8/21/20

GODZILLA in America: the 1960's (part three)

Today we wrap up the entire decade of the 1960's, showing the last third of official American Godzilla items produced!

"King Kong" Trading Cards (Donruss, 1965) [continued]

Here are the five remaining cards from the Donruss King Kong series, which include #32, 33, 38, 39, and 42. As I pointed out last time, #32 doesn't even have Kong in sight, so that was a very interesting choice (as well as a pre-supplied lobby card promotional photo that took no additional effort, so draw your own conclusions). Like many other monster cards of the era, this series had the blight of "goofy captions," which were a silly product of the times. (Don't get me wrong: I'd trade now for then.)

"Monster Cards" Trading Cards (Rosan, 1965)

Almost an honorable mention, because Godzilla doesn't appear in this strange, "lo-fi" series, but Rodan does, so it's included here (this photo gives me GIANT CLAW flashbacks, though).  There was debate whether this cheap-feeling series was really official or not for some years.  While all trading cards were cheap to produce, they were not all equally licensed!

"Godzilla's Go Kart All Plastic Assembly Kit" (Aurora, 1966)

While the first Aurora kit is the symbol of American Godzilla merchandise, this, then, is the "holy grail."  Take everything I said about the rising values of the first Aurora kit, and quintuple it.  Now, roll a 20-sided die, and multiply everything by the number you get.  Take the nostalgia recipe I mentioned before, and stir in the mid-60's "hot rod" craze, and now you have a deadly potion that will stop the most steadfast collectors in their tracks! 

I'd like to say you may even ever see one of these in your life, but I doubt it.  In the last 20+ years of collecting, I have seen one empty box on Ebay (sold for over $1,000 in 2012 or so), and one completed model as in the photo above, but not nearly as well-painted (and I don't remember it selling? It would today!).  [Edit: a built-up and painted model with no box or instructions sold for $2025 on November 21, 2021.]

It was part of an entire series of "monster kart" kits (all equally ridiculous) that included Dracula, the Mummy, and King Kong, and if nothing else, it's an interesting early example of grouping Godzilla in with the American movie monster pantheon, which became a commonplace practice by the 1970's.  Over the years, the there has been a theory that Toho shut down production of this model, but that isn't true.  Still, it quickly disappeared.  In 2000, Polar Lights reissued the kit and removed Godzilla's name, and Toho did object to that one, so maybe this is where some of the confusion comes in.  The reissue has become an important placeholder for many collectors! [Edit, again:  In December 2021, Polar Lights again re-issued the kit, this time under its full name!]

Does it go without saying that, if you have one of these for sale, I'd like you to contact me, so I can complete my entire 1960's Godzilla decade? ...No? ...Anyone?

"Godzilla Bicycle License Plate" (Marx, 1967)


This embossed beauty is as equally rare as some of the above pieces that we've discussed, but doesn't quite command the Aurora-level prices like black market organs do.  Made by the great Louis Marx company (another name that ensures love--and resale values--among collectors), it's said that distribution on these were quite low, and that they were more common in the north, toward Canada.  The rest of the line included characters from Marvel, DC, Jay Ward, Disney, and....Soupy Sales (huh?), and you know what would have been on my bicycle.  But, luckily, this one wasn't, or it wouldn't have survived nearly so well.

"Godzilla All Plastic Assembly Kit: Glow in the Dark" (Aurora, 1969)



Oh no, we are ending the decade with another Aurora model kit! The first Aurora kit was wisely reissued in 1969, and was pretty much identical, only this time, a sprue of interchangeable glow-in-the-dark parts were included, allowing you to switch out Godzilla's head, hands, fins, tail, and nameplate.  Before you give this a 21st-Century "meh," imagine going to sleep as a tyke in that era, and when the lights went out, there was Godzilla, glowing monstrously at your bedside! Now, that is cool.

