Tag Archives: James Bama

(Book Review) Aurora Model Kits by Thomas Graham

The Most Useful Reference Guide to AURORA MODEL KITS Gets Useful Update

Aurora Model Kits by Thomas Graham

Aurora Model Kits with Polar Lights, Moebius, Atlantis 3rd Edition by Thomas Graham (Schiffer Publishing, 2017)

Perhaps no company or toy line better defines 1960s and 70s Monster Kid culture than the beloved Aurora Plastics Company monster model kits.  Launched in 1963 with the iconic Frankenstein Monster, Aurora quickly added  Dracula and The Wolf Man. 

Aurora Frankenstein Model

The company had a hit on their hands with the original trio and quickly expanded to include a full line of iconic Universal Monsters, Toho creatures and more.  For the next 20 years, fantastic creatures of film and TV appeared to feed the ravenous appetites of Monster Kids.  Today, the Aurora monster model kits sit beside Famous Monsters of Filmland and Shock Theater as the matches that set fire to many a lifelong love, some would say obsession, with classic monsters.  The gorgeous painted box art by James Bama evoke the glorious cover art of Famous Monsters of Filmland and is a strong contributor to collectibility of these model kits to this day.

For many collectors of classic monster memorabilia, the Aurora model kits are holy grails.  Thomas Graham‘s reference book has been a valued resource for collectors since it’s first publication in 2005.  The 3rd edition, published in May 2017 provides an additional 15 pages more than the previous editions and more comprehensive coverage of the model companies that followed Aurora, including Polar Lights, Atlantis and Moebius. Executives from these companies explain how they have added to the list of revived Aurora models, with information on reissues and current collectors’ market values.

Aurora Model Kits History

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Over 500 color photographs enhance this comprehensive history and guide to Aurora models, now updated to include new companies continuing the Aurora tradition. Aurora executives, sculptors, artists, and engineers who created the models tell the story in their own words. Every model Aurora made is described in detail.
Aurora Model Kits Book Contents Page

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Aurora Model Kits 3rd Edition Interior Spread

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Collector Resource

While we focus on the iconic monster models on this site, it’s important to note this is a book about all the products from Aurora and the companies that followed.  To that end, this book provides excellent coverage of all the model categories including other licensed characters figures from Film and TV, dinosaurs, aircraft, auto, military and more. Importantly for collectors, Graham provides a comprehensive directory of every model with details to help you determine the precise version for your collection.

Aurora Model Kit Directory

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The Directory includes In-depth information on every model kit:

  • original release dates
  • factory number
  • box art description and versions
  • reissue details
  • approximate current value

If you’re a serious collector of monster model kits, or just love these kits and want to know more about their history, I highly recommend this book.  I’ve owned the 2nd edition for several years and the 3rd edition update is an important expansion that I am finding quite helpful in understanding the reissue versions from Polar Lights, Moebius and Atlantis, which I often find confusing.

In addition, the updated pricing valuation is useful.  Really a limitation of price guides because valuations are fluid and change with the latest auction price, Graham’s research is helpful in setting a benchmark for what a collector can reasonably expect to pay, or price to sell, a specific model kit for.  A  general rule of collecting is that an item is worth what a buyer will pay for it.  Regardless, I find having a benchmark for valuation a useful reference point when considering purchases and the research Graham has done is quite helpful for collectors.

Where to Purchase:

Aurora Model Kits with Polar Lights, Moebius, Atlantis 3rd Edition by Thomas Graham is available now. Retail Price is $29.99 but can be found for less online.  Click the image below to  order on Amazon:

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Monstrous Sounds: Famous Monsters Speak

The Sounds of Famous Monsters

Famous Monsters Speak 1963 Record

Brought to you – On record                                                                      for the first time with the help of the                                                  world’s first movie-monster magazine,                                      FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND

So reads the back cover of this spoken word album released by Wonderland Records and Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1963.  After learning that advertisers wouldn’t touch his magazine due to it’s “weird and inappropriate” subject matter, Jim Warren doubled down on his mail order business, Captain Company, to fund his growing publishing business.  Always on the lookout for new products to peddle to us unwitting kids, Warren partnered with Wonderland Records, a children’s record label and subsidiary of Riverside Records, to record and release Famous Monsters Speak in 1963.

The cover art is uncredited but all of the famous monsters on the cover look more than a little bit like James Bama‘s iconic Aurora model kit box covers.  Even the poses are similar.  Intentional?  Hmmm…. True to the Warren overhype tradition, we also get a cover appearance by the Wolf Man, Mummy and Creature though they are nowhere to be found on the record itself.

