Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Thing$ I've $old: Takara Transformers W-Cassettes (Gurafi Noizu Dairu & Zauru)


 As a way to create blog posts when I'm at a loss for time or creativity, I am starting a new theme. Thing$ I've $old will be a new series of posts on my blog. I have a lot of pics of items I've sold, some dating back to 1996 (when I'd take film pics and scan them). Some will be crappy, some may be cool.

So first up in this ongoing and random series of postings are the nefarious by means of stupid crazy expensive Japanese Transformers W Cassettes, or maybe more widely named in English as Dino Cassettes. But let's not get me rambling on about the names here, I'm using the Gurafi, Noizu, Dairu & Zauru spellings simply because that is what Takara printed them as in English. I feel other names are much more correct. I also feel that if I use my preferred names and step into that quicksand trap I'll have a horde of people telling me I'm wrong and their made up and proven by their own facts theory on the correct names trumps me and that my completely not 100% accurate findings are wrong. Of course they probably are. And so are there's. That's kind of the thing with Japanese Transformers names, we're still figuring out how wrong even the most "right" people are at getting the correct spellings and origins.

Damn, already off on a ramble. Ok back to the point...

So in the mid-90's when I first found out about the extra cassettes sold only in Japan, they were quite mythic. Only a couple Trans-fans seemed to have them in the community, and they almost never came up for sale. Having had talked to a few dealers who made trips to Japan didn't bring me any hope that on my first trip to Japan I would find any. This is again as I've said before, pre-YJA, pre-online shopping of most any sort in Japan. You still had to scour shops for hours  and hours or endure the incredible crowds of people at toy events to find things. You couldn't build your collection with just a credit card while sitting on your ass at home.

As my first trip came to a close, and with 19 of the 20 days I had spent in Japan gone, not a single W Cassette was seen for sale. On a whim, and because we had a bit of time to kill before we left Japan, my travel buddy and I hit up one store that had been good to us on our trip. Digging around a bit didn't unearth anything super cool, but on a pass towards the exit I spotted a case of Transformers product buried in the bottom shelf of a display case. Now, I could have been a dick and bought it for myself, but I shared the case with my friend. What was in this case? I'm guessing you already now. It was a full case of W Cassettes and the Destron cassette packed in with them. This assortment was comprised of only Gurafi, Noize and Slugfest. We bought up all the Gurafi and Noize toys, but left Slugfest. Back in 1998 Slugfest, or any of the other "normal" cassettes didn't cost much, and we each had him already in US package. Looking back maybe we should have grabbed them too. It seems silly to have passed them up when at the time each of the cassettes cost us only $8.25.


With 3 sets of the W Cassettes for myself I came home and sold a set off. I thought maybe I could get some cash to pay my trip debts off. Seeing as how I had never seen these for sale before in the US I was a bit shocked, and maybe a little horrified that they sold at auction for $250 each. That's $500 for 2 toys that had cost me just about $17. I felt extremely guilty. I sold the 2nd set I had some time later at $300 for the pair. Still what I considered to be quite high. This was 1998-99 after all. Before all the boneheads came in raising the cost of some Japanese exclusives up to and past the $1000 mark.

I kept the last pair of cassettes in my collection. I really liked Gurafi, but didn't think much of Noize, or their combined form Decibel. A few years later on a back-to-back set of trips to Japan I found about 5 more W Cassettes, this time mostly of Dairu and Zauru. The most expensive of the 5 cassettes coming in at $60. In just the few years since I had fist found and sold some of these cassettes, the prices had gone up to $400-$500 each outside Japan. Brought about by unsavory dealers on Ebay. I sold a set of cassettes again to help offset trip costs, but at prices far below then current levels. I was going to make a good amount no matter what, so I didn't feel like being a greedy bastard about it.


After playing with all 4 W Cassettes, and their 2 combined forms, I really started to realize that I just didn't like these toys. At first it was just Noize I didn't like very much. But upon getting Dairu and Zauru I found I didn't like those two at all, and rated them even lower than Noize. Without a doubt I would say that the teams of Grandslam & Raindance and Squawktalk & Beastbox are absolutely the superior combiner cassettes. The Takara exclusive tapes just don't compare, and I feel that novelty and exclusivity really have played a heavy part in demand. And that I guess should go without saying. But I'm sure there are collectors out there who do truly like the Japanese W Cassettes for the toys there are, maybe due to being TF cassette fans, or maybe just as dinosaur lovers.


In the end, the greatest thing to come from the Dino Cassettes in my opinion is the artwork on the packages. The single character art on the front of the boxes is great, and the combined cassette robot art on the backs is fantastic.


Everything said and done, I'm glad I finally got rid of all my cassettes when I did before 2005. The fact that these were knocked-off some time in recent years has put a lot of doubt in collectors minds as to whether they are buying original products or not. That isn't to say they don't still sell for obscenely stupid prices today.




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