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Dinosaur Toy History
On this page read our pocket guide to the history of dinosaur toys.

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Dinosaur Toy History

Whilst the earliest dinosaur toy dates from as recently as the 1950's the first dinosaur fossils were discovered and catalogued in the nineteenth century. The dinosaurs themselves roamed the earth some 250 million years ago.

Spinosaurus Dinosaur Toy Figure

Scientists call the age of the dinosaurs the Mesozoic Era. This time is divided into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The first dinosaurs evolved in the Triassic period. Plant eaters characterize the Jurassic period. The greatest variety of dinosaurs was found in the Cretaceous period.

The rise of toy dinosaurs has coincided with what modern social commentators refer to as The Consumer Age.

Possibly the very first plastic toy dinosaurs of this age were made by Marx Toys. The acclaimed American toy company released several assortments of dinosaur figures from 1955 onwards.

Vintage Marx Dinosaur Figures
Vintage Louis Marx & Co Dinosaurs

The Marx toys were available in three sizes though all lacked detail and, lacking paint application, came only in a variety of single colours as molded in the factory. These days, despite their lack of sophistication by modern standards, Marx toy dinosaurs are increasingly hunted down and bagged by collectors.

In the mid-70's UK company Invicta Plastics released a set of over 20 dinosaur figures. These toys, made in Leicester, were sold largely in museums.

From the 1980's until the present day dinosaur toys have become much more popular and in response a new range of toy companies began releasing their own collections. Companies such as Safari Ltd, Battat, Bullyland, Imperial and Tyco all released herds of dinosaur toys long since extinct at retail.

Jurassic Park Dinosaur Toy by Kenner

The big evolutionary leap forward in toy design came with the release of legendary US toy designer Kenner's Jurassic Park range, timed to coincide with the iconic movie. Made in a larger scale than their predecessors, some of these figures were hand painted, had 'realistic' skin and had amazing new features like the removable 'dino damage' panels.

In the twenty first century dinosaur toys have evolved into the sophisticated hand-painted and accurately sculpted figures we see today released by European toy companies Papo and Schleich. The texture and quality of finish of today's dinosaurs is something early collectors back in the 50's could only dream about.

Electronic Pleo Dinosaur Toy

Nowadays, modern toy dinosaurs increasingly rely on electronics and robotics for their retail survival. We see this in toys such as the Pleo dinosaur toy, RC Kota and in Teksta T-Rex. Remote control dinosaurs have become the big ticket items that parents and grandparents love to give as gifts. And yet still, it is to the small plastic figures that children return again and again for hours of unstructured imaginative play.

Nobody really knows why the dinosaurs died out but what can be said with confidence is that the dinosaur toy, though its history is relatively brief, will happily not become extinct but carry on evolving for many many years to come.

Ankylosaurus Toy by Papo