In this time of the internet I can easily go to a website like and look up pictures of Transformers figures, with a list of all accessories, remolds, repaints, redecos, all official alternate modes, and name reuses. Back in 1999 this was not the case. The internet was just getting started in the public sector, storage and bandwidth were smaller, and the web site design software was still rather privative compared to today.

So Transformers fan J.E. Alvarez got together with some fellow collectors to create The Unofficial Guide to Transformers: 1980s Through 1990s, a collection of photos and trivia published by Schiffer Publishing. Alvarez had previously worked with them on a similar book on action figures. The book goes through the history of this toyline that managed to stick with adults as well as find a home with the new children that took their place. During the previous project I stumbled upon it and thought this might be a good book to review.

For size comparison I thought it fitting to use a G1 Transformer, in this case my Toys R Us reissue of Powermaster Optimus Prime. He’s about the size of a small teddy bear (though sorry Optimus you aren’t as cuddly) but the book still towers over him. It’s also around 160 pages after all the technical stuff.

The book is sectioned by years, opening with a blurb about that year’s release, from the original “Generation One” figures through mid Beast Wars and the KB Toys exclusive Machine Wars lines. There is also a price guide which of course is heavily outdated given how long it’s been. Toys get reissued or there are less people willing to part with them, toys break either due to mishandling or the dreaded “gold plastic syndrome” or poorly chosen translucent plastic use, someone finds an old cache, that sort of thing.

Here’s a sample of the pages inside. Some pages feature multiple figures and others like this page, continuing our Powermaster Optimus theme, has just the one depending on how many modes and features there are to show off. There isn’t a deep dive into these figures. These are not reviews, just a guide of what figure is out there. This is before the issues with poor plastic choices showed up so there are no warnings of those in here. These are just photos of the figures. The book focuses solely on figures in America, as that is the audience this book was created for and getting international toys was still harder back then. There is a section in the back of the book showing a few different bits of merchandise and old VHS box covers that will have the odd Japanese Transformer box (there are also other packaging images for the US figures when Alvarez and the other contributors had access) and a handful of the Brazilian releases but usually just the US figures were shown. Conspicuous from their absence are any UK figures.

All the photographs are pretty high quality. Here’s a scan of the Aerialbots and their combination Superion.

Compare it to this shot of the knockoffs I did during my review.

And this one of the Micromaster namesake team.

I wish I were as good, though now I have the more interesting background.

Is it worth getting this book? Today, maybe not. I can go online and find a better look at Powermaster Optimus Prime with all his parts and a posting of his tech spec. In fact I’m not sure I could sell this book if I wanted to. However, I don’t want to. It would be a shame to toss out a book with this much effort put into it and it’s an interesting time capsule of the period. Plus one of my post decluttering goals is to be able to have books like this set out as decoration and it would be interesting for old Transformers collectors, the kids who played with them, to relive their memories. Then I take them to the Bumblebee Shelf. 😀