Tag Archives: Marx

Vintage Dinosaur Toys @ the Minnesota Zoo

Dinosaur Roadside Attractions

We’re fortunate to live close to the Minnesota Zoo and we’ve taken full advantage of that proximity through the years by spending a great deal of quality family time there.  This summer, the zoo is hosting a special, can’t miss exhibit featuring almost life-size animatronic dinosaurs, including a special exhibit of vintage dinosaur toys!

As a 70s Monster Kid, it’s not too surprising that I grew up loving  dinosaurs.  In fact, as I’ve explained previously, I consider dinosaurs my gateway to classic monsters.

This cool exhibit is titled “DiNostalgia: A Stroll Down the History of Prehistory” and curated by the Zoo’s Director or Guest Experience, Jessica Madole, who is a collector herself.  In fact, many of the pieces featured in this exhibit were from her personal collection.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jessica and discuss the exhibit, and her personal love of collecting, at the zoo earlier this summer.

Jessica Madole Guest Experience Director Minnesota Zoo

Why Vintage Dinosaur Toys?

While the Minnesota Zoo has featured life-size dinosaur exhibit several times in recent years, the decision to enhance this year’s exhibit with pop culture collectibles came about for practical reasons.

Last year, the zoo’s exhibited giant bugs! And while many of Monster Kids love our radioactive giant bug Sci-Fi movies, the zoo exhibit was a bit more educational in focus and the building was used to display the real-lifel bugs whose giant animatronic counterparts were featured in the display.  That left the zoo with a nice covered walkway with small glass-faced displays and a question of what, if anything, they could do with this space for this year’s dinosaur exhibit.

DiNostalgia Exhibit Minnesota Zoo

DiNostalgia at Minnesota Zoo

As a collector of vintage dinosaur memorabilia, Jessica had the easy answer: feature examples of dinosaurs in popular culture through the years.

The DiNostalgia Exhibit

The exhibit takes a chronological stroll through the many ways dinosaurs have appeared in mainstream American culture, beginning with roadside kitsch and gas station mascots during the mid 20th Century:

Dinosaur Roadside Attractions

Dinosaur Roadside Attractions

The tour continues with this great display of vintage dinosaur books, many from Jessica’s personal collection:

Vintage Dinosaur Books

Each exhibit included a simple but informative plaque to like this one accompanying the multiple Marx toys displays:

About Plastic Dinosaur Toys

Marx Dinosaur Toys

And the classic Marx Flintstones toy set:

Marx Flintstones Set

Jessica explained that the next bit was somewhat controversial, since the King of the Monsters isn’t technically a dinosaur (though the 2014 Legendary reboot says otherwise). Nonetheless, us Monster Kids are always happy to see our favorite atomic-breathed kaiju and the zoo took the opportunity to differentiate the imaginary Godzilla from the historical Tyrannosaurus Rex:

About Gojira

Godzilla Model Kit

I was quite impressed with the craftsmanship of the model paint job and also curious where the model was curated from.  Jessica explained that the zoo bought a later model Polar Lights re-issue and had a zoo volunteers assemble and paint the kit.  Readers will be glad to hear that I was quick to volunteer for any such future model kit assembly work that the zoo has need for!

Next up, we find a nice exhibit of comics featuring dinosaurs including this terrific copy of Savage Tales from Jessica’s collection along with some Turok and Jurassic Park comics:

Dinosaurs in Graphic Print

As a child of the 1970s, I was thrilled to see the focus on the essential Saturday morning classic Land of the Lost:

Land of the Lost

Love the vintage Viewmaster cover:

Land of the Lost products

The exhibit continued with a feature on the 1990s ABC series Dinosaurs as well as Jurassic Park which are outside the scope of this blog, but essential to the historical collection the zoo assembled. 

As Monster Kids, we are used to living outside the mainstream of popular culture and it’s always a thrill to see the things we love and celebrate get the spotlight.  My thanks to Jessica and love of vintage dinosaur stuff for taking the time to give me a tour and for championing this informative and fun exhibit.

Hurry! The Exhibit Ends Soon.

If you live in the area, I highly recommend you pack the family into he car and get to the Minnesota Zoo for this wonderful exhibit — but hurry! It’s only onen through Labor Day.

Ticket information is available on the Minnesota Zoo website.

And lest we forget, the main point of the exhibit is to excite and stimulate the young minds with a love of science and dinosaurs!

It sure worked for my kids! Plus, while they’re exploring and playing, you get more time to reminisce over your favorite dinosaur toys in the DiNostalgia exhibit!

dinosaur exhibit Minnesota Zoo

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Vintage Dinosaur Toys

I Love Dinosaur Toys

Before monsters entered my world, there were dinosaurs.  As I have detailed in previous posts, dinosaurs were my gateway to monsters and played an influential part in my becoming a full-fledged Monster Kid.

In reality, my favorite kind of monster movie usually includes a dinosaur or derivative thereof — atomic behemoths rampaging through modern cities,  inhabiting lost worlds accidentally discovered by modern man or, in more recent incarnations, terrorizing mad scientists who recreated them using their DNA.

With Jurassic World stomping the competition at the box office this summer, I’ve been focusing on some of my favorite dinosaur-infested classic movie posters and it only makes sense to broaden the scope to dinosaur collectibles of all kinds.