It's not pertinent to these articles to mention that this version of the kit was reissued in 1972, but it is important to point out that the boxes are slightly different.  The 1969 kit comes in a "hard box," while the 1972 comes in a thinner one.  None of this helps you if you can't handle the item, or see enough of it (such as in an auction photo, or behind glass), so consult this post for the differences all the way around the two boxes.

Lastly, it probably goes without saying, but of the two glowing reissues, the 1969 kit is the more desirable.  While all vintage Godzilla kits are obviously valuable, the 1969 one is the one you want to track down, like yesterday.


We hope this journey through the 1960's has been educational.  I know that it was eye-opening to me, proving that although it was a comparatively small output, it was more than "a handful." (Maybe a small table-full.) There were a couple of unauthorized items I debated throwing in, but I wanted to keep the list as official as possible (besides, they are elsewhere on this blog).  The 1970's was when U.S. Godzilla merchandising really exploded--and,  come to think of it--when all merchandising really exploded.  That would be a long but interesting series of posts...the problem being, new stuff is still occasionally being discovered!



8/20/20

GODZILLA in America: the 1960's (part two)

Continuing from where we left off last time (which was 1963), things are about to get a lot more three-dimensional.

GODZILLA GAME (Ideal, 1963)

With regard to officially entering the American market, you could hardly have a more stunning official first item for your franchise than this game.  The beautiful and captivating artwork draws the purchaser right in, and has ensured that the game has continued to hold a high ranking among more than one type of collector for all these years.  There is a two-edged sword involved with "crossover" type items though--as we are about to illustrate with the next item in our list--in this particular case, both board game and Godzilla collectors want it, and the price for a nice specimen has continued to rise! While the game is pretty rare, especially in great shape, it is out there if you are searching, so don't give up.  

Godzilla - All-Plastic Assembly Kit (Aurora, 1964)

And speaking of continuously inflating prices, the Aurora Godzilla kit may as well be the symbolic figurehead of American Godzilla items.  This item is the perfect conflation of the era in which it appeared:  the explosion in popularity of model kits,  the beginnings of Godzilla as an icon (when movie monsters were at an all-time high), even the Baby Boomer do-it-yourself mentality comes into play here.  All of these things add up to a recipe for instant nostalgia, and in short, everybody wants this model kit.  It was mentioned above that items being desired by more than one type of collector drive up prices--and, for the record, vintage model collectors are voracious.  This kit has continued to shoot up in past years, with no signs of stopping. If you don't have it, get it quickly.  By the time the sting wears off from the price you paid, it will have gone up so much, you'll feel quite justified!

Rodan the Flying Monster (Ken Films #229 & #529, 1964-65)

And now, we move to the first Toho film that you could see in your own house! Another type of item that builds up a powerful nostalgia among collectors are the early 8mm (and later, Super 8) films that were sold to the public.  Ken Films was an early home movie company that wisely forged licensing deals with major studios, and as a result, played their part in the birth of home video.  For more than 15 years, they released an astounding amount of product (and for our purposes here, all of the Godzilla-related reels in America), eventually acquiring STAR WARS and lasting into the early 1980's.  Their first Toho film was RODAN, which came out in 1964.  
A future article will discuss this further, but it's important to point out that Ken Films were available in two lengths:  50-foot reels, lasting around 3&1/2 minutes, and 200-foot reels, lasting about 14 minutes.  From a front view (such as in a photo from an Internet auction, for example), if you have no other items to compare for scale, the box art alone will not tell you which reel you are seeing, unless you can see the item number on its spine.  The 50-foot reels' numbers always started with the digit 5, and the 200-foot reels always started with a 2.

These early Ken Films were all black and white, as well as silent (subtitles were added to the films to keep the story going).  You might think that the arrival of color and sound created more and more variants of each film, but this is not exactly the case (the above-referenced future article will detail exactly what Godzilla/Toho reels were produced).  In the case of RODAN, what did add another pair to the list was the arrival of Super 8.  The Super 8 format was invented in 1965, and quickly became the go-to format for amateur film-makers and home aficionados.  Ken Films was quick to add this format to its catalogs.  

