Bullmark Tin Gigan
By Josh Foutch
I have been a Godzilla fan as long as I can remember, but I first started to collect Godzilla figures in 1998. However, unlike many collectors who start off collecting Bandai figures for their realistic sculpts and their affordability, I went straight to collecting vintage. True, they are more expensive as well as unrealistic looking, both in sculpt and color, but the rich history of them really captivated me. I mean, these were the toys that were produced during the Golden Age of Godzilla movies!
Because of the higher price for vintage figures, my collection is somewhat small. However, despite this, a lot of the figures in my collection are extremely significant and would stand out in any size of a collection. When I first started to collect, I knew that many of the vintage figures are insanely rare and expensive and as a result my collection would never see the likes of them. Oh how wrong I was!! My latest searches have come up with some very satisfying results. This past February, I have come across my greatest treasure yet: The Bullmark Remote Control Tin Gigan! And, if Sean Linkenbackís estimated price range for the figure (published in G-Fan #43), is still true today, then I got a heck of a deal.
For the longest time, I wasnít sure if I wanted to get a tin figure. There was no reason in particular; I just was more attracted to vinyl. However, one day, I was talking with a dealer that knew I was interested in rare vintage items. He said that if I wanted one, he could get one for me. I told him I would think about it and get back with him. After my conversation with him, I did some research on this figure. I found out that according to Sean Linkenback, in his book The Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles, it is on the top 10 Rarest Godzilla Toys list. According to this list, it ranked as the 6th rarest toy; right after the Marusan Plamodels and before any vinyl.
Further research showed me that it ranked number 4 on the 100 Greatest Godzilla Collectibles list. I found this in an article Sean Linkenback wrote in G-Fan #43 titled 100 Greatest Godzilla Collectibles. Here he mentioned that it was produced somewhere around 1973. I had some sources tell me 1972 and others 1973. It could be both, but I read that this toy was produced for less than a year. Personally, I would think that Bullmark would have produced this toy when Godzilla vs. Gigan came out in 1972, as they have done with other toys (releasing figures the same year as the movie they are based from is released). However, I also read that there were production delays with this toy and this caused it to miss its scheduled release date. So it is possible it was released in the later half of 1972 going into 1973, (after all Gigan made an appearance that year, too, in Godzilla vs. Megalon) but this is only speculation.
According to Sean in his article, what makes this toy so rare is that by the time it finally was released, Bullmark decided that it was too expensive and too slow a seller to keep producing it. Therefore, it was manufactured for less than a year. Despite its limited run, it is available in two different body colors, brown and a light blue.
After careful consideration, I decided to let loose of the cash needed to obtain this figure. The toy I purchased was the blue version, which I learned when getting this that the blue version is the first edition of this toy. Before getting this figure, I had never seen the blue version. I had only seen the brown version in books and online. So now it is very interesting to see the differences between the two. Itís a shame that I do not have a brown version to compare to my blue one. If so, I would have been able to show them to you side by side. Oh well, I am still thankful for what I do have. It was a real find! Something that I did not expect to ever come across. Also, seeing the actual toy in person was a surprise as it was actually bigger than I thought it was going to be. The toy stands just over 11 inches tall. I was expecting it to be around 8 or 9 inches tall.
The noticeable differences are not only the body color but also the spine. With the blue version, the spine is more gold, whereas the brown versions have less gold on the spine and more black. It is interesting to point out that the brown version also has some blue on it but very little when compared to the other version.
Another interesting fact is that the rollers on the feet of both versions are round in shape. However, with the blue version the roller under the tail has a star shape. The brown version has a round roller under the tail. The star shape on the blue version gives Gigan kind of a lumbering walk then it is run, unlike the brown version which runs smoother.
The Bullmark logo is on the bottom of both feet.
Another difference is the buzz saw. The blue version has more of a yellowish buzz saw while the brown has more of a white. At first, I thought this was due to aging but was informed that there have been other blue versions with yellow buzz saws. It would seem weird that the piece used for the buzz saw would only age on one version of the toy and not the other, since all the pictures I have seen of the brown version have the white buzz saw.
