the Zentraedi were unable to use the Zentraedi mecha vehicles, did not come with any weapons, only the warrior had a helmet. Of course, in the Anime, the Zentraedi were much larger than the difference between the three and six inch figures. Some sites had said that it would be the difference between a normal sized human and the six inch figure. This was addressed by Carl Macek in the 1985 toy presentation, and he called a realistically scaled Zentraedi would be unpractical. Unlike the normal figures, there is little on the 6 inch figures, I do know that they sold for $5.99 originally. I cannot recall seeing them in stores, only in printed ads for specialty toy stores. These were not reissued by Harmony Gold in 1991/1992.
- Armored Zentraedi Warrior
- The Skull-One Veritech
- Invid Shock Trooper
- The REF Armored Cyclone
- Officer's Battle Pod
- Tactical Battle Pod
- Bioroid Hover Craft
- The Hover Tank
Various Die-Cast 1/144 Mecha
- GLADIATOR Civil Defense Unit (Red/Green)
- GLADIATOR Tactical Corps Battoid (Green/Red)
- SPARTAN Tactical Corps Battoid (Blue/Grey)
- SPARTAN Civil Defense Unit (Khaki)
- RAIDER-X Civil Defense Unit (Khaki)
- RAIDER-X Tactical Corps Battoid (Grey/Black)
- EXCALIBUR Tactical Crops Battoid (Grey/Red)
- EXCALIBUR Civil Defense Unit (Khaki)
- MAC-II Monster (Green only)
- The Deformed Veritech fighters (Skull-One, Blue-Max, Red-Miriya)
- Miniature SDF-1 Battle Fortress (non-transformable and I had this one)
I had a few friends that owned the larger-scale mecha, and they were badass, but rather pointless for some reason that couldn't put my finger on. Out of these mecha was a rather unusual piece, the ROBOTECH Masters Bioroid Invid Fighter that was an original item . A full scale red Bioroid would have made for a nice vehicle piece for the Zor figure, especially with the swing down chest piece, but that was not what Matchbox decided to produce. Instead we fans of ROBOTECH got the Invid Fighter Bioroid, not the normal, widely seen Bioroid mecha. This was only seen in a few scene of The Masters, and once again, it seems that Matchbox didn't do their research, much like the box-art for the Bioroid Hover Craft vehicle, which featured the "worker" variant of the Bioroid. Among all of this mecha was the triple transforming Gekkan-made Alpha fighters offered in all three colors. These were a repackaging from the Japanese toys, and were poorly made, often snapping under transforming...all of mine broke. Also, in the art for the SDF-1 playset, there was a VF-1 Armored Veritech seen on the mecha platforms...was there going to be an armored Veritech?
- The Bioroid Invid Fighter
- The Excalibur Mk. VI
- Raider X
- Zentraedi Power Armor
- Invid Scout Trooper
- SDF-1 Battle Fortress (Transformable)
- The Gekkan Alpha fighters (Blue,Red, Green)
The "ROBOTECH WARS" Playset.
At this time in the '80's, toy companies were experimenting with including media into toy play, Captain Power being a prime example, and Matchbox tried with the oddball clip-show complication of combat scenes, allowing for play along side the video. This item was called the "ROBOTECH WARS" playset. It was might This was shipped between the first and second shipments of Matchbox toys, in October of 1986, and it was offered in a playset with a Veritech fighter and battlepod. According to Macek in the presentation video, this was to feature two "wars", one in deep space, and one on the ground. This is a rare ROBOTECH item, especially with VHS being a dead media, and prices are very high for it, mainly because it didn't sell.
What is the Difference Between the 1986. 1991, and 1994 Toy Lines?
Why is there a Lack of Masters (Southern Cross) Toys?
What Happened to the ROBOTECH Toyline?
Another factor that even I noticed back-in-the-day was the quality of the figures, which we've talked about, but really stands out even against action figures of 1986. Not only were the figures looked like botched plastic surgery victims, but they broke easily, and the guns didn't fit half of the time. Anyone that happened to receive a ROBOTECH figure at random, may not have bought another when the figure's damned hand broke. By the time ROBOTECH was leaving the American airwaves, the figures were already long gone. Of course, Harmony Gold would reissue the toyline with some unproduced figures, like Lynn Minmei, but Lunk and Corg were not in 1991/1992. Then there was yet another re-reissue with a partnership between Harmony Gold and Playmate for the Exo-Squad toyline around 1994-1995. I saw these at Toys R Us back when I was a senior in High School, and I just wrote them off as a cheap way to cash in on the ROBOTECH name.
Of Transformer Veritechs, Deformed Veritechs and F14s?!
Here is a great video on the history of the western veritech
The ROBOTECH ROBOTLINKS Mecha
The ROBOTECH Laser Blaster Toy...or is it from V or Masters of the Universe?!
The Other Crap...And I do mean Crap
Stocked in the section were several Japanese toys that I bought because of their connection to ROBOTECH. One was based on the iconic Mospeada/New Generation Cyclone was sold during the run of ROBOTECH under the name of "VR-052Battler transformable Henshin Robo" with Mospeada labels and sold in all three colors (I had the Scott Bernard). Then there is the knock-off SDF-1 seen in the picture and was made in Taiwan, that actually a cool plastic toy for the low price point. Lastly, there was the two Orguss Orgroid 1/40 scale triple-transformable mecha I bought because I had seen them in Macross and they were cool. So, I guess those companies got their money's worth out of me.
The Most Rare & Expensive ROBOTECH Toy is....
While there are some color variation of the Matchbox Miriya 3 3/4 inch figure that are rare, they are nothing when compared to the original 1980's Beta Fighter made by Gakken. Many fans of ROBOTECH and MOSPEADA love the ugly duckling Beta or T.R.E.A.D Booster in Japan (TREAD stood for TRans-EArth-Deployment). However they were not made until recently...or so we thought. In the 1970's the Japanese children's book publisher company Gakken went into toy making, and during early 1980's, Gakken had the licence for Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. During the run of the toys, Gakken of Singapore and Japan made a number of MOSPEADA items, including the tri-mode transformable 1/35 Alpha Fighters that was exported to America under the ROBOTECH banner (I had them and they were crap). Gakken decided to develop a linkable TREAD (AKA Tred) fighter-booster to their 1/72 Legioss (Alpha) fighter. These toys would have been sold in the same color scheme as the Legioss fighter in blue, red, and green.
What Would Have Been: Series 2 and the Sentients Toylines
The Legacy of the Matchbox/Harmony Gold Toyline
One of the best Resources for the ROBOTECH Toys
Great indepth reviews on some of the ROBOTECH Toys
One of the best older Resources for MACROSS Toys
The achieved site for the defunt ROBOTECH Museum