If you are keeping track, that makes a total of four RODAN releases by Ken Films; two 8mm sizes and two Super 8.

Varan the Unbelievable (Ken Films #236 & #536, 1965)

The very next year after RODAN was brought into collectors' homes, Ken Films released VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE, in black and white and silent with subtitles.  As above, there are also four different releases in all; two 8mm sizes and two Super 8.  

"King Kong" Trading Cards (Donruss, 1965)

We return to trading cards once again:  Donruss' King Kong set from 1965 included 11 images from KING KONG vs. GODZILLA, scattered throughout the set.  Honestly, they didn't have to include Godzilla six times (one Godzilla card doesn't even have Kong in it!), but they did, which was fortuitous on their part.  Here are the first six of those cards:  #3, 17, 19, 21, 20, and 31.  We will begin Part 3 next time with the remainder! 

8/19/20

GODZILLA in America: the 1960's (part one)

I've been planning this series of posts for months, and it all started from the offhand thought, "Man, there weren't too many American Godzilla items in the 1960's...you could count them on one hand!"  This isn't exactly true, but it's not too terribly far off, as we will see.  


"Horror Monsters" Trading Cards (Nu-Card, Green series, 1961)

As it turns out, the very first retail Godzilla items you could walk into a store and buy were trading cards...but since they were based on GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER, they called him by that name, so therefore the 1963 Ideal board game still holds the undefeated title of "very first American Godzilla retail item." You could also throw the word licensed in there too, because who knows if Toho really had anything to do with these cards getting printed: wouldn't it have been Warner Bros., anyhow, in this case?  Also, since trading cards come in packs, you wouldn't exactly know which cards you were getting. The green Nu-Card series was also sold in packs of 2-panel cards you could separate.  I've yet to see an unopened example, but assuming those panels were sold on carded blister packs, a buyer could know what they were getting in that case!

But I digress. Rodan also gets a cool card in this green series, so I'm including it here.

"Horror Monsters" Trading Cards (Nu-Card, Orange series, 1961)

Continuing from the green set, the orange set contains no Godzilla (or Gigantis).  The only of Godzilla's buddies who showed up was Rodan, in a single card.  (For Toho Completeness' sake, I should mention that the orange series also included one MYSTERIANS card, #74, and one card for THE H-MAN, which is #110.)

"Terror Monsters" Trading Cards (Rosan, Purple series, 1963)

Some time passed, and the dearth of Godzilla merchandise was about to soon slowly reverse, as KING KONG vs. GODZILLA hit theaters the summer of 1963, and Godzilla became a household name.  The "Terror Monsters" set of purple-bordered trading cards featured Gigantis once again, but only credited him as "The Fire Monster," oddly crediting the image to American International Pictures. Rodan got two cards in this series, with one also being oddly credited to AI.

"Spook Stories" Trading Cards (Leaf, 1963)

KING KONG vs. GODZILLA did feature in one of the next series of trading cards that came out, the much-beloved "Spook Stories" from Leaf. On the back, the cards give "1961" as a date, but as you can guess, that's incorrect for the ones we are looking at.  The KK vs. G cards are later ones in the series, anyhow (#108, 113, and 126), so it may have taken a couple of years for the series to expand to those numbers, which explains the date.

In part 2, we will look at the first honest-to-goodness real American Godzilla toy, model madness, and more trading cards!

8/16/20

GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER Notebook! (Toho, 1964/2012)

 A short post, but a very good one, in that I'm sharing this amazing artwork.  This is the cover of a notebook I recently purchased, and it has copyright dates of 1964/2012.  (This leads me to believe that the artwork was originally published at the time of GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER.) I'd love to make a T-shirt of this great piece! I can't stop looking at it and finding new things to enjoy.