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Figures vs. Models

Dan's Dinosaurs features a wide variety of products. Many of these have been classified into the two major divisions: Figures and Models. What is the difference between these two?

Please note some of the definitions used here may differ from the definitions used by others. When consulting outside sources of information, it is important to consider all aspects of the piece in question to determine which (or if) it can be suitably categorized according to the system described here.


Figures are typically mass produced. This means a substantial company (or investment) has allowed a factory or similar manufacturing facility to produce a sizeable quantity of these items in a short period of time. The Industrial Revolution has made the advantages of such manufacturing clear: producing items on a huge scale allows more units to be sold, increases profits, and allows individual units to be sold a lower price.

For the modern paleontology enthusiast, this has allowed an astonishing range of benefits. Throughout the 1980's, many plastic prehistoric models were available on the market. Some, such as the British Museum of Natural History series from Invicta, were extremely well made. A highly skilled sculptor could produce beautiful renditions of prehistoric animals, and people could easily obtain them from a variety of shops for little more than a few dollars each. Most of the earliest Invicta models were unpainted, but still remain widely respected for their realism and attention to detail to this day.

A few years later, the Carnegie Collection museum line was offered by Safari Ltd. Through much of the 1990's, this series was considered one of the most impressive in terms of paleontological accuracy. It was followed swiftly by the renowned Boston Museum of Science from Battat, and an array of other series which began to pop up in response to increasing public interest in dinosaur collectibles. Today, there are a tremendous range of product lines, many offering unprecedented levels of both quality and diversity. Some are intended to be sold as simple toys for young children, while others are more sophisticated in design and appeal to an older, more discerning collector.

Many figures are marketed as "hand painted" to emulate the old-world, hand crafted feeling of collectibles that are still unique on some level. This is still technically true. One person in a production line might be responsible for dabbing the eye sockets of your Triceratops with white paint, while the next worker meticulously applies a tiny black pupil in the center. Since these processes have not been precisely replicated, some variation can occur, and this may be considered part of any figure's charm. In the worst cast scenario, it may result in errors that noticeably diminish a figure's appearance. For example, some older figures suffered from what is known as "googly-eyes", when pupils are painted in such different positions that it appears the animal is looking in two different directions, giving it an almost cartoonish appearance. Such extreme examples are relatively rare in contemporary figures from quality brands.

Some manufacturers have done an impressive job of implementing mass manufacturing processes that successfully replicate the sculptor's original model, intricately painted with multiple layers, all while keep the final price to the consumer relatively low. Some brands specialize in thoroughly researched models that follow modern scientific knowledge on a particular animal, while others may emphasize special features such as articulated limbs or jaws. There have never been so many options for a collector to explore, with hundreds of different figures available at any given time.


Models tend to be produced by independent artists rather than large companies, with an emphasis on quality. One of the defining characteristics of models is the medium in which they are produced, typically poured resin. The primary reason for this is the production cost. Molding and casting in resin has been an affordable option for independent artists for decades. Without the resources of a large manufacturer, it could prove to be just the right fit. Here is an example.

Let's say there is an artist who has sculpted an original dinosaur model, and he wishes to generate some revenue from it. He is proud of his work, and it may have taken several months to research and construct. He feels his work should be fairly valued at a few thousand dollars. At first, he visits a few museums to ask if they are interested in acquiring it for use in an exhibit. No such luck. He then decides to contact an old friend who worked in manufacturing; perhaps it could be molded and used to make children's toys. Unfortunately, his contact declines, explaining that large manufacturers tend to rely on the cheapest possible labor (including artists). The toy manufacturer also does not believe its younger demographic would appreciate the extra work he put into the model, making it a poor fit for them. It seems an adult private collector might be the best answer, but even if such a collector existed, could he really be expected to pay the artist's asking price of several thousand dollars for a single model? It is possible the artist could cross paths with the rare individual who possesses both the means and interest to make this happen, but even if this miraculous meeting did occur, could a single wealthy patron be enough to generate regular income for this artist?

One possible option might be resin casting. Either the artist or a specialist in molding/casting could, for a relatively affordable fee, create multiple copies or castings of the original model. These castings can then be sold to collectors for a lower price than the original model. It may have been nearly impossible for the artist to find a single individual to pay $2000 for his original sculpt. However, if he finds 20 collectors who are each willing to pay $100 each for a resin casting, this could be just what he was hoping for. Encouraged by the popularity of his work among those who purchased the castings, he decides to create additional models and sells castings of those, all the while increasing his experience, reputation, and financial position.

The collectors or hobbyists responsible for supporting this artist's work are sometimes also referred to as "garage kit" enthusiasts. This reinforces the smaller, homegrown nature of many in this field. The hobbyists themselves enjoy the diligence and patience of a quiet pastime, building and painting these resin models during leisure hours, or in some cases, even performing the service for others as a paid professional kit builder. Model hobbyists may enjoy a wide range of subjects from military vehicles to classic movie monsters, but all take great joy in the satisfaction of creating and building with one's own hands.

Concerning the resin medium itself, there are several other qualities to consider. Resin is sensitive to extreme temperatures, so some careful thought should be given to long term storage solutions. It also is less inclined to warp and alter over time, which can occur in some instances with vinyl and plastics (although even this tends to take a period of many years). Resin is also more brittle than plastic, so it can be easily broken if mishandled or inadequately packaged during shipping. This, combined with its overall higher price point when compared with plastic, makes it a more suitable option for the adults collector. Resin replicates an artist's original piece with a finer degree of detail than most mass manufactured plastic pieces, making it ideally suited for the discerning enthusiast.

Though there is much to be said of the hobby of resin kit building, it would be fair to say it is not practical or suitable for everyone. For this reason, Dan's Dinosaurs maintains an array of professional contacts and studios who can finish any resin kit for you. If you have questions about these or any other topics, we would love to hear from you.