Transfixed by Transformers

Transfixed by Transformers
Mr Marcus Goh, 32, who has over 1,600 Transformers toys in his 5-room the eastern part of Singapore.

With last Thursday's opening of the Transformers: Age Of Extinction movie comes a new wave of Transformers frenzy.

But the franchise has long had its ardent fans here, who spend years - and hundreds of thousands of dollars - collecting Transformers figurines.

Most are men in their 30s who grew up watching the animated television series in the 1980s.

Mr Marcus Goh, 32, is one of them. The marketing communications manager is believed to have one of the largest Transformers toy collections in Singapore, with more than 1,600 figurines.

Two years ago, he provided 400 of the 1,000 figurines at an exhibition tracing the history of Transformers toys at Resorts World Sentosa.

In his five-room flat in the eastern part of Singapore, where he lives with two other family members, these toys fill 16 shelves in the living room and his bedroom.

Mr Goh, who attended a four-day Transformers convention in the city of Pasadena in California last week, declines to reveal how much he has spent on his hobby. But he thinks it is enough to buy a small car.

However, the bachelor would rather have the toys any day.

"They make me happy. I collect not to compete, but for my own amusement," he says. "Although Transformers are essentially alien robots, they have humanlike characteristics and are very relatable."

The Transformers franchise was started in 1984 by two toy companies - Takara Tomy in Japan and Hasbro in the United States.

It features mainly two battling factions of transforming robots - the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons.

Mr Goh started collecting Transformers toys at age 19, during his army days.

In 2009, he bought his most expensive toy - a Victory Saber released in 1989 - for $1,200 from another collector here.

"It's worth the money. Victory Saber is an Autobot that is considered to be the greatest swordsman in the universe.

"He is noble, strong and willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good."

His dad, retiree Goh Heng Siang, 63, says of his son's hobby: "Whenever visitors come to our flat, they always say there are more toys here than in a toy shop.

"I'm fine with it. The toys are my son's passion and I'm glad he gets enjoyment out of them."

Not every collector displays his prized toys, though.

Mr Don Tan, 32, a luxury watch salesman, keeps most of his 400 figurines in boxes in a five-room flat in Holland Village, where he lives with his mother.

His bedroom has thick curtains to block out sunlight - to prevent the colours of the boxes from fading.

Says Mr Tan, who is single: "For me, reading the text and admiring the artwork on the box is part of the whole toy experience."

He started collecting the robots, mainly vintage models released from 1984 to 1991, at age 16.

Back then, he also worked as a petrol kiosk attendant so he could afford the toys.

He estimates that he has spent $200,000 on his whole collection.

"I didn't get many toys as a child. So once I could afford them, I started buying them," he says.

His mother, retiree Joy Tan, 60, says: "Collecting toys is a better habit than smoking, drinking or partying. I don't mind it as long as he keeps his collection tidy."

Another collector Yew Wei Chong, 35, has spent $35,000 on his 437 figurines.

"The toys hold a lot of nostalgic feelings for me," says the fashion buyer in a department store. "In the 1980s, I'd rush home after school every day to record each episode of the cartoon series."

Transformers toys are distributed here by toy company Hasbro Singapore.

The current line, featuring characters from the latest Transformers movie, was launched last month and is being sold at Toys 'R' Us and major department stores.

Prices range from $6.90 to $159.90, but sales figures are not available.

Older models can be found online or at speciality stores such as Robo Robo in Coleman Street and The Falcon's Hangar in Waterloo Street.

For example, a 60cm-tall Metroplex figurine, released last year, is selling at The Falcon's Hangar for $280.

Last month, about 1,000 fans here attended the launch of the latest line of toys at the Toys 'R' Us store in Forum The Shopping Mall.

Some fans, such as Mr Charles Tan, 35, queued as early as seven hours before the event to get their hands on the new figurines.

The marketing consultant bought at least one each of more than 30 new figurines at the launch, spending more than $1,000.

He says: "I want to create a diorama in my house showing the movie's final battle scene, which was so thrilling.

"That's why I need all the figurines."

This article was first published on June 29, 2014.
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