Transformers is one of the most important and well-recognized brands in all of the action figure industry. It crashed onto the scene in the early '80s, grabbed the hearts and imaginations of kids the world round, and has become a staple for modern action figure collectors.
But collectors who are new to the world of Transformers quickly become overwhelmed by the diversity of characters in its history. Trying to determine the most desirable vintage figures and the best purchases for future collector interest is a chore without knowing which characters have had the biggest historical impact and which ones fans adore the most. The following five Transformers characters are the most beloved and recognized of all, making them the ones any new collector needs to know.
There's no Transformers character more important than semi-truck turned robot Optimus Prime. He is the leader of the heroic Autobots faction and the primary protagonist for almost all iterations of Transformers, including cartoons, movies, and video games. A vast number of Optimus Prime action figures have been produced, dating back to the earliest examples of the Transformers, and some are the most valuable and prized action figures ever produced.
Heroes are nothing without their villains. Megatron, villainous leader of the Decepticons, fits that role perfectly. He is Optimus Prime's biggest nemesis and appears in virtually ever iteration of Transformers lining up to fight against the Autobot. His alternate modes include a pistol, tank, spaceship, and more. But Megatron's most recognizable features are the huge cannon typically strapped to his arm and the evil plans he always manages to concoct. Megatron has almost as many action figures as Optimus Prime, but few are as prized as those of the Autobot leader.
Although Bumblebee wasn't especially popular among classic "generation 1" Transformers fans, his popularity has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to being feature prominently in the big-budget Transformers movies. Bumblebee is Optimus Prime's bright yellow sidekick, he's usually envisioned as a small car, and he's mute in many recent incarnations. Bumblebee action figures rarely garner the attention of collectors given their small size and mass overproduction in the modern era, but kids love the charming yellow hero.
Much like Optimus Prime has a sidekick in Bumblbee, Megatron has one too. Starscream is a jet turned conniving robot that typically seeks to usurp Megatron's leadership while still serving as his second in command. Starscream is a member of the "Seekers", a group of jet-based Decepticons who feature prominently as combatants with the Autobots, making Starscream figures desirable to kids and collectors looking to relive key scenes from the various cartoons and movies. Starscream figures are almost always popular, well made, and valued by collectors.
One of the most intriguing elements of the classic Transformers "generation 1" era was the introduction of the Dinobots. Instead of vehicles which turned into robots, the Dinobots were mechanical dinosaurs which turned into robots and aligned themselves with the Autobots. Children love nothing more than dinosaurs and robots, so combining the two made the Dinobots wildly popular. And since Grimlock is based on a Tyrannosaurus Rex, he quickly became the most popular of all Dinobots, a trend which still continues today.