Yet another Japanese set, and this is one of those super fancy ones! I think I’ve mentioned Dino Expo sets before–released in association with annual (or roughly so) events in Japan featuring some kind of prehistoric theme. Many of these sets are short-lived, and are often very desirable collectables. Until recently, most were from Kaiyodo. A few of the earliest were special collections within the Dinotales line (sometimes with a new sculpt or two) but at some point, Kaiyodo started releasing something a little more exclusive. Or even more exclusive. However you want to think of it.
I think the first one was in 2003, and featured a variety of figures of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex “Sue”. Although overall similar to Dinotales, these models were resin (or a very brittle plastic), individually boxed, and larger. The paint and sculpting was also more detailed. And the figures were all single-piece (although their easy-break style changed that a lot…) I was never able to get the 2003 figures, but the 2004 produced some animals that were very worth trying to collect.
Judging by the species, the Dino Expo for 2004 must have been inspired by Chinese fossil finds. There were five figures total, four reconstructed dinosaurs and a skeleton. One of the figures had been produced before–a Psittacosaurus posed to protect its hatchlings. At the time, this is the only animal in the Dino Expo set that had been made as a figure before (but this one was far better of course). The other species were very unique indeed–the sauropod Chuanjiesaurus, the theropod Szechuanosaurus, and a Microraptor which was released as both a reconstruction and a skeleton. Between the species and that fact that they’re Kaiyodo, I really wanted to add these to my collection.
And I did! Well…three of them. And it took almost a decade to get any of them…These figures were so hard to find (online sources were not as well established). And when they did show up, they were also really expensive. As much as I wanted to get them, I couldn’t justify the price. I once missed a reasonably-priced auction by missing the time by 10 seconds…of course, reasonable was still over $100. I just kind of gave up after that. Over time, I was able to make connections for a few of the figures–of the five, the three I would have wanted the most! First I was able to get the Szechuanosaurus and Chuanjiesaurus, which were easily my most sought after (I don’t think either has been made again even now); the Microraptor was later obtained in a trade…and of course one of the legs was broken (but a friend was able to repair it, good as new!)
As a set, these are a definite step up from the Dinotales figures from the same general period of time. Their very, very limited run and history as Kaiyodo Expo figures mean that these are still very sought after figures. It’s still possible to track down some of these figures with contacts in Japan–but the fragile material and very, very limited run means that they’re not that common and only getting more expensive. So I’m happy with the three that I have…maybe if the other two come across at some point, but I’m not going to stress about it. Definitely great for collectors to get their hands on, but it’s either going to be expensive or really difficult…