Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Botcon post...

I've had the opportunity to attend 7 Botcon conventions 5 of which were consecutive (2000-2004).  To say that I wish I was in Dallas, TX this week for Botcon is a huge understatement.  Even though the con has grown and it's lost some of it's charm that I once knew it's still a great celebration of all things Transformers.

Hanging on the door knob in my room I've had all of these lanyards from different conventions I've attended.  Now that my oldest daughter likes to come in my room and hang w/ dad I decided to move them as they just get in the way.  Other than moving the handful of lanyards from one door knob to another when I moved rooms I really haven't looked at these in a very long time.  Just thumbing through the different ones immediately brought back many many memories.

The first Botcon I attended was in July 2000 at Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Earlier that year my older brother wanted to fly out to a small town in Texas to see a grassroots concert by the band Caedmon's Call.  Our mother agreed to help with the plane tickets if we paid our way for the rest of the trip.  Since she wanted to be fair she asked me if there was something I wanted to do...somewhere I wanted to go.  I immediately said Botcon!

I don't remember where I heard about Botcon (probably TFW2005) and I really didn't know what to expect at the convention, but I knew I wanted to go.  One of the things that was so attractive was the price.  I don't remember exact numbers, but I was able to pre-register and buy both exclusive toys for less than $200.  Try doing that these days at Botcon!  I was the 578th person to pre-register for the con and they sent me this badge.  Beast Wars was finishing and Beast Machines was just starting - hence the reason Jetstorm on the badge.  They asked for a alias on the registration form which I supplied and they got right...however they butchered the spelling of my name.  Is my real name really that hard to spell?  I've been called a lot of things before and had my name spelled lots of different ways, but I've never had an 'R' inserted into my name!

The exclusive toys that year were Apelinq and Shokaract.  Apelinq was a silver and maroon repaint of Beast Wars Transmetal Optimus Primal while Shokaract was a repaint of Beast Wars Transmetal Rampage.  I never opened either toy before later selling them during a collection purge.  Both were really nice toys, but at the time I wasn't the big fan of Beast Wars that I am now.  The voice actor guests included Ian Corlett (Cheetor), Venus Terzo (Blackarachnia) and Alex Willows (Tarantulas).  I had my photo taken when Venus, but this was before the age of digital cameras and I can't remember what I did with all of those printed photos.

Across the street from the venue was a movie theatre and Saturday evening they had a screening of the 1986 Transformers movie.  It had been a long time since I had watched the movie so I gladly bought the ticket.  It was an awesome night, though some of the fans reciting EVERY SINGLE LINE of the movie got annoying.  Overall it was a great show and one I'll always remember.

As fate would turn out Botcon would move to Durham, NC the next year.  Growing up and living in Charlotte this news was too good to be true.  Durham was just a short 2 hour (?) ride up I-85!  As soon as the pre-registration forms were available I sent in my payment.  I was registrant #0731 and again I went with my older brother.  Look at that!  They spelled my name right!

I was able to buy more during the weekend since our travel costs were minimal.  I don't remember everything that I bought, but I do remember my first purchase that weekend...the Japanese Beast Wars VS-01 Amazon Showdown with Convobat and Megalligator.  That red bat and purple gator were just too much to turn down - especially at $45.00!  You'll never forget your first Botcon deal.

The exclusives that year were some of the best to date.  Arcee and Tigatron.  Arcee was a G1 inspired repaint of Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Blackarachnia and Tigatron was a white and teal redeco of the Japanese exclusive X-9 Ravage mold.  There were a total of 1500 Arcee toys made and 805 of them had a sound chip embedded in the box with voice director Susan Blu's voice.  When the box flap was opened and the chip was exposed to light you'd hear Susan say "Don't underestimate me.  I'm more than just a pretty face.  Arcee, Maximize!"  Even though Tigatron was an equally cool toy he ended up being sold years later...a decision I still regret.  Arcee on the other hand is still sealed and hiding in my closet.

I didn't attend many panels at my first Botcon probably because I was overwhelmed by the dealer room.  I wanted to make sure I dropped in on a few while I was in Durham.  Guests included several G1 & Beast Wars voice actors including Michael Bell (too many characters to list), Gregg Berger (Grimlock), Garry Chalk (Optimus Primal) and Scott McNeil (Rattrap, Waspinator).  Other guests included Vince DiCola and Simon Furman. 

For many reasons this Botcon will always be one of my favorites.  Great toys, great guests, great location.

Botcon would move back to Fort Wayne, Indiana the summer of 2002.  The group organizing the show were based out of Fort Wayne so it makes sense for Botcon to return "home".

