Blog #513: Transformers Artifact of the Week: 1985 Transformers Action Cards

1985 Transformers Action Cards

Finally, after way too many years, I’ve completely my set of G1 Action Cards, so it seemed like a good one for Artifact of the Week.

In 1985, Hasbro released the first (and only, as series two was never produced) series of Transformers Action Cards.  The base set included 192 cards, but with variants, it comes to at least 248.  I say “at least” because I may have a variant that I haven’t heard of before (more on that below in the variants section) and there very well could be more variants I don’t know about.  That would make at least 249 (and also means I have another card to find, *sigh*).  There was also a set of 24 stickers.

Here is the whole set.  Below that are all the variants with descriptions of them where needed.  Click here to jump down to the variants.  Click here to jump to the stickers.






























The majority of the variants are background colors on the character cards.  There are four different backgrounds, yellow (though it looks more like a lighter orange to me, but we’ll call it yellow), orange, blue, and purple.  With the exception of one card, each character card with a background variation has one that is either yellow or orange and one that is either purple or blue.  (Just over half the Autobot character cards have these variants, while all but two Decepticon character cards do.)  There is no obvious pattern to which cards get the variants and which don’t that I am aware of.  Also, you may notice that some of the background variants have the art in slightly different positions.  Not sure if this is a consistent change or just bad printing.

The other variants are mostly reverse negatives, but there are some other oddities as well.  They are all noted below.

Card #4 Ratchet (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #10 Sunstreaker (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #11 Sideswipe (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #13 Red Alert (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #14 Wheeljack (Transparent Error / Corrected)


This is an odd one.  On the card on the left Wheeljack is partially transparent.  Look at the area between his left arm and the left side of his chest (the right side as you look at it).  You can see the background where it should be white.  You can follow the orange stripe down to above both of his hips.  This is the only error of it’s type in the set.

Card #15 Ironhide (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #17 Grapple (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #19 Blaster (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #22 Huffer (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #23 Brawn (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #26 Cosmos (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #28 Bumblebee (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #29 Powerglide (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #30 Seaspray (Orange Background / Purple Background)


Card #31 Warpath (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #33 Slag (Orange Background / Purple Background)


Card #34 Grimlock (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #36 Snarl (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #37 Sludge (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #38 Jetfire (Yellow Background / Blue Background)


Card #40 Hoist (Orange Background / Blue Background / Purple Background)


Hoist is the only card in the set that comes with three backgrounds, orange, blue, and purple.

Card #41 Omega Supreme (Orange Background / Blue Background)


Card #48 Autobots’ Doomed Home (Blue Sky / Purple Sky / Orange Sky)


Here is another weird one.  The blue and purple ones seem pretty straight forward.  The coloring on the entire card with the purple sky seems slightly different from the blue sky card, though the difference is most notable in the sky.  It would be a simple change of the overall coloring, likely a printing mistake.  As to the orange sky version, it looks to me like they used the wrong plates for each color in the print process.  While things are now done digitally, back in the day, a four color press would have had four plates, one for each color necessary to print in full color.  It sort of looks like they switched them, which would still print the picture, but would completely change the colors.  I’m guessing a little, but this seems likely.

Update:  Having thought about this a little, it can’t be that.  If it was, the whole sheet would have had to be printed wrong.  I have no idea.

Card #49 Soundwave Launches Laserbeak (Blue Sky / Purple Sky)


Like the blue and purple sky cards on Card #48, this was likely a printing screw up.  It’s much subtler than Card #48, but you can clearly see that bottom card is more purple (lighter) than the above card.

Card #76 Attack on an Oil Rig (Large Type Error / Small Type Corrected)


This is one of the oddball errors cards.  They had the title on the back printed in too large a font, so it does not fit on the card.

Card #88 Flying High (Flying Right / Flying Left)


This is a clear reverse negative, but I’m not certain which is correct and which is the error.  This scene should be in More than Meets the Eye.  I didn’t have time to watch the full episode, but I skimmed it and couldn’t find this scene.

Card #97 Megatron (Purple Background / Yellow Background)


Card #98 Starscream (Purple Background / Yellow Background)


Card #99 Dirge (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #101 Skywarp (Blue Background / Orange Background)


Card #102 Thundercracker (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #103 Ramjet (Blue Background / Yellow Background / No Tech Specs / With Tech Specs)


This one is enough to make your head spin.  There are two separate variations on Ramjet, making for a total of four different cards.  He comes with the standard background variations, blue and orange.  On the back of the cards the black line with white text that says “Tech Spec” is missing.  To clarify, there is a yellow background card with and without the Tech Spec line and a blue background card with and without the Tech Spec line.

This brings up an interesting questions about how the cards were printed.  I have always assumed that the character card background variations were a screw up, that at some point they stopped printing them in the “wrong” color and started to print it in the corrected color.  If this were the case, you would expect there to be only three versions, because the missing “Tech Spec” line would have been corrected at some point either before or after the color was changed.  Since both exist, I must assume the variations were intentional, meaning that both color versions were printed at the same time.  If that were the case, why not do variants on all of them?  Why lave out only two Decepticons?  In any case, it really doesn’t matter, but it would still be nice to know how it all worked.

