How do you describe your collection?
The adventure started trying to find the toys related to the 1987 Dinosaucers television series. My collection is more than toys now, but toys were all I knew at the start. Now it’s anything related to the Dinosaucers brand. There’s such a small pool of items available to collect because the series aired for only one season.
I have pre-production items from 1985, toys based on the television series, show reels, conceptual artwork, storyboards, promotional materials, scripts, VHS tapes, enamel pins, puzzles, stickers, board games, children’s hardcover comics, activity books, patches, press giveaways, and trade paperbacks. The window between 1985 to 1994 is when most merchandise was produced.
Pre-production of the series began in 1985 with Coca-Cola Telecommunications. In 1986, toy negotiations with Hasbro started but eventually fell through. Galoob came into the picture around late 1986 / early 1987. From there, the toys went into development. Unless you have a toy line ready to market when a show premieres, it’s going to be a rocky start because there isn’t merchandise to support the show. Galoob was just starting tooling of the figures in late 1987 when the first season had already run its course. The toys were shown at Toy Fair in 1988. At that point, Coca-Cola Telecommunications folded all its projects in development into Columbia Pictures. Dinosaucers went into syndication, including internationally.
A company called Glasslite, which worked with companies such as Kenner, partnered with Galoob in 1989 to be their manufacturing distributor in Brazil. Galoob was really the first in terms of planning for the Dinosaucers toy line. When the show got cancelled after the first season, there was a partnership between Glasslite and Galoob for Glasslite to continue the toys because there was more popularity in Brazil to support the show.
When and why did you start your collection?
I’m the only boy of four siblings and I’m the youngest so I didn’t really have a sibling to play with. We lived on a busy street that didn’t have neighbourhood feel. There weren’t kids that would play or even kids to play. One summer, a neighbour who was divorced had his kids stay with him. He had a son my age. Having someone in my neighbourhood who was my age was unique to me. We would get together for sleepovers and play video games and whatever else. One evening that summer we watched a recording of The Land Before Time and Dinosaucers back-to-back and just continued to watch Dinosaucers together for the entire summer. Unlike other television shows at that time, there wasn’t a toy line. I had toys for the other things that I loved, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters. I wondered, Why can’t I have Dinosaucers toys? It was an itch that I couldn’t scratch.
The airtimes for the show weren’t the best, at least in my area. It was on before school at 6:30 am or 7:00 am, so none of my friends watched it and I couldn’t talk with them about it. Plus, there were no toys. It was obscure but it just kind of stuck with me into adulthood. The collecting gene stuck with me, too. I was always collecting something.
In the 2000s, I finally acquired something Dinosaucers. There was a website put up by a collector and reseller who had acquired all the prototypes from a former Galoob employee. That’s pretty much how everybody found out about the toys. At that time, they sold for about $200 — that was a lot of money for me in my mid-teens. Now they can fetch $2000 or more per prototype. Then some animation cells started to appear on eBay, and that was that — I was finally able to get things from the show. In the beginning, I kept count of how many items I had, but I don’t have an exact count — it’s just over 1,000 individual items. It depends on how you count it — individual items versus packs.
You’ve really got to dig and talk to people. The people that I got to meet along the way and still talk to – you can’t put a price on that experience. I started to reach out to some of the voice actors from the show. Dan Hennessey voiced two of the characters. John Stocker worked on the show. They’re Toronto-based talent. They worked on so much from that era such as Raccoons and Care Bears. I was eventually able to contact Dan Hennessey – he was tough to find. But in speaking with him, he still had his crew jacket. After talking for about nine months, he eventually sold it to me. It was always great communication and fun. That’s definitely a treasured piece.
My Instagram page is primarily devoted to Dinosaucers but a lot of my posts are devoted to my work continuing the toy line. I want to give a picture of what the toy line could have been. I do 3D sculpting, 3D modelling, painting, and finishing all sorts of stuff. It’s done for my love and passion for the show.
