Tomorrow we get back to the Final Five Display Cases, but today, after detailing my main interest yesterday of collecting the toys, I want to detail the other major interest of mine with Transformers - Conventions.
Dedicated Transformers conventions have a number of elements that draw
in Transformers fans, including the guests (including voice actors of
our favourite characters), presentations/panels (sometimes with toy
reveals), activities, a chance to cosplay, trading in a dealer room, and
meeting up with friends and fellow fans.
In Australia we don't have regular dedicated Transformers Conventions,
so for us fans to experience some or all of those elements, we either
have to travel to another country that has a dedicated convention, or go
to a generalised scifi/fantasy convention here that rarely has any
Transformers elements (sometimes there is a Transformers voice actor and
some people selling Transformers toys).
In the last 20 years there have been many localised fan meets organised
through the Australian fan community, and with a number regular
collector fairs in some cities, we've seen some of them become catalysts
for some decent turnouts of fans to those meets.
My very first meet with other fans was in January 1997, in Sydney, which
is in another state to where I lived. It was only about four or five
of us, but it was great to finally be spending several hours with a
group of Transformers fans, instead of with just one.
In about 2001 Australia had what I think was our first annual
scifi/fantasy convention start up in Sydney (Supanova), which later
expanded to six cities a year, and now has competition from another
company (Comic Con) that also does five cities each year.
The Ozformers club had a booth at the 2003 Supanova convention, to show
off the toyline to others, and see if there was enough interest to host
our own Transformers convention.
(photo is not mine)
We did get a fair bit of interest, but it wasn't until 2004 that we saw a dedicated convention, which was done in Sydney.
(photo is not mine)
A second attempt was made in 2006 in Sydney, but administrative issues
meant a very small turnout, making it little more than a presentation of
a Transformers collection and a couple of toy dealers.
(photo is not mine)
Since then I've been pretty keen to travel around the country to attend
meets, and go to collector fairs... as well as the occasional scifi
convention if there was a significant voice actor to make it worth the
admission fee and $50 autograph fee.
(Parramatta Collectors Fair 2010)
(Nexus Fair 2010)
(Supanova Brisbane 2014)
But like most fans back then (1990s & 2000s), BotCon would be the
ultimate goal. Back then it was one of those things that almost every
Transformers fan had on their wish-list if they could afford it, and for
me, once I got a taste for it in 1999, I just kept wanting to go back,
as often as possible (only missing 2006 BotCon and 2004 Official Con).
I had first heard about the annual BotCon Transformers convention in
1995 just before the second one, and from that time I was following them
with keen interest for four years before I was finally able to go to
one... and it was worth the wait.
That first one in 1999 was in St Paul, Minnesota (America), and from a
combination of it being my first long-distance trip as well as it being a
last minute decision to go after getting a full time job, I only
booked flights and accommodation for three nights (in Friday, out
Monday). Looking back, that was way too short, and I wished I had
spent an extra day or two in St Paul, especially with Mall America
As it was, I arrived just as the registration check-in was starting on
the Friday afternoon, so I lined up for that before checking into the
hotel across the road. Meanwhile on the Monday, I had to leave for the
airport by mid-morning for the flight home.
One of the things that made it such a memorable experience was the
kindness of other fans... mostly from the novelty of meeting an
Australian in person. I was only the third Australian to go to a
BotCon, so it was still a novelty. (even at BotCon 2015, I saw an
Australian attendee being a novelty to a number of people on one of the
One of the first people I met at BotCon 1999 was Tony Buchanan. At that
time he was producing a printed monthly fan magazine called
Auto-Update, and he had been sending me copies of his publication in
exchange for copies of the monthly Ozformers Club newsletter. Tony
introduced me to a lot of the significant people in the fandom, many of
which I remained friends with for as long as they were still into
Transformers or attending the conventions.
The next five Hasbro endorsed annual Transformers conventions (named
BotCon or the Official Con) had other Australians attend, which brought a
new dynamic to the experience. I had someone to relate to that I
often knew already, and as time went on, I would take on a role of
guide for other Australians.
That brought us to 2004, the year of two Transformers Conventions, and I
chose the BotCon one, because at that time it looked like it was the
last one, and the Official Convention would be around next year for me
to attend (so we thought at the time).
(BotCon 2000 with part of the Hartmans collection display)
(BotCon 2001 with the Wreckers display)
(BotCon 2004 with the big collection of toys on display in the Dealer Room)
The sudden end to the Official Convention license-holder in 2004 meant
that that wasn't going to happen, and until Hasbro announced a few
months later that a new company had the convention license (Fun
Publications), I was resigned to not going to any more.
Finding out about the new business and it being instructed by Hasbro to
take on an advisory council (that had some people on it that were my
friends or I knew of well), I went to the 2005 BotCon and it was still
pretty good. Different, but good.
I missed the 2006 BotCon due to funding an Australian Convention, but
the next five years saw a growth in the numbers and fan support of the
current BotCon convention organiser. 2011 looks to be its peak of
popularity before the decline of sales and attendance (according to
statistics of pre-registration and at-show toy quantities and sales,
with 2011 being the last year they sold out of everything and 2012 being
the last time they sold out the boxsets during pre-registration,
prompting a reduction of toy numbers since 2013).
The quality and features of the convention itself is still as good as it
ever was, with guests, panels, Hasbro presentations, and special
activities spread over five days for me to want to keep going back, but a
number of issues that occurred outside of the Convention (that I won't
go into here) has unfortunately meant that the support for the
Convention has become a casualty. BotCon as a brand is still iconic,
but at the moment it is not the "must do" event for Transformers fans
like it was during its first 15 years.
I love going, but it isn't as much fun having less and less old friends or Australians going each year.
Each BotCon I rate with a score across 10 categories, and from that my
three best BotCons were 2004, 2009, 2011... while my three least
favourite BotCons (and Official Cons) were 2003, 2012, 2015.
It's now been 10 years since we last tried to have an Australian
Transformers convention, so maybe this year would be a good time for
another attempt, especially with the 20th anniversary of the Ozformers
club this year. Something I'll have to look at soon if I want to do
something about it before the end of the year.
I could literally go on for weeks about my BotCon adventures, so for
extensive coverage of the last ten BotCons (except 2006), with more
photos and written details than any other website, including the BotCon website, check out my BotCon fan archive here - http://www.toycollectors.com.au/botcon.html
For names and numbers of the various BotCon exclusives, check out this resource website - http://gbblackrock.capturedprey.com/
Tomorrow... it's Masterpiece time.
(Newsletter banner from issue 47 in September 2000, submitted by Paulbot.)