The LP features 2 spoken-word stories, written by Cherney Berg, a staple of spooky records of the 60s and 70s,  including Scary Spooky Stories, Thrillers and Chillers and later the King Kong (Original Motion PictureClassic).  His adaptations provided the soundtrack for many a Monster Kid childhood.  This album featured only a single voice actor, former Bowery Boy Gabriel Dell.  

Famous Monsters Speak 1963 Front Cover Closeup

The album’s little-seen back cover featured stills from the original Universal Studios Frankenstein and Dracula movies with humorous and satirical captions, as if lifted straight from the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine:

Famous Monsters Speak Back Cover:

Famous Monsters Speak 1963 Record Back Cover

Tracklist

A Frankenstein’s Monster Talks
B Dracula’s Return

Listen to the full album here:

Collector Notes:

While this record is relatively easy to find, it can be fairly complex to determine which release is which due to the number of pressings through the years.  Here is a detailed list of what to look for when buying a copy:

First Release

Shortly after Warren signed a deal to produce this record with Wonderland, the label’s founder, Bill Grauer, died.  So in late 1963, Wonderland was acquired by A.A. Records. For that reason, The initial press of the vinyl makes no mention of Wonderland:

Famous Monsters Speak AA Pressing

Famous Monsters Speak Side 2 Vinyl AA Pressing

Also in 1963, London Records released the album in Canada and reads “Made in Canada” on  vinyl.  The Catalog # on this release is GAR-3

Re-Releases:

Wonderland Records credited on front cover, without mention of Golden Records.

Famous Monsters Speak Golden Records Vinyl

Label credits to Wonderland Records and Golden Records on the front and back cover, but only A.A. Records on the labels and a mention in the lower right corner of the back cover.

1970 Canadian Re-release:

An A.A. Records Recording
Produced in Canada by Arc Sound Limited, Catalog # 836

1973 Re-release

Wonderland re-released the album in 1973. While the Catalog # remained the same: AR-3, there are some unique identifiers specifically the back cover sleeve which replaced the classic monsters movie stills and goofy quotes with a catalog of other kids record titles offered by Wonderland at the time:

Famous Monsters Speak Back Cover Sleeve Wonderland Records Version

In addition,  this release includes the following etched wording on the vinyl:

  • Matrix / Runout (A-side runout etching): AR-3-A-RC1
  • Matrix / Runout (B-side runout etching): AR-3-B-RC-1

Collectibility

In general, a high-grade copy of this record runs around $50, with less pristine copies anywhere between $15-$40.

In addition to the condition of the album sleeve and the vinyl itself, there are some ‘rare’ aspects of the first release that truly set the record apart from the rest of the pack and increase its value.

Printed Cellophane with Price:

Famous Monsters Speak Record Cover

The first press album sleeve originally had a nice cellophane overwrap with printing on it.  First releases were priced at $.98 sold  and soon increased to $1.98.  You very rarely see the “printed” cellophane on them and it can really enhance the value of the copy when you do find one.

The picture above is of  my personal collection copy of this record; notice the original cellophane with the $1.98 price printed on it.

Famous Monsters Magazine Offer:

Famous Monsters Speak Magazine Promo

Look again at the picture of the record from my collection and you’ll see Dracula’s legs are covered by a promotional offer for a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland.   This is another real differentiator from most copies of this record you’ll find.  This paper order form its typically found taped onto the album cover, as mine is, and greatly enhances collectibility.

Monster Kid Memories

Of course, no article on Warren’s merchandising business is complete without the Captain Company ads that ran in the pages of Warren’s magazines:

Famous Monsters Speak Print Ad

The record label also promoted the record and ran the full-page ad below in comic books and other kid-oriented magazine titles to promote the records availability in record stores.  Note from the ad copy below, the record was first released on April Fools Day, 1963:

Famous Monsters Speak Full Page Ad Captain Company

I never owned this record as a child, but I clearly recall these ads working their spell on me.  These ads were fairly unique in the pantheon of Captain Company; they marketed a quality product with minimal hyperbole.  It seems that the more gimmicky the product, the greater the need to overstate its qualities.

Where to Find Famous Monsters Speak:

Here’s a link to current eBay listings

Multiple copies in a range of prices and both white and orange sleeves are available on Amazon.

Discogs.com is a great social marketplace for record collectors and Ive had numerous successful purchases from this site.  I found multiple copies of this LP listed currently; click here to visit Discogs.

Listening Options

Of course if you simply want to listen to this fun LP again, there are numerous options, including the YouTube video I embedded above in this article.