The wire comes out of the top of the tail and connects to the controller. Iíve seen them to be either green or grey. As you can see, my example is one with a grey chord. Iíve been told that there are no brown versions with grey chords but the blue versions can have either a grey or green chord. It has been brought to my attention that the blue versions with the grey chords are the first of the first editions released. However, this is just what I have been told and could just be speculation.
As mentioned before, the blue version is the first edition. This can be seen in the controller. To me, this is the best evidence making the blue version a first edition. As shown in the picture the wires were hand soldered to the controller. You can tell this by the black mark shown. At first I thought this was a mark from being repaired but Iíve been told that all the blue versions have this mark. Just here lately, Iíve been shown controllers from the brown versions and these versions have rivets that connect the wire to the controller. It would make since that these would be the later versions.
The controller takes D size batteries, and to me feels cheaply made. It feels like Iím going to break it every time I hold it or put the batteries in. So, Iím extremely careful. Despite this, I find the controller very interesting. When I open it up and inspect it, I find it very interesting because I compare this to some of the toys nowadays with a certain level of technology in them and it makes this toy look primitive, which I love. It makes it clear to me that this toy is a true vintage item. Once the batteries are in, it is interesting because the batteries are heavier then the controller itself. I try not to leave the batteries in it for a long amount of time as I am paranoid forgetting they are in there and corroding and leaking acid all over it. But on the other hand, taking the batteries in and out every time I go to run the toy increases the chances of the controller breaking. I personally decided that Iím careful enough with my collection to remove them whenever Iím not using it.
When I do go and run it the arms move up and down, the feet move back and forth, and the toy lumbers forward. Interestingly, the toy roars; which I did not immediately pick up on. At first I thought it was some mechanism inside the toy that was running. I would hear it then it would stop then I would hear it again. As I was first checking this out, it was my wife that pointed out to me that it was a roar. Afterwards, I could clearly identify it as a roar.
Before I got this figure, I was told that it also smoked when it ran and I asked if this was a normal thing for tin toys to do. The dealer said that it was normal, at least for this toy. But I have found that at least with my example, this is not true. The toy definitely emits an odor when it runs but I have never seen smoke.
I was also told to run the toy regularly. I run mine at least once a month. This prevents the toy from aging and breaking down. (I guess it could be compared to a car, if it sits for long enough it wonít start). Amazingly, this toy has had no repairs done to it. I find this remarkable since it is extremely rare in the first place, runs perfectly, and is nearing 40 years of age. What were the chances of coming across one like that? It was a perfect catch. Sadly though, with toys that have specific functions such as this one, even if it is run regularly, eventually it will need repairs anyway. Running it will only prolong the inevitable. Thatís just the way of things; in time things just break down and need repairing. I have come across a few since then that already have been repaired. To me, however, it still doesnít hurt the value of the toy. And, the prices of the ones I have come across would suggest this also. The function and look of the toys remains the same. Unfortunately, as these toys get older the number of ones not repaired will only get smaller and the numbers of this toy were small to begin with.
It is interesting to note how the toy is shaped. This goes along with any tin toy. The shape of the tin Gigan is different than other toys of the kaiju (such as vinyl, models etc) in that the body is bigger in proportion to the legs, arms, and head than in other representations of the kaiju. This is because with toys that have a function, the function must take priority over the looks of the figure.
I have been a Godzilla fan all of my life and when I started collecting, I just accepted the fact that I wouldnít get all of the figures I wanted due to some that are extremely rare and pricy. Stumbling across this Bullmark tin Gigan, has shown me that no figure can be out of reach as long as you put forth the effort to obtain it. True, some figures might take more time, money, and work to get than others; however, the end result would be well worth it.
Linkenback, Sean. An Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998
Linkenback, Sean. "100 Greatest Godzilla Collectibles." G-Fan Magazine Jan.-Feb. 2000: 20-31
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