Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Discolored Figures But Were Afraid to Ask.TABLE OF CONTENTS
PLEASE POST PICS OF YOUR TRANSFORMANTS IN THIS THREAD!!!
Discussions about loose vintage figure variants having 'unique' paint schemes tend to pop up on the boards sometimes. Also eBay seems flooded with these rare and unique variants.
Most of the time these 'variants' are in fact degraded figures with discolored paint and/or yellowing.
This thread summarizes some facts about colour degradation and yellowing.
I hope it will help any future discussions about so called rare variants which are in fact nothing more (and less) than degraded figures, or transformants
as I like to coin them.
The different paints used for a vintage figure have different sensitivity towards degradation by UV/visible light and chemical breakdown. So during time, some of the paint can appear 1) less intense (fading), and 2) changed in colour.
This is true for paints applied to the surface of plastic figurea, or those which have been mixed throughout the plastic.
How to explain these changes in colours? How can a brown paint turn green for instance?
There are different theories which might all fit depending on the discussed paint. Let's go through them briefly: #1: Chemical Breakdown
Some pigments within paints can change or loose colour by chemical breakdown - for instance oxidation or light.
This explains for instance why pink paints used for hands, face, neck sometimes turn pale.
Also the varnish used to cover metalic paints is prone to degradation sometimes, causing it to yellow. This results for instance in golden R2 domes or golden Death Star Droids. #2: Green Orange Purple Theory
Some paints can be composed of different pigments, e.g. Green
(yelow+blue pigments), Orange
(red+yellow pigments), Purple
(red+blue pigments). You can imagine that degradation causes the relative amounts of the pigments in a paint to be changed, as one pigments degrades faster than the other.
Take for instance a look at the Prune Face at the left in the pic below. Suppose that the green paint within the plastic of the legs is composed of yellow and blue pigments. And that the yellow pigments have somehow degraded more over the course of time. We can then understand the two things which we actually see here: the green is shifted to blue (less yellow), and the colour is less intense (faded). Green pants turning blue.
- green (=yellow + blue) to blue: yellow fades away, blue remains (Prune Face blue pants)
- orange (=red + yellow) to yellow: red fades away, yellow remains (Boba Fett yellow patches)
- brown (= red + yellow + blue) to green: red fades away, yellow + blue = green remains (Chewbacca green limbs, Yoda green snake)
- dark blue to light blue/grey: faded blue (faded Boba Fett limbs)
- .... and many other examples, see picture list of "transformants" further below
Now, how to explain the mixed limbs Chewbacca below?Chewie: One Green and Brown Leg.
. Different pigments in the brown paint mixed through the plastic are expected to have a different sensitivity towards degradation, resulting in a color shift during time (here brown to green as the red pigment decays). Assuming the same light exposure during time, the extent to which a pigment in the brown plastic was prone to degradation depended on the direct chemical ''environment'' which can accelerate degradation reactions and therefore makes things worse. Think for instance about the concentration of neighboring plastifiers, or flame retardants (producing free radicals, chemically highly reactive species) within the plastic. Different batches of plastic might have slightly different compositions, and therefore the colour shift might process at different speeds.
In case you would mix up the limbs from two different batches (which might be common practice in the Kenner factories) you could thus end up with the mixed green/brown limbed Chewie as shown in the pic.#3: Cyan Magenta Yellow Theory
The subtractive color theory explains the observed colour differences even better. This theory uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow rather than Red, Yellow, Blue.
TIG member _Rog_ gave a few examples, discussed further in this thread:
- Ugnaught's cape: 'Neutral' coloured cloth dyed blue - magenta & cyan (1:1?). The cyan 'fades' leaving a magenta cape.
- Dengar painted torso: Dark purple made from magenta, some cyan and some yellow (2:1:1?). This time the magenta fades leaving the paint green.
- Luke / Rebel Soldier & Commander / Bossk painted legs & feet: Brown made from magenta, yellow & some cyan (something like 2:2:1 or 1:2:1?). Magenta fades leaving green again.TAKE HOME MESSAGES:
- No matter what colour theory (#1, #2, #3 or something else), the underlying mechanism - colour change of paint by degradation of different pigments - stays the same.
- Also be aware that limbs and torsos are made from different plastics. The torso is usually made from a harder type of ABS plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), whereas the limbs are made from a softer PVC plastic (polyvinyl chloride). These two types of plastic may discolour differently in time. Sometimes you read in threads: "The limbs have a different colour compared to the torso, so it can't be degradation cause you would expect the same colour change everywhere then!."
After reading this thread, you know better.
Yellowing is something different than discolouration. It is caused by chemical oxidation reactions within the plastic (not the pigments within the plastic!), either spontaneously or initiated by visible/UV light or heat. And once started, probably accelerated by temperature fluctuations and humidity. To make a long story short, in the end you have more molecules in the plastic which absorb blue light giving the plastic a yellow appearance. The chemical reaction can even proceed further, meaning that in the end plastics can even turn pink.