In today’s post, I’ll provide a general overview of vintage dinosaur toys including companies that manufactured them over the decades and highlight some of the unique products released over the years.  In the coming weeks, I’ll dig deeper into some of these companies and products included in today’s overview.

Early 20th Century

Toy dinosaurs have been around for almost since the first fossils were discovered.  In a segment I wrote profiling toys from the 1933 King Kong, I highlighted a terrific jigsaw puzzle of Kong battling a T-Rex.  Early examples of prehistoric animal toys include a metal Brontosaurus and Sabre-Tooth Tiger from 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.  There are other examples of lead, metal and wooden dinosaur toys from the first half of the 20th Century, but it was in the 1950s that dinosaur toys really came to prominence.

1950s Rise of the Dinosaur Toys

Early dinosaur toy makers include Ajax (1950s-1960s), Marx (1955-1963; 1971-1979), MPC (1964-1970s), and Timmee (1960s-present).

Most of the dinosaur toys in the early days were no bigger than a few inches and many were originally packaged in playsets that included plastic rocks, plants, and cavemen.  Since access to dinosaur information was limited back then, many of the toy makes, like Marx and MPC, imprinted the animal name on their tail or body.

Of the toys just mentioned, Marx dinosaur toys are the most detailed, best crafted, and most desired among collectors and I’ll cover them in detail in a future post.

By the late 1960s, dinosaur toys were cooling off and monsters, G I Joe and space toys were captivating kids imaginations.

1970s Revival

Thanks to popular kids shows like Land of the Lost, dinosaurs were back in the forefront by the early 1970s and many of the companies already discussed began re-issuing and expanding the prehistoric offerings to include cave people and Ice Age mammals.

Other companies near and dear to Monster Kids were in the dino toy business as well and are worth spending some time.  Aurora Model Company, in particular, was very successful with their Prehistoric Scenes collection in the 1970s, which are near to my heart because I had the entire set when I was a wee lad.  Additionally, in 1976 Mego  released a collection of prehistoric people and animals based on the movie One Million Years B.C.

1990s Jurassic Park

While dinosaur toys never went away, the 1980s saw a shift toward dinosaurs recast as action figures and included in play sets that are outside the scope of Collecting Classic Monsters.  But the release of Jurassic Park in 1993 resulted in a boom in reissues of classic dinosaur toys as well as Kenner‘s Jurassic Park collection — all of which we will explore further in the coming weeks.

So, lots of ground to cover in the coming weeks.

But I recognize that I can’t simply publish a post that lists what I plan to write about in the future and expect you to trust me with your valuable spare reading time.  So let’s wrap up with an in-depth review of an interesting and highly collectible line of dinosaur toys from the 1950s that were offered as premiums inside cans of coffee from an Austrian company.

Linde Coffee Premiums

Austrian coffee company, Linde Coffee, offered soft plastic animals as premiums in their herbal coffee substitute which had become popular during World War II when regular coffee was scarce.   Among the premiums were 8 prehistoric figures that are now highly collectible and really quite impressive in their design.

One of the most desirable aspects of Linde figures is the unlimited combination of colored marbling and many of these are quite handsome in coloring.  The 1950’s issued figures range in colour from pale green through, orange, brown, red, blue, grey to black. More usually they’re a mix of darker green/grey. Each figure is marked with the animal name and company name, Linde, but they are not dated.

© 1990, 2001 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. All rights reserved.
© 1990, 2001 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. All rights reserved.

Like the figures in the Marx “Prehistoric Times” toy sets, the Linde animals  were modeled after paintings by Charles Knight and Rudolph Zallinger’s ‘Age of Reptiles’ mural  now housed  at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The 110-foot-long and 16-foot-high painting chronicles the evolutionary history of the planet from 362 million years ago (the Devonian Period) to 65 million years ago (the Cretaceous). First engaged when he was a Yale Fine Arts student, Zallinger took more than 4 1/2 years to complete the project. The mural represents the best available scientific knowledge of the 1940s, and won Zallinger the 1949 Pulitzer Award for Painting.

Total of 8 Dinosaur Figures:

Tyrannosaurus – Linde

Linde T-Rex

Stegosaurus – Linde

Linde Coffee Stegosaurus 1950s

Triceratops – Linde

Line Coffee Triceratops 1950s

Ankylosaurus – Linde

Line Coffee Ankylosaurus 1950s

Dimetrodon – Linde

Line Coffee Dimetrodon 1950s

Brontosaurus – Linde

Line Coffee Brontosaurus 1950s

Spenacodon – Linde

Linde Coffee Spenecodon 1950s

Images courtesy of Dinotoyblog

Rhamphorhynchus is the rarest and most sought after Linde figure

Line Coffee Rhamphorhynchus 1950s

image courtesy of Copper Collection

A complete set of 8 recently sold on eBay for $80

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Dinosaur Collectible Resources:

Guide to Identifying and Selling Dinosaur Toys on eBay

Dinosaur Toys Collectors Guide

Jurassic Park Action Figures

I highly recommend these books, both of which are in my reference library and were referenced in writing this article:

Dinosaurs by the Decades; (2014) Randy Moore

Dinosaur Collectibles; (1999) Cain & Fredericks