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A mold is the pre-cut metal shape into which plastic is injected to manufacture the parts for a given Transformers toy. Since the very beginning of the Transformers brand, many pairs (or even groups) of toys have been variations on a single mold. (Indeed, many pre-Transformer Diaclone and Microchange toys were also available in multiple officially sanctioned color schemes.)
In most relevant cases, a mold will be used as the basis for two or more individual toys distinguished mainly by their color schemes, and sometimes also by a permanently attached accessory such as an emergency-vehicle light bar. Such toys are called redecos.
In the case of retools, the basic shape of the original mold is used, but with physical changes to certain parts. In extreme but rare cases, a mold will be retooled so thoroughly as to change the toy's transformation mechanics, as happened with Pipes and Dark Crumplezone.
Issues with Reissues
Toy molds are mysterious things - a Basic-sized Transformers figure often requires two or three separate molds, one for each plastic color. If some ill fate should befall one or all of those molds, the toy may be lost forever.
Molds can be lost when Hasbro or TakaraTomy (or any other toy company) sells, closes down, or otherwise abandons a plant or factory. The molds may be sold as excess inventory as part of a warehouse deal. Sometimes, they simply get misplaced in the supply chain between factory and warehouse. Occasionally, molds are outright destroyed in order to prevent piracy. Whatever cruel fate befalls a set of molds, once they're gone, they're gone for good.
Known lost/stolen molds are:
Rumored lost molds:
Despite their impressive size and heft, molds can break and thereby be rendered useless. Known broken molds are:
Molds can only be used so much before they begin to wear down and deteriorate. The mold is then unable to supply products of the same quality of the original release. This may result in toys where parts no longer fit together properly, joints are overly tight or overly loose, and sculpted detail appears "washed-out."
Molds specifically said to be worn out include:
- Essentially all of the mass-released Armada Mini-Con teams.
- The Robots in Disguise Autobot brothers; Prowl, Side Burn, and X-Brawn.
Molds that seem to be on their way out include:
- Alternators Impreza
- G1 Combaticons
- The G2 Cyberjets
- Classics Voyager Optimus Prime
- Classics Deluxe Starscream
It is unclear exactly how many uses a mold can take; some of the various Mini-Con teams were released over a half-dozen different times in the space of four years.
Several Generation One Transformers toys were produced under license from companies other than Takara, including Shockwave, Jetfire, Omega Supreme, Sky Lynx and the Deluxe Autobots and Deluxe Insecticons. While Hasbro still owns the characters represented by those toys, the rights to these molds eventually reverted to their original owners, some of whom have since gone bankrupt or been absorbed into other companies. In the case of Omega Supreme and Sky Lynx, the molds actually ended up being unwittingly acquired by Takara. Similarly, while Hasbro owns the intellectual property pursuant to Tonka's Gobots line, the actual toy molds themselves still belong to Bandai, making any sort of reissue series extremely unlikely.
Sometimes, molds can be recut and repaired - compare the Japanese reissue of Jazz, which suffered from severe mold deterioration in the face, to the later U.S. reissue. The process is presumably very expensive, however, and as such seems uncommon.
Do not, however, confuse the recent trend towards high-quality bootlegs with reissues. Many of the current bootlegs of Generation One toys are reverse-engineered from existing toys; instead of stealing or copying the original toy's mold, the bootleggers cut new molds based on the toys themselves - creating a copy of a copy. The same practice also holds true for the less faithful bootlegs and knockoffs out there, generally speaking.