In the meantime I want to highlight one of my most favourite passions of collecting Transformers, and especially collecting Generation 1 Transformers: Variations. In the early 2000s I suddenly got the notion that I would like to collect all the obscure color variations of all Windcharger releases ever(!), which set me off on a long and dark journey of trying to get some really rare and exotic toys from all corners of the world. I don't think I'll ever be able to complete that goal, as some of those toys are insanely rare (you think Lucky Draw toys made in quantities of 10 or less are rare? Then try collecting Peruvian minibots!), but I do enjoy the off-again/on-again pursuit of those rare and exotic toys.
As a "side effect" of sorts I was able to pick up the odd non-Windcharger minibot variation here and there, and that in itself also became sort of a focus of mine. Especially the molds of the 1st series minis - Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Huffer Gears, Brawn and Bumblebjumper (besides Windcharger) - and all their various releases (including the retooled series 3 version of said toys) are especially interesting in my mind, and I've found some really exciting and rare gems over the years.
Some of the best stuff, however, are the things that aren't immediately evident as being out of the ordinary. Rummaging through auction pictures and "for sale"-threads may exhibit some rare releases that just slide under the radar of even the most hardcore variations nut, simply due to the fact that the tell-tale signs of the item being unique are so subtle that the sellers probably don't know what they are selling themselves, with said signs only becoming evident through a side-by-side comparison.
Case in point: Mexican TF license-holder Plasticos IGA's "regular" yellow version of Bumblebee.
IGA was/is imfamous for their color variations on their minibots - mostly as a cost-saving measure in order to make series 3 minibots (like Tailgate, Hub Cap etc.) without having to retool the molds - but also for some (seemingly) completely random recolors, like all-blue Huffer, yellow and blue Windcharger and blue Cliffjumper. Bumblebee got the same treatment and was released in yellow, red, blue, silver and white.
[Aside: On the subject of the choices of those specific colors I think the first three - yellow, red and blue - are based off of the original MicroChange toys that saw release in yellow, red and blue, while the white version - with its telltale red face - could indeed be IGA's interpretation of Hasbro's prototype of their upcoming Hub Cap toy as shown at Toy Fair 1986. The silver version, however, is really anyone's guess - although Brazilian TF lincencee Estrela did copy it for their own "Volks" release (or maybe IGA copied Estrela?)]
On first examination there is nothing that indicates that this is something else than a slightly dirty pre-rub Bumblebee with a broken front fender and cracked tires. This is usually the type of pictures you'd seen in an auction for a toy like 'Bee here, so as a collector looking for that certain something, you need to get out your magnifying glass and get to work.
The first clue is in the sticker. Not the fake spare tire-ish thing on the back of his head-plate, which is exactly the same as a regular Hasbro Bumblebee, but rather the Autobot symbol on his chest. Usually that one will be missing, but I was very fortunate to find this specimen with an almost mint sticker. The most minty Hasbro-style sticker I can compare to comes from a Windcharger, hence the "red background" in the image below:
Chest sticker comparison - Hasbro style on the left, IGA on the right - and the copyright stamp underneath the toy.
The trick is to look at the way the sticker is cut and not so much the quality of the print. The very top edge is slightly curved on the Hasbro sticker, whereas the IGA sticker is rather straight. Add to that that the IGA sticker's end points at the top are much "sharper" and "pointyer" than the Hasbro sticker, while also being a tad to large for the actual print. Now, the print itself on an IGA toy usually comes in two stylings: Either with a border around the Autobot symbol or not. Bumblebee here does not have it, and my general experience is that that border was added on later releases.
If that sticker is missing the other approach would be to have a look at the production stamp underneath the toys. IGA never updated those stamps to declare "Made in Mexico", but rather opted to block out the country of manufacture completely on (almost) all the toys they made; this would be the most cost-efficient way to modify the molds. This "block" can be seen next to "1984" on the top half of the underside here.
Now, this is all fine and well, but what makes this Bumblebee really unique? As I mention earlier the real treat of this Bumblebee (for me) can't be seen nor really appreciated untill it is compared directly to another Bumblebee (or two):
Notorious for using slightly different (and perhaps cheaper/inferior) plastics than Hasbro, IGA opted to use a much lighter yellow color for their TFs, and I'm told this same hue of yellow is found on many other IGA toys as well, so it was a general production decision to go that way. And considering how few of the toys they made were or contained yellow (most complete list ever assembled here; note the absence of Sunstreaker, for instance), I don't think a lot of collectors are aware of this subtle change in hue. Yellow IGA 'Bee displays rather nicely between the darker Hasbro version and his white IGA cousin, and I do believe that I for one actually prefer that "paler" shade over the "warmer" orange of a Hasbro Bumblebee. Heck, in both the comicbook and the cartoon Bumblebee was yellow, so this might even be categorized as being the earliest show accurate Bumblebee!
Since IGA toys were imported to Scandinavia in the late 1980s it would not surprise me if someone frequenting this board had this very same Bumblebee at home in his or her collection. Heck, the whole reason for me even getting interested in variations in the first place was the IGA Hoist I bought off the shelves around 1989 - and I still find a lot of IGA Constructicons when I buy old G1 childhood collections locally in Denmark. So basically, the "Mexican invasion" was pretty large in scale.
left to right: US Hasbro Bumblebee, Fun4All keychain Bumblebee, IGA yellow Bumblebee and IGA white Bumblebee.
Closing thoughts: When Fun4All started making their modified keychain version of Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Windcharger and Brawn in 2002, a lot of people noticed that some of the toys were slightly "off" in regards to the colors used as compared to their original releases. Both Windcharger - who lacked face paint in this release just like his IGA counterpart - and Cliffjumper were slightly darker in their reds, Brawn was slightly darker in his greens (but pretty much spot-on on his oranges), but Bumblebee was noticable paler in his yellows. Comparing that release to the yellow IGA release actually makes one wonder if there could be a connection there as well...