I once again had the opportunity to attend with my brother and I quickly sent in my pre-registration.  I was #0707 out of approximately 2135 people in attendance.  It was kind of cool returning to the venue where my Botcon journey began.  One thing that was different however were the lines.  Botcon was gaining in popularity and attendance so the lines to pick up your registration packet was much longer than in years past.  When I finally made it to the front of the line I was surprised to see added bonuses in my package that was exclusive to people that pre-registered.  Inside was the toy Tapout, a metallic green repaint of the Fun4All G1 Cliffjumper keychain.  I can remember this toy initially selling for a lot of money on the secondary market.  I guess since there was inventory left over Tapout began to show up in various give-aways.  Also inside my package was a Holopop featuring Optimus Prime inside the lollipop and one of 4 exclusive 8x10 prints.  I ended up with an awesome G1 Skywarp print by Guido Guidi. I've got it framed and hung on my wall behind my desk now.  My brother got a nice print of G1 Jazz and Mirage by Mark Brooks and now hangs on the wall beside Skywarp.

The other exclusive toys made available at the show was Glyph, a metallic blue G1 Fun4All Bumblebee keychain, CatSCAN, a red and white repainted Beast Machines Night Slash Cheetor.  The big toy was Cyclonus, a repainted ultra class Beast Machines Jetstorm.  These toys were branded Expanded Universe instead of Beast Wars or Beast Machines.  Like with Arcee and Tigatron from the previous years Blue Olive Studios handled the packaging and did a wonderful job.  CatSCAN had a cool lenticular image underneath the top flap and Cyclonus featured some gorgeous art on the back.  I wasn't as "in love" with these toys as they years went by and sold off all but the keychains.  I was worried the longer I held onto Cyclonus the better than chance his chrome would start to chip and peel off since a lot of the Transmetal and chromed toys from that period were prone to suffer from.

I don't remember attending as many panels at this Botcon for whatever reason.  It wasn't because they didn't have good guests.  Neil Kaplan (RID Optimus Prime), Michael McConnohie (G1 Tracks) and Dick Gautier (G1 Hot Rod) were some of the guests present that year.  It was another great Botcon and I was so happy to be able to attend.  Every year I kept thinking that would be my last Botcon...

Quick note.  Botcon Europe would occur November 2002 in Cheshunt, UK.  3H would offer non-attendee packages.  I ordered one of these sets so I could get the exclusive toy Rook (repainted G1 Windcharger Fun3All keychain).  They also sent me a nice t-shirt featuring Cryotek on the back and I got this nifty badge.

Botcon 2003 would be held in Chicago (Rosemont), Illinois.  I had never been to Chicago so I asked my brother if he'd like to continue what had become a summer tradition.  To conserve money we decided to rent a car and drive to Chicago from Charlotte.  Never again.  Ugh, that was not a pleasant drive.  What's will all the toll roads?!  I again pre-registered for the show and was #0638.  Not sure what the total attendance numbers were.

The 2003 show wasn't actually called Botcon.  Now that Hasbro was an official sponsor of the show the organizers renamed the show The Official Transformers Collector's Convention - or OTFCC for short.  For the most part the show still felt like past years although you could tell the show continued to grow from year to year.

I'm not exactly sure why they decided to offer an exclusive toy to people who stayed at the Hyatt hotel where the show was held, but that ordeal was rather chaotic.  I opted to stay at the other Hyatt down the road a mile or so to save money.  The exclusive toy ended up being Sunstreaker.  He was always one of my favorite characters so I really wanted one, but many of the toys at the show came packaged with two right or two left launchers.  I knew it wasn't going to be easy to acquire one so I shifted my time and money to other things.  One of the main exclusives was Sideswipe, a red G1 inspired repaint of RID Prowl.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this was the first year there was some simple remolding done to the exclusive toys.  With Hasbro officially now on board this doesn't surprise me.  The light bar from Prowl's roof was removed for both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe.  The other exclusive was a two pack of fembots?!  Roulette and Shadow Striker, repaints of RID Side Burn.  While the Dodge Viper alt mode was something spectacular, I never cared for the robot mode - too much car kibble for my tastes.  The pair of girls featured a new head sculpt which seemed to help, but ultimately not enough to warrant me keeping these toys.  The other huge drawback of this year's exclusives was the packaging.  The boxes themselves look really slick, but the plastic used for the blister windows was incredibly delicate.  I would imagine many of these did not travel well w/ their new owners home.  Luckily for me I had lots of bubble wrap with me and was able to protect mine for the trip home.

