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That which varies is known as a variant. Changes in the manufacturing process, design adjustments, and other alterations often lead to Transformers toys which differ somehow from other examples of the same toy. Variants may also occur with packaging or other product besides toys.
Many collectors enjoy finding variants. It can be fun to discover some difference in two supposedly-identical toys, and some differences are quite major. Some collectors make a hobby of collecting all variants of a particular toy, which can lead to impecunious insanity if this toy is one like Generation One Ultra Magnus.
Collectors consider the term to have a specific sense that distinguishes a variant from an error. A variant is something that they might want; an error is something they don't. This is not very helpful as a definition, unfortunately.
Generally, however, a variant is an alteration with neutral or positive consequences to the toy that is not an isolated incident, but has been found in some quantity. A variant, furthermore, is almost never an accident, but something the factory added by intent.
- A single sample of Cybertron Red Alert is assembled without a head. This is an error, not a variant; it is an isolated incident.
- Early shipments of Cybertron Deluxe Class Optimus Prime (a redeco of the Armada Super-Con Optimus Prime toy) had incorrectly assembled and less-poseable arms, just like the Universe Ultra Magnus release of the mold before it. In Prime's case, some people consider the incorrectly assembled version an "error" because it was done unintentional; others, however, consider it a "variant", because it has been released in considerable quantities, and the later, corrected version was an intentional change. The line between "error" and "variant" is blurred in this case and up to every individual fan to decide.
- Movie Deluxe Class Clasic Camaro Bumblebee saw two changes to his mold during its production run: The initial version had even tabs on its Automorph gimmick; the first modification saw that changed to an uneven tab, which frequently caused the gimmick to break, which in turn resulted in the toy refusing to stay in its vehicle mode; and the second modificiation, which was only available with the UK-exclusive "Towed to Safety" two-pack with Longarm and with the more widely available "Evolution of a Hero" two-pack with Concept Camaro Bumblebee, saw the addition of another small tab which fixed the gimmick's fragility. All three versions are, by definition, "variants", since they were intentional changes on behalf of the factory; but since the intermediate version worsened the toy, not all fans interested in collecting variants would want it.
- Generation One Optimus Prime had remolded fist holes so that he could better hold his gun. This is an intentional change which improves the toy; it is a variant.
- Some Scramble City-style combiners were produced both with and without rubsign indents. Neither version is harmed by this intentional change; it is a variant.
- Considerable quantities of the Grimlock/Terranotron two-pack from the Wal*Mart exclusive Dinobots mini-line featured the name "Swoop" instead of "Terranotron" on the character card. Similarly, early versions of Cybertron Defense Red Alert were also available with the "Cybertron Defense" prefix missing on the packaging. These are name variants.
- Lines that run longer than a year often see the introducton of a sub-line such as the Unicron Battles for Armada, the Powerlinx Battles for Energon, Primus Unleashed for Cybertron or AllSpark Power for the Movie line. This often coincides with a slight change of the packaging design. Sometimes, toys originally released before the packaging design change will also be available in the new design. This is a packaging variant. Similarly, the Alternators toyline was rebooted as a "new" assortment halfway through its run, coinciding with a (second) change of the packaging design. Some toys from the first assortment were made available again in the second assortment, which also resulted in packaging variants for those toys. Furthermore, sometimes toys originally released as part of one line will later be released again in new packaging as part of another line (such as Universe), without any redeco whatsoever. And lastly, ther are also language variants for packaging.
- ↑ [http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=38149 Comparison photos for all three tab variants of Movie Bumblbeee's Automoprh gimmik.
- Fred's Complete Variants Page- Very thorough online variant resource.