Today, dinosaurs have become a permanent fixture in our pop culture, from toys to multi-million blockbuster movies, dinosaur seems to be everywhere. But there was a time when dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals were confined to the sterile walls of museums, a scientific curiosity that were outside of the mainstream. With the staggering and often overwhelming toy and models choices we now have, it’s hard to imagine a time when dinosaur and other prehistoric animals toys were so rare or almost non existent.
The emergence of Marx figures in the 1960’s would change all that and would pave the way for a slow but steady rise of prehistoric animals toy models. Early brands such as Starlux, Nabisco, and even the famed Invicta benefited from the pioneering works of the Marx company. And today’s overwhelming choices of brand, from Safari to PNSO ,continue to travel the same well-worn path that was paved by the early Marx models.
But travel back even further in time to the 1940’s, there really wasn’t anything close to these toys that were available to the masses. Kids of all ages were often left just flipping through pages of magazines for the occasional black and white photos of dinosaur and other extinct animals from far away locations. In the 1940’s and 50’s the closest there was to dinosaur toy models were a curious set of metal/bronze figures released by a New Yorker-based company known as Sell Rite Giftware or SRG, known mostly as producer of giftwares. These bronze metal models were mostly sold, but not exclusively, in museum gift shops.
There were 13 different animals total that ranged from dinosaurs, pterosaurs, mammals, and fish. With the exception of the lone fish, each of the models came in two sizes: small and large . The two sizes, although very similar, have slight difference since they are sculpted separately. The animals were a mixture of well know as well as obscure. Of the famous ones there is Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Pteranodon, and at that time the Hadrosaur, and of course Tyrannosaurus. Two marine reptiles join the group, a Pleasiosaur, and Mosasaur, followed by a pair of cave people(male and female), and a mammoth. Followed by a Dimetrodon, and the most surprising of the them all the giant fish Dunkleosteus (labeled as Dinichtys).
Today we will take a look at the most famous of them all, Tyrannosaurus rex. It’s mandatory for any company, past and present, to release a model of this iconic dinosaur and it remains the bread and butter that helps fuel the business even in today’s high-tech world. This popularity has made tyrannosaurus a permanent fixture in our pop culture and industry and warranted multiple incarnations to the point of saturating the market in an unprecedented way with very little sign of fatigue from its regions of adoring fans and avid collectors worldwide. In short, Tyrannosaurus rex is a genuine and fully cemented its status as a worldwide phenomenon!
SRG’s Tyrannosaurus represents a time when models of prehistoric animals were rare and a real privilege to own for those lucky enough to afford them. It mirrored how the animal was depicted at that time and reflected what was know then. With that in mind, we can’t hold it under today’s lenses when it comes to accuracies. Instead, I want to focus more on what makes this figure (and all the others in the collection) significant in terms of historical values.
Standings 3” inches tall and 5” inches long, this is the smaller version from the small set. As small as it is, it weighs a lot due to the material used. In researching this brand’s history, I did’t come up with a real clear information as to what really is the metal used. It is common to hear that the model is made of bronze. This is true and you can appreciate it by the color as well as the beautiful green patina (a chemical reaction of the copper in the bronze) we often see and associated with bronze.
Another commonly seen information about the material says it’s made of lead metal. The truth in my opinion is both. I say this because my model has some missing or scrapes on it that uncover a silver metal underneath the bronze. It could very well be that a lead metal is used (much cheaper) then a thin coating of bronze is applied over it to give it the distinctive look we have come to associate with this models. The thin coating also help explain why there are chips missing and silver metal seen underneath on many of these models after all several decades of existence. If anyone of you readers know, please leave a comment below.
Perhaps the most common and natural reaction upon seeing this model for the very first time is to giggle at just how goofy looking and full of character it is. As if showing off it’s pearly white, the mouth is open slightly in what looks like a toothy grin! You can see how the teeth are sculpted inside the mouth and they surprisingly show good shape and sharpness. The whole outline of the mouth , including some lines, help to emphasize a smile-like look that is comical. The head is narrow with the nostrils placed on the tip of the snout.
At the top of the head sits the eyes bulging out on the sides looking more like that of a frog than a scary beast! Although made in a very stylized way with minimal details, you can see the attempt to give it some texture like skin folds on the cheek and the back of the neck. The eyes is an indentation with a smaller raised circle in the middle. Overall, the whole head fits very well with the popular depiction of tyrannosaurus during that time.
As you move down the body, you will immediately notice that the hands are huge and… has three fingers! Obviously, this is not correct as we all know, the additions of a third digit was probably done to make it look more “normal “ and was more visually appealing and you can see why. The arms are held wide and open as if the model is about to give you a big bear hug or an invitation to give it one. This arms and hand pose, as well as the facial expression combined to make this the most expressive and adorable of the lot, none of the other figures in the series exudes as much character and personality.
The rest of the body pretty much follows your typical theropod shape. As you would expect, the feet of course are oversized, but it is how the entire legs positioned , so far apart on the side of the body that I found rather amusing… you can easily insert whatever joke you want or even a meme, haha! And honestly, the legs look more like a human’s which make the “squatting “ pose even more hilarious.
The tail curves down and forms the tripod, tail-dragging pose typical of theropods figures… which of course reflected how dinosaurs were often depicted way back then: clumsy tail-dragging, overgrown lizards.On the body you will see that the artist attempted to give muscle definition as simple as these were. You can see these on the legs and the neck/throat area. And on the body you see some scales covering the dorsal side that are rather nice and they even comes in various sizes and shapes!
This SGR tyrannosaurus figure is so full of character that you can’t help but to really fall for its endearing charm. Seriously, it reminds me a lot of a ducklings as they follow you around with their short stubby wings outstretched. It’s these endearing qualities that makes this figure so special and different from the rest of SRG’s set.
Given the age of these figures and historical value and significance, it’s a nice and humbling reminder of just how far we have truly come in not just our understanding of dinosaurs, but on how they are depicted in our popular culture. And as a collector, I find these figures worthy of acquiring and dedicating some space (this little guy sits on my bedside table). These figures are long out of production, so the prices nowadays are pretty high and variable. If you are lucky, you may come across them in antique shops or more common source the online marker Ebay.
As I was finishing up writing this review, I glanced down on this odd little figure that seems to be begging to be picked up. Holding it in my hands, looking at it, I couldn’t help but wonder what was it’s previous journey like before making it to my home. How many owners before me must have come and gone, owners that held, admired, treasured, and even loved this very same figure I now hold in my hands long before I was even born. What a journey that must have been. And I also could’t help but wonder, who it would belong to once I’m long gone for surely it has survived decades, passing on from one owner to another long before my existence, there is no doubt that its journey would continue well beyond its stay with me how ever long that may be.
In closing, figure such as this little guy, are often dismissed due to their age. Doing so would be missing out on an important part of the history, not just of our hobby, but that of how these prehistoric animals have been depicted and evolved throughout the decades. Like many so called “vintage “ models, this and other like it from a time so long ago, are time capsules that immortalized what was then the norm. So instead of harshly putting models such as this little one under todays harsh microscope and making fun of them, it would be an indulgence to simply just enjoy them for what they are: relics of a simpler and less complicated time. With that, we end our review. Hope you enjoyed reading it and thank you. Until the next one, stay safe and healthy. Cheers!