Something else the organizers decided to try was to offer an exclusive item to those who pre-registered for OTFCC 2004 while in attendance.  The toy ended up being a carded Sunstorm PVC figure.  My guess is their overhead must have been high as the next year would also be in the same location.  Rumor was they had to sign a 2 year deal with the Hyatt.  If that's true it would explain the drive to get people to say in the host hotel as well as the pre-registration drive for the next year.

Hasbro played a big role when it came to the panels this year.  During the Hasbro panel it was standing room only and they were in a large ball room.  I can still remember seeing Aaron Archer from Hasbro sitting up on the stage and grabbing a toy from below.  He held it up for the crowd to see and there was an immediate loud applause.  He was hold the first Alternator toy - Smokescreen.

OTFCC was a pretty good show, but there were rumors all weekend long about some rumblings amongst the organizers.  It would be next year before the general public knew of the fall out leading to a new Botcon to be held in 2004.

2004 would see two Transformers conventions occur.  The Botcon name was back for the first time in 2 years and would be a smaller, unofficial show held in Pasadena, CA.  OTFCC would resume in Chicago (Rosemont), IL.  At this point I had been to 4 consecutive Botcons and I didn't want to break my streak so I started to try and figure out a way to get back.  Besides, I pre-registered for the 2004 show in 2003 so it made since for me to go.  I ended up being #156 in the pre-registration pool.

Some guys were from the Allspark website were hosting a consignment table at OTFCC.  I knew there would be no way I could get out to California so I set my eyes on Chicago and began talking to the guys about their table.  I was able to save up enough money for a plane ticket, but not for a hotel or enough money to have anything to spend in the dealer room.  I began to think of a way I could go and still have fun.  I ended up finding a plane ticket from Charlotte to Chicago early Saturday morning and returning back to Charlotte later that evening.  It was in my price range so I thought why not?  Going for one day was surely better than not attending at all, right?  I grabbed a few of those hard plastic gray totes with the interlocking lids, my mother's travel luggage dolly, some zip ties and a whole lot of bubble wrap and packed my bags.  Having to check most of my stuff on the plane I wanted to make sure the items I was taking to sell at the consignment table along with whatever I bought would arrive safely.  The plastic totes were a necessity for the trip.

To fund my one day dealer room treasure hunt I took two vintage Japanese G1 toys to sell - a complete MIB Scramble City Hot Spot and a complete MIB Roadfire.  I often have to remember that had I not sold these items I would've had very little to spend.  While not owning Hot Spot now doesn't bother me I really kick myself for letting Roadfire go.  I believe he sold for $250.  That seemed to be a lot of money in 2004.  I don't want to even think about how much he goes for now.  Oh well, live and learn - right?

There were two exclusive toys this year - Megazarak and Sentinel Maximus.  I was only able to take one of these toys home with me as there was a problem w/ Sentinel Maximus that kept him from being available that weekend.  3H Enterprises ended up losing the Transformers license so Hasbro ended up having to mail Sentinel Maximus to everyone after the show.  The problem was Hasbro was using an old mailing list they acquired from 3H and some convention goers never received their figure!  Now the original purchase price was only $45, but I would've been upset had mine not arrived.  Good thing I hadn't moved in the last few years my address was still the same.  I'm guessing for these reasons Sentinel can now command a pretty penny on the secondary market.

I'm really fond of both of these figures and still own them to this day.  Not only do I love these molds, but they both came with Mini-Cons which I absolutely can't get enough of.  A interesting note though concerning the Mini-Cons.  Caliburn, Megazark's little partner is listed as a Micromaster on the tech spec.
Even though my 2004 OTFCC trip was a short one day adventure it was still a lot of fun.  I went home happy and with lots of new TFs.

Looking back this show was pretty bad and maybe it was a good thing I only attended one day.  There were many problems all around, but Hasbro had something up their sleeve for the following year.

With 3H now out of the picture Hasbro decided to award the Transformers license to Fun Publications.  Fun Pub already had the G.I. Joe license and had been running a fan club and the Joe Con for a few years so it made sense.  Being a fan of both brands I for one was happy and wondered if we may see some sort of cross over.

Botcon 2005 was held in Friscoe, TX in the fall.  This was the first time Botcon wasn't in the summer and that upset a lot of people.  I believe it had to be moved in order to accommodate the Joe Con that was already scheduled for that summer.  I really wanted to go to see how things would be done differently, but Texas was a long ways away and my money was drying up fast.  Hurricane Rita started to kick up in the Gulf of Mexico right before the show and threatened the area.  For that reason (and others) I had to sit this show out and break my consecutive streak of attending 5 Botcons.  Boo.  Since I didn't attend I won't spend much more time here.