Card #104 Soundwave (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #105 Buzzsaw (Corrected / Turned 180 Degree Error)


This is a bizarre one.  If you look at all cards, the background starts dark toward the top of the card and gets lighter as it goes toward the bottom.  That makes the top Buzzsaw card the correct one.  The bottom one has the art turned 180 degrees, it’s not a reverse negative.  (Though technically, if you reversed it vertically and then reversed it horizontally, it would have the same effect as turning it 180 degrees.)

Card #107 Ravage (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #108 Laserbeak (Corrected / Turned 180 Degree Error)


Laserbeak has the same error as Card #105 Buzzsaw, however, as you can see from the picture, my error Laserbeak has a purple background.  Now, it’s not the same as the “purple” background, but more like the purple sky background cards where the blue looks more purple than it should.  I’ve never seen this error listed anywhere online.  I didn’t notice this until I was scanning the cards for this blog.  So, I guess I’m still looking for the error variation, but I have a possibly unknown one.

Card #109 Frenzy (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #110 Astrotrain (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #111 Blitzwing (Blue Background / Yellow Background)


Card #112 Shrapnel (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #113 Kickback (Purple Background / Yellow Background)


Card #114 Bombshell (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #115 Devastator (Blue Background / Orange Background)


Card #116 Mixmaster (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #117 Scavenger (Blue Background / Orange Background)


Card #118 Long Haul (Yellow Background / Purple Background)


Card #119 Bonecrusher (Blue Background / Orange Background)


Card #120 Hook (Purple Background / Orange Background)


Card #121 Scrapper (Blue Background / Orange Background)


Card #122 Shockwave (Blue Background Pointing Left / Blue Background Pointing Right / Yellow Background Pointing Left / Yellow Background Pointing Right)


The last variation is another head spinner.  Shockwave comes with both blue and yellow backgrounds, and both backgrounds come with reverse negative art.  The hard part is that there is really no way to say one is correct and one is an error.  The toy, cartoon, and comic universally have the gun being his left hand, which would make the pointing left versions (that show it has his right hand) the errors, however Most G1 box art has been used both ways at some point.  Shockwave’s art for example is used pointing left on the G1 USA box, but pointing right on the G1 Japanese box.  So, I’m not sure it fair to call one or the other an error.





The stickers show box art and character mottos.  Unfortunately they were not numbered, which I find annoying.  It would have been nice to have a set that included all the characters who had base cards.

As always, you can find over 9000 Transformers merchandise items and collectibles at

Thanks for reading!

About lmb3

I’m 36 years old, and I work in network tech support for a public school system. I am a huge fan of Star Trek, Transformers, Harry Potter, and Marvel Comics as well as numerous other fandoms. I’m a big sports fan, especially the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I collect toys (mostly Transformers but other stuff too), comic books, and Red Sox baseball cards. I watch an obscene amount of television and love going to the movies. I am hopelessly addicted to Wizard Rock and I write Harry Potter Fanfiction, though these days I am working on a couple of different original YA novels.
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11 Responses to Blog #513: Transformers Artifact of the Week: 1985 Transformers Action Cards

  1. Michael says:

    I’ve accumulated quite a few extras in my hunt for a complete variant set. Anyone out there who wants to trade let me know.
    I also found a 3rd sideswipe variant. There are 2 versions with orange background. 1 one with left to right fade another with top to bottom fade. Also found a bunch more purple / blue sky variations. And red vs. orange flame color variations.

  2. lmb3 says:

    Johnny, I’m not sure how rare any of them are. It’s been so long since I was looking that some may be rare now, but if you search eBay enough, they are probably out there.

  3. Johnny says:

    Hey. I know this is an old post but I was wondering if you had an idea of whether the variants are rarer and if so by a lot or a little. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: 1985 Hasbro Transformers Trading Cards Checklist

  5. Brad S. Russell says:

    Lewis, this is Brad from Botcon.
    There are 8 versions of Ramjet, #103.

    Blue or yellow

    With and without “tech spec” strip on back

    Straight or tilted

    I have 6 of the 8.

  6. lmb3 says:

    I don’t have pictures of all the backs, but my friend and I maintain, which archivesTech Specs and other TF bios. This page,, has links to the backs for all the Action Cards character cards. Unfortunately, I do not have scans of the backs from the episode cards.



  7. Jason says:

    Do you have pics of the backs?

  8. Eric Fisher says:

    Im looking for some cards, anyone want to trade or sell let me know….
    Im about 20 short of a complete set with variants and complete sticker set. Lets talk!!

  9. Matt says:

    More variants! Nice, I wish I had your patience to do the same with the Australian set. Just for anyone reading, the cards in Australia came in packs of 4, each pack with a piece of gum. I opened a pack about a year ago, the gum still smelt good but was rock hard! Going to browse your blog to see what other goodies you have reviewed!

  10. lmb3 says:

    Thanks. I’ve actually just gotten some more variants I didn’t know about, but I haven’t had a chacne to add them yet. I wish I had an Australian set. I’ve never understood why it was differnt.



  11. Matt says:

    Super cool analysis! What about the set that was released in Australia? We only got 100 cards in the set here 😦

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