***CAN IT BE REVERSED?
In general: Degradation of pigments is caused by light and/or chemical reactions.
It can not be reversed, we are talking irreversible chemical reactions. It is like rebuilding burnt trees from their ashes.
Yellowing can be reversed by strong oxidizing agents like hydrogenperoxide or bleach. Basically you destroy the newly formed molecules which absorb the blue light. So you end up with a bright white figure. However by doing so, the plastic is exposed to some aggressive oxidizing agents, thereby laying the seeds for (even more) future yellowing. On different fora, I have seen pictures of yellow Stormtroopers becoming minty white after a peroxide bath. Always amazing to see, but I would like to see pictures of the same treated Stormtroopers 2 years later. The treatment might be worse than the illness in this case.
***A SPECIAL TRANSFORMATION....BIOTRANSFORMATION!!!
Providing the right conditions (temperature, humidity) fungi/molds can use many organic stuffs as food, not only the bread and marmalade in your kitchen cabinet, but also more harsh materials like wood (think about the mushrooms in autumn forests), and as it seems even (horror!) plastics of your beloved Star Wars items.
Colonies of fungi can be observed as spots on Star Wars figures and give rise to a speckled appearance.
Fungi can be killed by bleach and UV but keep in mind that such treatment might also affect the plastics/pigments.
Moreover fungi have spent a few billion years longer on this planet than us and have successfully developed spores which are more resistant to antifungal treatments. Spores serve to spread the fungi to other areas and start a new life there. In this way fungi could in principle infect neighbouring figures. I sincerely hope this remains theory and won't happen in real life collections. To be sure I put the few molded figures in safe quarantine from the rest of my collection. Below is my childhood Snowtrooper affected by pinkish molds. Biotransformant: my poor childhood Snowtrooper affected by fungi/molds.
***SOME DEFINITIONS: VARIANTS, TRANSFORMANTS & FACTORY ERRORSVARIANT
Figure that left the factory in its present appearance and which met the Quality Control standards at the time of production. A variant deviates from the "standard" more common figure.
The variation might refer to:
- paint application (Ben Kenobi with white and grey hair, Cloud City Pilot with pale and bright yellow boots,....)
- COO (Taiwan, Hong Kong, 2 line, 3 line,....)
- sculpt (Han Solo small and big head, Blue Snaggletooth, but also smaller differences mostly connected to COO families).
- accessories (single and double telescoping light saber, vinyl and soft goods Jawa cape,...)
Normally variants were produced in high numbers, but there can be exceptions when the QC standards were changed during production. This is probably the case for the Lili Ledy Removable Rocket Boba Fett with loose non welded
rocket, Orange Hair Luke, even Blue Snaggletooth.TRANSFORMANT
Figure that got its present appearance after a visual change during time (green limbed Chewie, yellowed Stormtrooper, etc.).
Consequently, a transformant did not leave the factory in its present appearance and is therefore NOT
Some transformants have an interesting visual appearance and are well established among collectors, think purple smock Ugnaught, green limbs Chewie,... IMO these transformants have a place in collections, but just keep in mind they should not be considered true variants.
IMPORTANT: The appearance of a transformant figure might be traced back to a specific batch of factory-used materials (plastic, paint) in combination with an used mould, COO. Still that doesn’t make them true variants as they did not leave the factory that way.
- Example 1: Take the green limbs Chewie for instance. I am not an expert on this, but I think he was found only with certain Hong Kong COOs. So probably the green limbs Chewie can be traced back to a factory which used batches of brown plastic with a (slightly) different composition in which the red pigment was more prone to degradation, giving rise to green limbs after 30 years. Still this figure is a transformant not a true variant IMO. Why? Because he did not leave the factory with green limbs thirty years ago.
- Example 2 (a tougher one
): The green neck Leia Bespin. In this figure the metals in the applied gold paint reacted chemically over the years resulting in a green neck. In this case the green neck can be linked directly to the used gold paint, so you might argue, this is a true variant. But it is not IMO. Why? Cause the green neck Leia never left the factory in her current condition thirty years ago, so this figure is a transformant too. If you would have a gold neck Leia in your present collection, it would off course be a different story, that figure would be a true variant, as she represents the Leia that the factory intended to produce in the 80s. Green neck Leia Bespin (source: Rebelscum.com)FACTORY ERROR
Figure that left the factory in its present appearance but which did not
met the QC standards at the time of production, and instead accidently slipped through. For instance paint errors, Ledy RR Boba Fett with loose wrongly welded
By nature factory errors are produced in very low numbers.
Like transformants, factory errors are NOT
EXAMPLES OF TRANSFORMANTS
Below you see the transformants which have been discussed in this thread. You can help by posting pics of yours as well. A. FIGURES2-1B
#1: YELLOWED TORSO.4-LOM
#1,2: PINKISH ARMS AND LEGS (LEFT FIGURE).8D8
#1: YELLOWED TORSO.
