Beginning in 1994, fans began organizing and officializing the largest Transformers convention, BotCon. With the increasing size of the active adult fandom, Hasbro chose to legitimize this convention by providing a handful of an unused and unproduced toy to be given out as attendance freebies. The tradition continued the following year, when convention organizers were allowed to hand-paint and issue another unique toy. By 1996, Hasbro was producing a unique toy for the convention each year. After financial failures of a few of the organizers' companies, Hasbro took control of the convention as the Offical Transformers Collectors Convention (OTFCC). After discovering their own organizational difficulties, Hasbro chose to hand control of the convention to a designated licensee, including creative control of a growing number of exclusive toys each year.
Transformers: Timelines is the name assigned to the various BotCon and Transformers Collectors’ Club exclusive toys released by Fun Publications. Beginning in 2005, Fun Publications began producing fiction material for BotCon, which united exclusive toys under a sort of “expanded universe” banner. TFCC material was also placed in this category, often relating to the theme or topic of the concurrent BotCon material.
So far, no mass retail items have been released under the Timelines banner. Since BotCon and TFCC exclusive toys are entirely redecoes or retools of existing molds, Timelines has therefore not received any unique tooling for an entire figure. Timelines toys are typically not grouped into size and price classes like other modern Transformers toys, but instead grouped by method of their release.
So far, each BotCon release generally features several different sets: a large named, themed box set with five or six figures, one or more smaller souvenir sets with two figures together in a polybag, and a single “attendee bonus” figure, which is not available for mail order before or after the convention (at least through official sources). TFCC, on the other hand, has exclusives available to anyone who purchases a mail-order club membership. Each year&rsquos membership includes one figure, plus additional figures are often made available for purchase on the Club’s store website. Beginning in 2013, the Club offered a Figure Subscription Service, wherein members pre-order a subscription to receive one exclusive toy every other month in random order until they have received a full set of six for that year. The FSS program has been renewed for 2015, though at the time of writing, the figures have not yet been shipped.
Since the fan community’s attendance to BotCon and membership in TFCC is strong, it is likely that Timelines will continue to exist for many years. The series’s flexibility in following whatever themes are followed by mainstream Transformers also indicates that it will likely remain the catch-all toyline for exclusives in the foreseeable future.