Purchase a MP3 copy of  the entire album for $1.98  or on CD for $13.98  on Amazon

Its also available for purchase on iTunes and its even on Spotify

What are you memories of this LP?  Did you have it? Do you still?  Let us hear from you!

(Video) Monsterama Episode 20 – Aurora Monster Model Kits

Aurora Monster Model Kits Are Definitive Monster Kid Collectibles

Aurora Monster Model Kits

What can we say about the Aurora monster model kits that hasn’t been said many times before?

Of all the great monster toys and merchandise available during the mid-20th Century classic monster heyday, nothing rivals the Aurora monster model kits for their impact on Monster Kids of the 1960s and 70s.

From the mesmerizing James Bama box art, to the highly detailed sculpts by Bill Lemon and Ray Meyers, these model kits were true pop art.  Kids spent endless hours assembling, painting and starting at these fantastic works of imagination.

This episode of Monsterama digs into the monster models of Aurora Plastics Corporation in all their versions of their monster model kits up and through to the Polar Lights re-issues of the 1990s.  Sit back and get ready for a sweet trip down nostalgia lane, fellow Monster Kids!

Collecting Aurora Monster Model Kits:

 

Schiffer Collectors Guide to Aurora Model Kits

Over 450 color photographs enhance this comprehensive history and guide to Aurora models. The Aurora empire was once the worlds largest producer of hobby products. Here, corporation executives, sculptors, artists, and engineers who created Auroras models tell the story in their own words. Every model Aurora made is described in detail, with information on reissues.  Published in 2007, market values are a bit dated, but this is still a very useful reference guide that I use frequently.
Aurora Model Kits Collectors Guide Aurora Model Kits (Schiffer Book for Collectors)

Aurora Monster Scenes – The Most Controversial Toys of a Generation

Rated X…for Excitement!  This book is dedicated to one of the great debacles of the toy & hobby industry. Written and presented by the men behind the Monster Scenes, then and now, this is a must-read book for fans and collectors alike. Andrew P. Yanchus, original Aurora Project Manager in 1971, opens his vault of artifacts and doles out his first-hand anecdotes of the series that went so wrong.

Aurora Monster Scenes Book
Aurora Monster Scenes – The Most Controversial Toys of a Generation


The Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped the World

Produced by Cortland Hull and hosted by Zacherly, this two hour DVD features in-depth interviews, a wax sculpture demonstration, rare photos, sketches & promotional material related to Aurora, never seen by the public. – 1 hour 45 minutes, plus a “Zacherley, behind-the-scenes” bonus feature.

(Video) Monsterama Episode 18 – Collecting the Creature from the Black Lagoon

The Most Collectible of Classic Monsters

Creature from the Black Lagoon Collectibles

Watch this video and see why collecting the Creature from the Black Lagoon is such a passion for classic monster collectors.

The last of the great Universal Monsters to come along, the Creature from the Black Lagoon swam his way into our Monster Kid hearts in glorious 3-D in 1954.  This episode of Monsterama highlights the wondrous toys and collectibles made in the likeness of this classic monster and takes us on a tour of the greatest Creature collection of them all with the “Arizona Gillman” himself, creature collector John Gilbert.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll dive deep into collecting the Creature and cover everything from original movie posters to the more recent Sideshow Collectibles figures.  Oh and don’t worry, we’ll spend some time with Hasbro‘s paint by numbers set and a little company called Arak Hamway along the way.

Don’t drool on your keyboard, Monster Kids!

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What is your favorite Creature Collectible? Share it with us please!

(Video) Monsterama Episode 16 – Godzilla Collectibles

The King of the Monster Collectibles

Godzilla-Kaiju-Collectibles

Toho Studios gave us the King of the Monsters in 1954 and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  While the monster’s character has evolved and morphed as many times as the monster suit, Godzilla remains an incredibly popular as evidenced by the commercial success of the Legendary Pictures 2014 release Godzilla.  Toho purists might have been distressed by the American reboot but they are counting on the 2016 release of the next Toho installment in the Godzilla franchise.

The breadth of Godzilla, and related kaiju, collectibles is pretty overwhelming.  With the ever growing popularity of Japanese vinyl and sofubi. kaiju figure collectibles of every size, shape and color are available.  In this week’s series, we’ll focus primarily on Monster Kid related collectibles from the 1960s and 70s during the Showa period   of Godzilla’s film catalog.  In future posts, we’ll explore the modern collectible market and the impact of Godzilla and his pals in this increasingly popular urban vinyl category.


Collecting Godzilla

I highly recommend both of these books for anyone interested  in Godzilla and other kaiju collectibles.


Collecting Japanese Movie Monsters


The Art of Japanese Monsters