It all spawned from the childhood idea of this is mine — nobody else knew about Dinosaucers or at least, no one talked about it. I felt some ownership. Once I started finding Dinosaucers objects, the rabbit holes appeared. To my knowledge, there’s nobody else actively collecting and documenting Dinosaucers to the extent that I am. It’s tough to find collectors of the line and that’s in part because it’s so hard to find anything from the show.
How do you display and store your collection?
I’m an advocate for displaying a collection. I hate seeing anything tucked away because I don’t have room for it on display. In the last few months, I’ve built a custom case to expand where I can put things — anything three dimensional like board games, so they can be laid out and you can actually see the artwork. All the VHS tapes are together, the same with the books and puzzles. I have the animation cells, advertisements, and production materials mounted and on the walls. It’s so visually appealing yet there’s only so much wall space. Some of the original artwork is in archival portfolios that are lined up so that I can flip through them and pull out what I want.
I’ve whittled down my collection of larger toy lines, such as Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Masters of the Universe, but they’re peppered throughout my space. I’d love to have dioramas for all the toy lines in my collection. I’m hoping that, within the next year and a half, I will be able to create some colourful dioramas for all the figures.
I really enjoy when friends come over and see the toy lines they grew up with but then there’s half of the room devoted to Dinosaucers and nobody has heard of or seen them before. It’s just so unique. If my wife would let me have the entire basement, it would be all dioramas. When my wife and I met, she thought I was cute because I collected toys. She’s not a collector. Geek culture didn’t really become popular until maybe the last decade and a half. She supports my addiction but, if I ask for more space, well that’s where the support stops. I obviously enjoy it all. I have an area where my desk sits in the middle and I have the display cases all around the room. It keeps me motivated. As a creative person, I like having the things I enjoy in close proximity.
What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of your collection?
With Dinosaucers, I know that there are things that exist that I don’t have because they are unattainable. I don’t know that I would pick just one. For example, I have three of the prototypes that Galoob did but I don’t have a complete set. There are complete sets that I am aware of, it’s just that they aren’t for sale. If I could complete a set of Galoob prototypes, that would probably be a Holy Grail. I know the original concept art exists. I’ve seen it in photographs, but to have an actual piece of original concept art where the idea was conceived would also be wonderful. A big-ticket item would be the full Galoob line — whether a complete set of large or small figures or playsets. Those are scarce.
Many times I’ve thought about what I would grab if my house is on fire. There’s a window in that room, so I would bust that open and just start tossing stuff out. From the unreleased Galoob toy line, I have an original painted test shot and painted hard copies. Galoob made it to the point of where there were full sets made of painted hard copies, and I have three of those individual pieces. In the next stage of toy production, they actually made the steel molds and the tooling began. Galoob did start that process but there’s only one known painted test shot that exists, and I have it.
There are other little things that aren’t necessarily of high monetary value, but they are valuable because of the ownership I feel for the show and the fact that the items are so hard to find. It’s the adventure that gives them greater value. I’ve met so many people and made so many connections. Some of the items I have came from show creator, Michael Uslan, himself. Those have incredible meaning for me.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a Dinosaucers collection?
You need persistence and deep pockets.
I had to stop collecting everything else in order to collect Dinosaucers. I would say that 90 per cent of whatever I have found from the show, I have found once. It may never be available again. Items of high value come with a hefty price tag because you have extreme fans like myself, but also diehard collectors that like toy history.
The series has become such a unicorn in the toy universe because of how far along the production of the toy line got before it was scrapped. When you’re collecting these obscure toys and brands, you really have to devote yourself. I’m online looking for stuff two to five times a day. There are certain sources I check multiple times a day. It’s like having your fishing spots on a lake — some are just sweet and you know you have a good chance of catching something. To this extent, collecting is actual work. It’s enjoyable work but work nonetheless. Some days, I haven’t checked for things and I’ve missed stuff. Life goes on, but I have a completist mentality — it’s probably a sickness.
It would be tough to make it a Dinosaucers collection overnight.
Visit Instagram to see more of Hans’ collection and custom work.
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