Toys are a remarkable tool to seeing where we came from. It's not obvious, but the current toy landscape has evolved quickly form a primordial ooze just which started just before World War II - unpainted plastic toy soldiers were sort of the beginning of where we are all now. Things like paint and articulation weren't the most important thing - companies like Louis Marx Toys put out small, often unpainted creatures and men like this Trachodon for just a few cents. Some store displays encouraged kids to paint the toys, which was a great way to help with fine motor skills and, of course, keep costs down. Model kits were also very popular, but one shouldn't discount this very popular and collected line of plastic dinosaurs of varying sizes. They were kept in production, tweaked, and knocked-off like you wouldn't believe. Imperial Toy sells downsized copies of some of them to this very day in grocery stores in garish paint schemes on cheap packaging, and other companies have copied them for ages.
This particular specimen has no manufacturer or copyright, but the word "TRACHODON" is sculpted in his tail (see below) with "30' LONG" on the other side. He's about 5-inches long from tail to nose, and roughly 3-inches tall, making it more or less a 1:72 scale replica.
Given its age, the detail is a little soft - it's important to note that in this era, things like packaging were often a cheap cardboard box or a bag with a tag on it. I don't even know how this one came packaged - it belonged to my dad, and wound up in my toy box and being one of my dad's toys I held on to it. What's also fascinating is that science may have rendered this toy irrelevant in many ways - now the school of thought is that dinosaurs didn't drag their tailes, may have had feathers, and in the case of the Trachodon may not have been particularly accurate back in the day, and as a species name it seems to have fallen out of favor for other billed dinosaurs. What we have here was a replica of an ancient creature, which now serves as a physical manifestation for now-incorrect scientific finds from the 20th century.
The sculpted detail isn't scaley, but it does seem something like a plucked chicken. Bumps and indentations, simplified eyes, a simple mouth, and back in the day this was pretty decent stuff. He has no problems standing and is, for all intents and purposes, the dinosaur equivalent of green army men... but taller. I assume most dinosaur sculptors would be disgusted or ashamed to put out anything this simple, but it's my understanding these were spectacularly cheap toys. I'm willing to trade detail for cost if the cost is low enough, and these were supposedly just pennies.
The quality of the plastic is good - consider this toy was played with by at least two generations of kids, stored in a big box of toys with zero thought of preservation and safety, and there's not a single stress mark or breakage point on it. The plastic feels very light and hard, with a little give in the tail. It isn't oily or smelly, and there's a reason this kind of toy is still made for kids cheaply. It just works - the modern action figure collector doesn't seem to want these and it's sort of understandable. We've seen some real wonders come out of ReSaurus and Kenner's Jurassic Park lines, and older fans want amazing deco and spectacular sculpting. Hasbro put out some stunning dinosaurs a few years ago with action features and astonishing sculpting, but they were also close to $30. There are trade-offs.
The production was cheap and if made today these could be cheap still - but it's also primitive. Mego's figures in the 1970s and Kenner's figures of the 1980s especially changed the perception of what a toy should be, with Tyco's Dino-Riders really changing how collectors viewed a toy dinosaur as time went on. This figure can be bought on eBay for $1 or so - not bad, given it is over 50 years old - and you'll probably run into them at thrift stores and garage sales. I am kind of saddened to think that kids can't get a toy for a few cents now of decent quality, but such is progress. You can get a 6-inch Star Wars guy for $20 with a ton of articulation, but the $3 LEGO set is long dead and heaven help you if you want an action figure for $4.99 or less. Imperial seems to be carrying the torch for cheap stuff, while rumors swirl that Tim Mee may be doing something like this again real soon for their old dinosaurs. One can but hope...
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