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, Fun Publications, 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 (TFCC) 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.
In the Fun Publications era, each BotCon release generally features several different sets: a large named and 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’s 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 (FSS), 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 was renewed after its success, lasting until the end of Fun Publications’ license to the franchise.
Despite our own predictions of longevity, Hasbro elected to end Fun Publications’ license to Transformers (and G.I. Joe) at the end of 2016. This spelled the end of the Collectors’ Clubs and sanctioned conventions, and the exclusives that went with them. Hasbro have not stated why they wished to discontinue the most successful Transformers convention, and have not offered any officially-sanctioned replacement. Hasbro did introduce HasCon, an annual event near their headquarters in Rhode Island celebrating ALL Hasbro toy and game brands, but this is largely geared toward general marketing of retail product rather than collectibles. We display HasCon exclusives with the contemporary series they are branded in.