CONVERTORS: THE FAKE ROLEX OF THE ROBOT TOY WORLD
Updated: Aug 29
Robot Knock offs Part 1.. There will be more to come.
The 1980s was a time of strong economic growth and spending extravagance. It was a time where consumerism was at an all time high where purchasing products and spending was not only part of mainstream popular culture, but it was your duty as an American to spend.
With Reagan’s prime directive in place, and as the popularity of robot toys ever increasing with such toylines and weekly tv shows as the Transformers and Go-Bots, inevitably, many other toy manufacturers sought to jump on the robot toy bandwagon and cash in on the idea that not only would many of the kids and parents not know the difference in their products, but probably wouldn’t care either. Many of these robot knock offs were so identical to the real thing that only by the packaging could you tell the difference. Some knock offs, however, were not so great, with their quality resembling more like Happy Meal toys that would break if you even exerted the slightest pressure.
Among the more popular knock-off toylines were the Converters, which were quality imitation robot toys. The Convertors had no real storyline, had no weekly cartoon series of its own, and basically consisted of a hodgepodge of different robot body types split up by subsidiary robot lines with Convertors being the main parent group and brandame.
For instance, the Converters Avarians were robots that changed from animal to robot. This was their gimmick. Among the more distinct models, their was Hoot, which converted from a robot owl to a robot. Their was Robat, which converted from a bat to a robot. Of course, their was Feathers, which converted from a feathered bird to robot.
Then there was the Convertors Mini-Bot series, which were a knock off of the Go-Bots. Even today, when I’m going to flea markets and garage sales and I get lucky and think I’ve stumbled upon a genuine Go-Bot, I find out that it’s actually a Mini-Bot. In fact, to me personally, I don’t care if it’s a Go-Bot or Mini-Bot since both lines are rare and cool to me, so I display both lines together and just tell people they’re Go-Bots. The Mini-Bots design were almost identical to that of the Go-Bots, and unless you’re a connoisseur of Go-Bots and are familiar with all of the characters, unlike the Pepsi v. Coke taste test, you would never be able to tell the difference.
Among my personal favorite were the Maladroids line. These were Robotech knock offs. If you will recall, Robotech told the story of humankind’s battle station SDF-1 Macross and its struggle against their foe, the Zentraedi, who were giant humanoids who piloted their armored Battle Pods. Robotech toys were expensive. I remember my dad always comparing the SDF-1 as the Cadillac of toys. In order to teach me the value of saving money, he would often tell me money doesn’t grow on trees and then ask me, “Do you know how many SDF-1s this would be?” With Robotech toys being so expensive, Convertors was the answer. It’s version of the SDF-1, for example, looked exactly the same as Robotech’s, only that its colors were different. See the difference below?
Today, despite being knock-offs, Convertors are still prized. Generally, when people think of knock-offs like a fake gold rolex watch, they think of a watch cheaply put together that will turn your wrist green after a few days. Convertors, however, were much the opposite. Their quality was just as good as the actual robot toy lines that they were mimicking. Their only difference was that their colors and character names were different, often taking on a more generic name. In fact, if you go on Ebay today, Convertor prices are very much the same as their genuine robot toyline counterparts. Maybe after all these years, people still don’t mind buying knock-off robot toys?
Do you have any robot knock-offs in your collection? Did you grow up owning knock-offs not knowing they were knock-offs? We’d like to hear your experiences.