#2: GREEN LIMBS AND HEAD.ANAKIN SKYWALKER
#1: GREEN BODY WARMER. AT AT DRIVER
#1: YELLOWED TORSO.BARADA
#1: YELLOWED PANTS. BEN KENOBI
#1: GREEN PANTS.BOBA FETT
#1,2: YELLOWED ARMS AND LEGS (13 INCH FIGURE).
#3,4: FADED HEAD AND LIMBS (BOTH LEGS AND ONE ARM).CHEWBACCA
#1: GREEN LIMBS.
#2,3: THE MISSING LINK: CHEWBACCA WITH LEFT ARM TURNING GREEN, HALF BROWN, HALF GREEN. FX-7
#1: YELLOWED BODY ("GOLDIE"). (FIGURE ON THE RIGHT).GREEDO
#1: DARK GREEN TORSO. HAMMERHEAD
#1: GREEN LIMBS.HAN SOLO BESPIN
#1: GREEN PANTS.LANDO CALRISSIAN
#1: YELLOWED TORSO, CAUSING A GREEN APPEARANCE IN COMBINATION WITH THE BLUE PAINT: YELLOW + BLUE = GREEN.LEIA BESPIN
#1: GREEN DRESS.
#2: GREEN NECK.LEIA BOUSHH
#1,2: PINKISH ARMS AND LEGS.LEIA ENDOR
#1: YELLOWED TORSO AND EVEN SOME PURPLE. LOBOT
#1,2: PALE HANDS (WERE PINK WHEN THEY LEFT THE FACTORY, SEE CLOSE-UP)
#3,4,5: BIOTRANSFORMANT HAVING MOULDS ON HEAD AND LIMBS
#6: WHITE ARM (PROBABLY DUE TO MIX UP OF ARMS MADE OUT OF GOOD AND BAD QUALITY PLASTIC, THE BAD PLASTIC HAS DEGRADED DURING TIME)LUKE BESPIN
#1: GREEN BOOTS.
#2: PURPLE ARMS, LEGS, AND HEAD. PROBABLY SPENT TOO MUCH TIME WITH THE LEIA ENDOR ABOVE.
#3,4: PALE ARMS AND LEGS.LUKE FARMBOY
#1: PALE HEAD.
#2: PALE HANDS AND NECK. YELLOWED TORSO.LUKE X-WING PILOT
#1: DARK RED ARMS AND LEGS (''LUKE B-WING PILOT"
#2: DARK RED RIGHT LEG. MAX REEBO
#1: PALE LIMBS AND HEAD.
#2,3: PALE LIMBS AND HEAD PLUS YELLOWED TORSO DUE TO EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT.PRUNE FACE
#1: GREEN PANTS.
#2: GREEN PANTS R2D2
#1: GREEN DOME (FIGURE ON THE LEFT).
#2: GOLDEN DOME.RANCOR KEEPER
#1: PALE HEAD AND ARMS ("ZOMBIE KEEPER").REBEL COMMANDO
#1: GREEN ARMS AND PANTS.REBEL SOLDIER
#1: YELLOWED ARMS.REEYEES
#1: GREEN DISCO BOOTS.
#2: GRAY TORSO.WICKET
#1: GREEN LIMBS.ZUCKUSS
#1: GOLDEN (YELLOWED) TORSO. OTHER TRANSFORMANTS (NO PICS YET)
* Death Star Droid golden torso + limbs
* Jawa speckled limbs (Toltoys)
* Leia Organa pale yellow hands
* Leia Organa green metalic hair
* Blue Snaggletooth with green torso
* Wicket Green speckled limbs
* ......(pls add more)B. ACCESSORRIES4-LOM GREEN ARMOURUGNAUGHT PURPLE SMOCK
- @wbobafett wrote:
The one on the left is another fabric. he cannot be found purple because this fabric is quality and doesn't discolor so fast!
The one in the middle and the one on the right are made from a different material compared to the left one!!!
The right one is clearly discolored! But whats with the one in the middle??? He starts to discolor on the outer parts, but was this smock ever bright blue over all like the left one??? I dont think so...and nobody could have proven me till today that this kind of fabric ever was blue!
SQUID HEAD ORANGE CAPE
OTHER TRANSFORMED ACCESSORIES (NO PICS YET)
* Tusken Raider dark brown cape
* Yoda green snake
* .....(pls add more)
http://forum.rebelscum.com/t1047754/ (pink figures caused by plastic degradation)
http://forum.rebelscum.com/t1048112/ (speckled = molded figures)
- Chewbacca green limbs
- Boba Fett faded limbs
- Hammerhead green limbs
- Klaatu gray/tan limbs
- Squidhead Orange Cape
- Tusken Raider Darkbrown Cape
- Ugnaught purple smock
- Yoda green snake
Here we like to thank all those who contributed their pictures to this project. Thanks you very much guys, you all deserve a TIG medal of honor.
- Dr Dengar
- Jedi Blueberry
The list is still growing. If you don't see your name yet, please send us some pics of a transformant that we haven't covered yet.
***”The missing link”: Brown snake turning into a green one.***