Awesome Toys of the ’80s: First Generation Jetfire

My favorite toy of all time. A first-generation Jetfire robot.

Several years ago, I walked into one of Atlanta’s most awesome stores—the Book Nook, a veritable treasure trove of used books, comics, movies, music and whatever else they cram on to the overflowing shelves. This was back in the old days, when the store was in its old Clairmont Road location, so this puts it sometime in the mid-1990s. I walked in for my usual Sunday night visit (you have to go weekly just to see what turns up; it’s that kind of place) and up on the shelf I saw something that I could not possibly leave the store without.

It was a new, in-the-box Jetfire action figure from the classic “first generation” line of Transformers toys. I had not seen that awesome white, black and red F-14 style jet/robot since I was a kid. This thing looked awesome in the package, with all of its armor laid out for kids to drool over. I said to my girlfriend at the time “If that’s not more than $100, I’m buying it.” It was $100. I bought it

Of course, I had buyer’s remorse almost immediately. Especially since I was only marginally employed at the time. But it was one of those situations where you feel like this is your shot at it: take it or leave it. And at the time, I really needed something to connect me back to my childhood and that stage of my life. So I thought, ultimately, that it was money well spent.

I got my first Jetfire for Christmas, 1985. At the time, it was a very expensive toy retailing for nearly $100, if I recall correctly. I loved it and played with it until the stickers (all of which you had to put on yourself) wore off and the paint was chipped. The metal parts were rusted. One of the antennae on his head broke off. I lost the gun and a couple of pieces of the armor. Back in the early days of eBay, I foolishly sold him for around $50 (at a time when new, in the box ones would sell for $200 or more).

The Jetfire in jet mode, complete with extra armor pieces attached. There was also a third possible conversion, the “Gerwalk” mode, that was sort of halfway between the jet and the robot.

Jetfire was produced in fairly limited quantities because of an unusual licensing situation. Hasbro had licensed several Japanese toy lines from Bandai and other manufacturers to sell in the U.S. as the Transformers line. The Japanese version of Jetfire had nothing to do with the Transformers—he was made by Takutoku Toys as part of the Superdimensional Fortress Macross toy line—a Japanese show that would release in the United States as Robotech in 1986 and a show that I still completely love to this day. Anyone that knows that show will be able to tell you straight away that Jetfire is actually Rick Hunter/Hikaru’s Super Valkyrie VF-1S fighter. Early U.S. versions of Jetfire actually had Macross insignias on it instead of the iconic Autobot logo. So Jetfire was always kind of a dual purpose toy for me—I love Transfomers and I love Macross/Robotech.

An original Japanese model of the exact same toy, but with a “Roy Fokker” color scheme from the Macross/Robotech show. Also, Valkyrie fighters from the show- VF-1D (dual seat) models, in case you’re curious.

When Robotech released in the U.S., that pretty much put an end to Jetfire’s existence as a Super Valkyrie. The Transformers shows, movies and comics changed his look completely and altered his name to Skyfire. Eventually, the character’s name was changed back to Jetfire, but like most Transformers, he’s gone through so many changes, revisions and complete reboots that none of the more recent versions (including the one from Michael Bay’s horrendous Transformers films) bear no resemblance whatsoever to the classic look of one of the best toys of the 1980s.

The newest version of Jetfire, courtesy Michael Bay’s production design team. Awful.

These days, Jetfire is one of my prized possessions. I actually threw the packaging away so that I’d never be tempted to sell him for $200-$300 when the real profit is in having a favorite toy from my childhood always on the shelf. My 3-year-old son constantly asks to see Jetfire, but I won’t let him just yet.

I keep telling him that I’m going to give it to him one day, and eventually I will. But for now, it’s “Daddy’s Transformer.” He’s mostly content with his Rescue Bots Transformers, a more recent line geared toward younger kids. I don’t tell him that Jetfire is way cooler than those.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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