Thursday, September 6, 2012

Transforming Collections: An Interview With Philip Reed

Transforming Collections is Philip Reed's unofficial guide to 3rd party Transformers toys. Not to be confused with bootleg figures, these toys are all-new creations or simply additional parts to enhance an existing figure.

The book was fully funded on Kickstarter within it's first few days, but there are still 24 days to pledge and make the book bigger than ever. Fans of action figures, Transformers, designer toys, and customization will need to check this one out. It's a world that you might not even know exists.

Check out the Kickstarter project at: The book is only $15 for a physical copy and just $6 for a pdf. There are a few extra big rewards if you would like to contribute more to the project.


You may know Philip as the COO of Steve Jackson Games (Munchkin, Ogre, Car Wars) or as the owner/writer at the toy news/review site Now, we can soon add published author to his extensive resume.

We had a chance to talk to Philip about Transforming Collections, Kickstarter, and the toy industry. Click through the jump for the full interview, as well as plenty of photos of 3rd party Transformers.

Is there anything that you can tell us about Transforming Collections that we don't already know from the Kickstarter listing? How did the book concept originally come about?

Well, it's not specifically about the book but I have over 15 years of experience in publishing. I worked in the agriculture industry handling advertising, magazine, and newspaper design and since 1999 have worked in the game industry doing everything from design, writing, illustration, management, print buying . . . a lot of different jobs. So something I know how to do is create and publish books. And I have help, Michael Hammes, on the editing side of things; Michael will also take care of all of the packaging and shipping so I don't have to deal with the post office.

As to how the book came about, the concept and rough ideas all came together months ago when chatting with friends about third party Transformers toys. My goal is to create the book that I wished existed back when I first started trying to explain the unofficial Transformers toys and accessories to my friends.

Did you have any history with Kickstarter prior to launching your project?

At the office, Steve Jackson Games, we ran a Kickstarter project earlier this year that closed at over $900,000. And I've backed over seventy projects, so I'd say I have some experience with Kickstarter on both sides of the line.

How was your Kickstarter experience so far? Do you have any ideas on how to improve Kickstarter, or how to expand on it?

I'd like some better behind the scenes tools -- something to handle add-on/extras -- but overall I've been happy with how the site has worked. They approved my project much faster than I was expecting and everything has gone well so far.

What was the toy that changed your life?

Wow, that's a tough one. Most recently I have to point to the G.I. Joe Matt Trakker action figure that I found in 2008. I can trace the existence of to that one toy. And running has definitely changed my life.

We know that the toy industry has changed considerably over the past few years with a few companies surviving and a few falling hard. Even some favorite collector sites have slowed considerably. Has your toy collecting changed at all during this time?

No effect on me, but I'm fortunate in that my wife is supportive and with no kids I can play a little more. Yeah, I think I've been quite lucky.

What do you think the appeal of the Third Party Transformers market isto the adult collector?

Third party manufacturers are creating modern toys designed around classic character designs, exactly the thing Hasbro and Takara don't always focus on. And adult collectors have more disposable income than kids so Hasbro and Takara just cannot release enough toys for the audience. Plus, Hasbro and Takara sometimes release toys that are almost exactly the way fans want them . . . but it takes an unofficial upgrade set to make it perfect. The Kup head set is a good example of this sort of situation.

Why are fans willing to spend 10X or more for a single figure made by a 3rd party company?

Not all fans are, but those who do have the disposable income and think the cost is worth it to get the toy. The limited nature also appeals to those of us who love owning collectibles and the limited releases make each toy more special than the mass distributed toys from Hasbro and Takara. And it's also a bit of a sickness: once you get one third party toy in your collection you are ready for another and another and . . . I think you get the idea.

Thanks again Philip! Best of luck with the Kickstarter project!

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