History of the Convoy Trophy

“History of the Convoy Trophy”
Article: Hydra
Formatting: Might Gaine

The golden Convoy trophy produced in Japan has long been an item of awe in the eyes of many Transformer collectors, particularly the die-hard handful who have set out to acquire every version of Optimus Prime ever released.  It first was introduced to many when a photograph appeared in the pages of the venerated Transformers: Generations handbook, published in 2001.  However, few if any collectors are aware of the actual circumstances surrounding its production, and some in ignorance of these facts have gone so far as to mistakenly brand the piece as counterfeit.

Although the most famous incarnation of the Convoy trophy was its production for a 1988 TV Magazine coloring contest, the trophy actually existed some time before this: its first incarnation was not as a prize, but as a Takara staff-only commemorative item that was distributed to Transformers staff and guests at Takara’s anniversary gala held on June 11th, 1987.  At that time the Headmasters anime premiere was only a month away, and Takara wanted to create a memorable item that would sum up the enormous success that the Transformers line had experienced thus far.  Naturally they chose Convoy, the face of the Transformers line.

The following is a translation of a story covering the event, published in the July 1987 issue of Toy Journal:

Transformers 3rd Year Anniversary Celebration Party Held

On June 11th Takara held their 3rd year anniversary party at the Ootemachi Palace Hotel, with a variety of television staff and personnel in attendance.  The party was held to express gratitude over Transformers smoothly reaching its third year of production, having been first released in March, 1985, as well as to introduce new series “The Headmasters” which begins in July.  Nihon TV programming director Yamamoto and Toei Pictures president Imada both offered congratulations.

Photograph: Takara President Satou Yasuta offers words of gratitude

The Convoy trophy pictured in the Generation book is most certainly the same item given out at Takara’s gala: The base reads “Transformers 3rd Year Anniversary, June 11th, 1987.  Takara, Inc.”  Despite the correlation of dates, the article published in the January/February article of the Transformers Collectors Club written by Tony Preto claims the trophy to be a fake because “the fists are the reissue version.”  Not only is it impossible to mark the fists as the reissue version from the one picture appearing in the book, being that the item was a hand-produced souvenir from Takara, the hands could conceivably be any of the different version fists accompanying Convoy and Ultra Magnus up to 1987.  The collector’s club article completely ignores the plaque on the base of the toy which is highly unlikely to be replicated, along with any explanation of the distinction between this iteration and the later TV Magazine trophy.

I personally own one of the trophies distributed at the 1987 gala, and it is ostensibly identical to the one pictured in Generations, save for light chrome wear that is a given considering that it is some 19 years old at present.  Notice the raised fists which match those in the Generations photo.  This particular trophy had been a display centerpiece at the famous Osaka collector’s shop Cyber Kozo for at least eight years, far before the release of Generations or any reissue of Convoy, thus I can personally attest to its legitimacy.

Inspection of the trophy reveals a great deal about its production: it was likely hand-made by Takara staff, as the base color under the chrome is identical to that of the normal Convoy.  A red area is visible if the head is folded back, or the windshield piece opened.  The figure is bolted to the base by two screws, and although otherwise poseable it was clearly not intended for any purpose other than display.  The exact number of trophies given out at the event was never publicized, but its apparently hand-made construction would suggest that the number was very small indeed.

This brings us to the more widely-recognized version of the Convoy trophy, which was first publicized well into Headmasters airing, eight months later in February, 1988.  It was advertised in the publication TV Magazine, which remains to this day the most prominent children’s magazine to regularly cover Transformers.  Accompanying it was a silver Chromedome trophy, an item that many collectors remain unaware of.

The Collectors’ Club Newsletter article claims that the Convoy trophy was produced early on and that the Chromedome followed in 1987, but this is the first of several conspicuous errors in the article: both were offered simultaneously in the 1988 contest.  As for the contest itself, it was a coloring contest that involved coloring in one of four Targetmaster line art pictures (shown right).  Entrants were divided into 5 age brackets. Rather than having the Convoy represent first and Chromedome second, the Convoy trophies were awarded to children who displayed coloring skill, whereas the Chromedome trophies were awarded to those displaying imaginative compositions.  In terms of the release numbers the Collector’s Club Newsletter article claims that only three were released, but in fact one hundred of each of the Convoy and Chromedome were distributed, as evidenced in the application form above.  In addition, three hundred Pretender Landmine figures were distributed as runner-up prizes, since the Pretenders were already in production in America.

The Coconvoytrophy1_tnvoy itself appears outwardly identical to the original Takara staff version,and the trophy base is also identical in shape and color, but the plaque inscription differs.  The Convoy plaque reads “Transformers coloring contest: UMAI DESHOU TV Magazine, March 1st 1988, Takara.” (“Umai Deshou” basically means “well done,” but was a small pun with the “ shou” being written with the kanji for “prize.”)  Chromedome was the same, but with “sugoi” (impressive) replacing “umai.”  The fists also appear the same as the variety accompanying the original Takara staff version, making the prospect of the Generations version being a counterfeit highly improbable.

Though everything about the TV Magazine Convoy except for the inscription appear outwardly identical to the original Takara gala version, given the chance I would like to inspect the TV Magazine version more closely.  Given the relatively large number of Convoys and Chromedomes produced, I suspect that the production methods used for the run might have been a bit more professional than those with the original trophy, giving it a slightly better chrome coat.  However, since I only own the original gala release of the toy, I can’t positively confirm any differences.  Another question is why so few of either trophy apparently exist today when 100 of each were produced, however after nearly 20 years it’s easy to imagine many of the fragile objects being destroyed or lost by the children who won them.

In summary, the iconic Convoy trophy actually consisted of two different versions and despite its staggering rarity today, 100 were originally released to children nearly 20 years ago.  Although often misrepresented or mistakenly labeled as a counterfeit item by those not adequately familiar with it, it is in fact the first ever real “Lucky Draw” toy of the Transformers line, and the father of countless gold rarities which followed it many years later.  Those lucky enough to have obtained one should certainly treasure the piece of Transformers history that they own.

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