We always love it when someone in our vibrant community of collectors turns their passions into collectibles. Such is the case with CQ user Dinosauriana, self-described as “one of the few, true experts” on dinosaurs and their associated collectibles, and maintainer of Dinosauriana.com.
So, what does a dino-scholar do? Well, write a book. Behold : The Visual Guide to Scale Model Dinosaurs, coming out in November 2012.
The book is a document of nearly every resin, bronze, and vinyl model made in the last 40 years of not only dinosaurs but other prehistoric animals. These are the high-end, museum-quality, artistic pieces that are more accurate and realistic than any number of plastic toys which have nearly destroyed the true image of dinosaurs.It catalogs around 300 artists/studios, listing all their works with size, scale or year of release. There are 1000 color photos. Special features include a sculpting how-to by a well-known artist, an artist roundtable discussion, collector commentary and an index whereby you can look up a particular dinosaur and see what artist or company has offered it.
We decided to ask the author a few more questions about his upcoming work.
CQ: Where does your interest in collecting and cataloging dinosaurs come from? Where did you get your start?
Dinosauriana: While working on another collectors guide (to be titled Dinosauriana) with fellow collectors that focused on innocently inaccurate figural and toy dinosaurs (which I long stopped collecting before the 1990s), I realized no one had fully catalogued all the resin and vinyl kits, or even bronzes. I first came up with a list of all the models and makers I knew about, consulted with other collectors, and then started reaching out to the artists themselves. Over two hundred entities had been catalogued by the end of it.
CQ: You state that this book is about ‘high end’ dinosaur models. What’s the dividing line between a ‘toy’ and a ‘model’ which you’ve defined for this book?
D: Makers of high end dinosaur models try hard not to compromise accuracy. Toys always compromise accuracy for balance or “play value”. Companies that specialize in toys usually hire guys who don’t know dinosaur physiology; I’d wager they almost prefer artists who never made a dinosaur before! Sometimes they consult outdated reference books just because the paintings look decent to them. They hire these guys and want the models finished yesterday, leaving them hardly any room to research. Makers of the models in this book take their time – however long it takes to make a model accurate. They are so good they should be hired by said toy companies but the manufacturers just don’t care, or they’re too cheap, etcetera. (I get into some of this in the history section of the guide.) Easiest way to make my point is put a handmade, museum-quality lion sculpture next to a PVC lion toy made in China and you’d see quite the difference. The same is true of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.
CQ: How do you go about making sure that you’ve captured every possible dinosaur model ever created? What’s that process like?
D:My book’s scope is the last forty years because that is when paleontologists began to truly understand what dinosaurs really looked like. In my guide, every depiction before this post-1970s “modern” look is categorized as “retro”. Everything fantastic or cinematic – including 1990s to present movies – is in the “fictional” section. I think there will be omissions mainly because there are new artists popping up in some corner of the world every day and posting pictures of their work. But every model I have ever heard of or ever seen – every model that ever went on sale in publications that collectors subscribed to – is in this guide. I promise there will be unfamiliar pieces or names of artists unrecognized by veteran collectors, some of whom contributed photos and/or comments to the book. That is part of the fun.
CQ: You mention that dinosaur toys have “destroyed the true image of dinosaurs”. While toys aren’t always accurate, do you think that it’s equally important to promote interest in dinosaurs and paleontology by making these things appealing to children? Some of science and technology’s greatest revelations began with fantasy.
D: Why shouldn’t dinosaurs be presented as they really are? The revelations don’t need to be enhanced at this point. This is the 21st century, not the 1950s where companies were sticking shark teeth in herbivorous dinosaurs because it made them more menacing. Toy companies – particularly in the US and Europe – don’t know the difference or don’t know what scale really means. They’re stuck with molds that are decades old. They watch each other instead of watching the science. They rely on paleontologists who are relying on other more accomplished workers (people we in the paleo industry have heard of). In some cases, the potential for accuracy was there decades ago but these companies didn’t ask the right people in the biz. Now, many are trying to catch up with annual revisions of this or that model.
CQ: What do you hope that this book accomplishes, in the grand scheme of dinosaur collecting?
D: This work exists because I personally had a use for it and a resource was not yet available. It will serve primarily as a companion to the forthcoming Dinosauriana project. I do hope someone is able to generate some business off their artistry as seen in the book. It can’t hurt sales. I hope that people use this book to check off the models they want, or to research who made any unidentified pieces they somehow acquired. You can see at a glance in the index just how many studios have done your favorite prehistoric animal.
Some may be inspired by, or better appreciate at least, the process of sculpting which is outlined in the book too by one of the all-star sculptors in the industry. Dinosaur models are often confused with the commonly-seen toys which have a kitschy collector niche, which is unfortunate because they are still considered very childish, unlike other high end scale models such as trains and cars. There are more of the toys around. But the kits, pre-painted models and bronzes are always less common and always special.