The history of odzilla inyl oys
John Rocco Roberto
Kaiju collecting can quickly become a very expensive as well as addicting hobby. Since the 1960s the kaiju collector has had an increasing number of items to spend their hard earned cash on, and for many a fan, the most enjoyable part of enjoying a collection is search for that rare poster, lobby,collectable coin, card, tin toy, etc. Strangely enough, the very first Godzilla collectiblewas not even produced in Japan, but was the America model kit made by Aurora. For many a fan however, the most popular sought after collectible is not that rare poster, CD or model kit. For most fans, the most popular and widely collected Godzilla items are the vinyl Godzilla toys which have remained popular for over 30 years.
The first wave of these toys appeared in the mid-1960s, and was produced by the Marusan Company. Although not very accurate (the Godzilla figure was based on the Aurora model kit with very small back plates), they did provide a cheap way for the kaiju enthusiast to mass a collection. Marusan produced in all eight of the Toho creatures sometimes re-issuing figures with different paint schemes. Current prices for the range, in good condition, can be from $200 – $1000.1966
Giant Gorilla (King Kong)
In the 1970s the Marusan Company was bought by the Bullmark Toy Company, and they continued in Marusan’s tradition of producing Godzilla vinyl figures. In addition to re-releasing all but one of the original Marusan figures (the Giant Gorilla, a.k.a. King Kong, was removed from the line), Bullmark released several new figures of other Toho monsters. They also issued several versions of their most popular figures with different paint schemes, including six different versions of Godzilla and five different versions of King Ghidorah. Bullmark figures, again in good condition, range from $250-500. Very rare figures, like the pink Hedorah figure, have been known to sell for as much as $1500.00.
In the late 70s the Popy Toy Company released their own line of Godzilla vinyl’s including an “attacking” Godzilla figure as well as four differently sized Godzillas. Unfortunately the quality of the detailing was worst than the Marusan/Bullmark line, the figures looking almost “super-deformed.” Prices for the Popy line run from $30 – $175.
Giant Red Godzilla
In 1983, just around the time Toho announced their plans to bring back the Godzilla series, two companies came onto the scene that would revolutionize the the vinyl Godzilla toy line forever. The first was the Yamakatsu Company, who produced very accurate figures depicting seven of Toho’s more popular monsters. As with their predecessors, they also released several different versions of their Godzilla figure. Prices for the Yamakatsu line run between $25 – $80.00. All figures were released in 1983.
By far the best producer of Godzilla figures to hit the market, the leading kaiju toy manufacturer in Japan began producing a line of Godzilla vinyl figures that has continued to this day. Relatively inexpensive (compared to model kits), these figures were highly detailed versions of almost all of the Toho monsters. Produced at first in an 8 inch line, the company down scaled their figures to 6 inches with their “Monster Island” releases. As with their predecessors, they have release several different “special additions” of there figures, as well as releasing figures from each of the current films in the series. At present they have release over 50 individual figures in the Godzilla line alone, as well as having released figures for both the popular Ultraman, as well as Gamera series. Prices for the Bandai figures vary widely, and can be as cheap as $25 or as expensive as $250 for a rare figure such as Baragon. This checklist below includes the toys in chronological order of their release date.
Large scale Godzilla 1964 (also available as a limited edition with a bronze paint scheme)
Large scale Ghidorah (limited edition)
Large scale Mothra larva
Large scale Godzilla 1964 (slightly smaller than the ’84 release)
Ghidorah 1991 (old body mold with new heads)
Large scale Godzilla 1991 (limited edition)
Mothra larva 1964
Mothra imago 1961
Mothra larva 1992
Mothra imago 1992 (with stand and Cosmos card)
Battra imago (with stand and Cosmos card)
Fire Rodan 1993
Godzilla 1993 (same mold as 1992 version, fins painted blue)
By the end of 1993 Bandai’s output of classic kaiju slowed down, and figures scheduled to be released, among them Gabara, Titanosaurus, Manda, and Kumonga (Spiega), were never produced. Bandai would now turn their focus on producing figures based on the characters in Yamato Takeru, as well as Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Destroyah, and Gamera The Guardian of the Universe. As a result, only one classic Toho figure was produced and released in 1994.
Battle God of Space (from Yamato Takeru
White Bird of the Galaxy (from Yamato Takeru
Sea God Muba (from Yamato Takeru
Molten God (from Yamato Takeru
Great Hydra of Yamata (from Yamato Takeru
Large Scale Godzilla 1994
Destroyah Final Form
Super Final Premium Godzilla
Large Scale Burning Godzilla
In 1995 Bandai changed over from hard plastic to a softer vinyl due to child safety concerns. They also released the “Godzilla Memorial Box” set. The set included reissues of 14 figures all given slightly different paint schemes. The only noticeable difference was in the Godzilla 1962 figure, which had it back fins replaced with ones that resembled those seen in the film. The next year Bandai released the “Godzilla Forever Set,” which included six previously released figures again all with different paint schemes.
Memorial Box Set
Godzilla (1962 style with new back fins)
Ghidrah (1964 style)
MechaGodzilla (1993 style)
Godzilla Forever Set
Godzilla 1962 (Memorial Box style)
Godzilla 1995 Meltdown version (black & red with clear sections)
Godzilla 1995 Final version (black with gold sparkles)
With the release of the Mothra series of films Bandai continued it’s trend to release figures based on the monsters from the current movies. The only exception to that was the release of figures for the second Mothra film, Rebirth of Mothra II, where they did not release an individual Dagahra figure (Dagahra was only available in a boxed set).
96 Mothra Larva
Cretaceous Mothra Larva
98 King Ghidorah
The return of the Godzilla series in 1999 saw Bandai return to producing large scale figures based on the monsters in the current film.
GMK King Ghidorah
Powered Up MechaGodzilla ’02
Beginning in 1998 and continuing through 2003, Bandai began re-releasing several of their previously released figures in the smaller 6 inch scale. The line also introduced several new versions of the figures, as well a several new figures, which had not seen release up until that point.
Monster Island Series
King Ghidorah (1991 style)
MechaGodzilla (1993 style)
Destroyah (Final form with extended wings)
Gigan (new mold)
Godzilla 1954 (first time release)
MechaGodzilla II (first time release)
Titanosaurus (first time release)
Godzilla 1974 (first time release)
1996 saw yet another toy manufacture jump on the Godzilla band wagon, as news of the (then) up coming TriStar film fueled the demand for more Godzilla products. Marmit, a small toy enterprise, produced very toyish versions of five of the Toho creatures, including four different versions of Godzilla. Once again they also released several of their figures as “exclusive” versions molded in clear blue, and in one case, clear green vinyl.
Of the American releases several different companies issued Godzilla figures throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. But most of these “vinyl” figures were, in reality, poorly made rubber dinosaurs with “Godzilla-like” fins glued onto their backs. Only two companies produced anything close to a decent set of figures, Horizon, who produced a 1994 version of Godzilla almost in scale with Bandai’s Large Scale Godzilla 1994, and of course Trendmasters, which produced a varying number of Godzilla figures (both old and new series) to coincide with the release of the TriStar film. These figures however, were not very accurate, and the line soon faded into oblivion (much like the TriStar film).
Special thanks to Robert Biondi.
Article © 2003 John Rocco Roberto/Visagraph Films International.