Gold Plastic Syndrome (commonly shorthanded to GPS) is fandom terminology used to describe the phenomenon of a toy's plastic decomposing and becoming brittle to the point of shattering or crumbling under minimal-stress conditions. This is different from the relatively more common stress-fracture type of plastic breakage that can occur in some Transformers toys. All noted instances of GPS have occurred in hard, glossy gold-colored plastics that appear to have a "swirl" to their coloration.
GPS is notably widespread among toys made in the tail-end of Generation One, typically the second year of Pretenders and even some European-market exclusives, but examples have surfaced from lines as recent as Generation 2 and the Beast Wars series. Transformers toys are not the only ones to suffer from this; there have been reports of G.I. Joe and Visionaries toys' gold plastics also crumbling seemingly of their own accord.
Cause of GPS
A substance in the gold plastic seems to be missing in the finished product of the plastic.
The most common misconception about GPS is that all gold-colored plastic can suffer from this rot. Only certain plastic grades (described above) have been noted to be susceptible to GPS crumbling; in the past few years, more durable, pliable plastics have become the norm for toy construction, so the gold plastic on more recent toys like Cannonball are highly unlikely to have the flaw.
Also, not every type of plastic breakage is the kind caused by GPS. In most instances of broken toys, visible stress marks appear long before any breakage in the form of discoloration (since these plastics have a bit more "give" to them), and are typically very clean "snaps" due to excess pressure.
Older gold plastics do tend to be rather brittle and more prone than most to snapping under relatively light stresses, but "true" GPS breakages seemingly come from simple decomposition of the plastic without any form of excess force at all, and the breaks tend to leave shards of plastic and dust.
Toys commonly associated with Gold Plastic Syndrome
Generation One-2 Transitional Phase
- Silverbolt (Magnaboss)
- Torca - His legs, tail hinge and sides are prone to Gold Plastic Syndrome.
- Transmetal Megatron - All his brown pieces suffer the same fate as gold plastic syndrome.
- Optimus Prime - Elbow joints allowing for (somewhat) posable arms prone to snap.
Other notable instances
- Predator missile launchers
- Serpentor, while not a Transformer, is also known to suffer from this problem.
Clear Plastic Syndrome
There is a similar condition in figures made with translucent and transparent colored plastics. Though it doesn't seem anywhere near as bad as Gold Plastic Syndrome (which can affect ANY part of a figure), it seems to affect mostly the joints, either pivot or ball versions. The main cause of this is the higher friction ratio the plastic has (pin joints seem to be more susceptible) and the lower flexibility of the plastic. Some toys were made entirely of clear plastic and didn't fare much better than ones made entirely of gold plastic. Sorry, Starscream.
The earliest use of the term that can be found in the alt.toys.transformers archives dates to September 2001 in a post by user Sky Shadow, though it is unclear from his usage of the term whether or not it was already in use. A post by Dave "Zobovor" Edwards, meanwhile, made a few months prior in June of the same year, is the earliest identifiable acknowledgement of the widespread nature of the phenomenon within the Transformers fan community.