Botcon 2006 would be held in Lexington, KY in the fall.  When I heard this news I was excited at the prospect of going to Botcon again.  My step father was from Lancaster, KY and still had family up there.  When I asked if he thought his dad would mind if my wife and I stayed there for a few days he said no.  In fact we planned a trip with my step father and mother.

The drive up there wasn't the most fun I've had, but it was worth it when we arrived on Thursday to pick up my box set of toys.  Upon entering the foyer to the massive dealer room we were "greeted" by a large robotic hand holding a clock that was counting the 2007 live action movie.  Pretty cool.  There was a lot of electricity in the air about the movie at that time.  Where it paid off to have mom in tow was when I went over to the club store and saw that the additional exclusive toys were Darksyde Megatron & Darksyde Waspinator and a two pack featuring Buzzsaw & Laserbeak.  She ended up buying both sets for me!  At the time I didn't realize how well those sets were selling and that they would later sell out before the convention was even over!  The whole theme of the toys was pre-Beast Wars and all the toys were fantastic.  Sadly I no longer own any f them as they all were either traded away or sold.  Don't worry though as what I got in return was worth it.  Megs I traded for a nice G1 Black Zarak and a bunch of money while the others including the box set were sold to help out my family during a financial pinch.

The venue for this Botcon was excellent.  My wife and I stayed one night in the host hotel just to have a break from our family.  I would have loved to stay the whole weekend, but we opted to make the short drive back to Lancaster and stay with family to save money.  Other than the comfortable room at the Hyatt I was happy to see a shopping mall attached to the convention center.  This gave my wife a place to go and kill time when she got bored in the dealer room.  There was also a food court in the lower level which was a God send to me and many others.

I already said the 2001 show was my favorite, but 2006 is a close second.  The venue and exclusive toys were top notch and I scored lots of good deals in the dealer room that weekend.  Some deals I can remember include a MISB G1 Action Master Over-Run and Axer for $25 each and a loose G1 Micromaster Battlefield HQ w/ a unapplied sticker sheet for $50.  Later that after I found an empty box for the Battlefield HQ for $10!  Gotta love landing deals such as that.  I believe the famed Hartman brothers were selling their collection that year and I walked away with a MIB Japanese G2 Cyberjet and an empty UK exclusive Lightformer Calcar box to complete my toy.

The last Botcon I've been able to attend was 2007, held in Hasbro's hometown of Providence, Rhode Island.  As it turns out my wife is from Maine and has family all over the New England area.  When I told her they were offering a tour of Hasbro's offices that year she agreed to find a way up to RI as long as we could work in visits with her family.

I've already documented my Botcon experience last year on my blog so I won't go into as much detail.  If you haven't already checked out my post from last year please do.  There are several pictures from the Hasbro tour along with pictures from Hasbro's glass case displays from the dealer room.

Outside of the tour I know the highlight for a lot of people in attendance was the exclusive toys.  The Games of Decepticon box set was immensely popular and I believe sold out during the convention.  The individual Decepticon seeker jets from the box set were selling for well over $200 each on eBay.  While I was happy with the set I was happier to see a new Weirdwolf, Springer, Huffer and Alpha Trion waiting to be purchased as add-on souveniers.

In 2007 not many fans thought the seekers in the box set would be made available in a mass release form so when they did start to show up I knew I wanted to move the box set while I could still get something for it.  Last year I found a fellow board member on TFW2005 that was willing to swap his beautiful vintage Japanese G1 D-306 Darkwings giftset plus some cash for my box set.  Deal!

We only attended two days - Friday and Saturday.  After I had spent all my money in the dealer room Saturday we left to travel up to Maine to spend time w/ my wife's family.  Even though my visit to Providence was short it was still a fantastic time.  Because of the tour alone I may have to bump 2006 down to 3rd place as my favorite Botcon trip.

It's hard to believe I haven't had the opportunity to attend a Botcon since 2007.  I know one day I'll be able to get back, but for the meantime I'll cherish the memories I have of 2000-2004 and 2006-2007.  While I may not be happy with cost of attending the current iteration of Botcon it's hard to say that I wouldn't attend given the opportunity.  It's great to see Botcon growing in both popularity and attendance, but I still miss those early years when things were a little more intimate.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post (assuming you just didn't skip to the bottom).  It was a lot of fun for me to visit these memories as I typed this.  Despite the few negative things I may have said if you ever can go to Botcon - even for a day - do it.  Fun Pub is really showing a passion for the brand and they put on a great show. 

1 comment:

  1. I really like these stories, it is always interesting to hear about different Botcon experiences. Not to mention the fact that you and I attended three of these together before ever meeting each other, lol.