This is a review of the set Exotic Beetles, released by Play Visions in 1998. This is was one many small theme-based sets released by Play Visions in the mid-to-late 1990s, and one of 6 that were arthropod-centric. Today Play Visions figures are among the most sought-after by collectors! This review today is a glorified version of one of my forum walkarounds, but I wanted to introduce Play Visions to the Blog. There are eight figures in the set, representing predominately tropical species of Coleoptera. They are flat, only painted on their dorsal sides, and in the size range compatible with many ‘tube’ figures. They are stamped with a common or Latin name on the bottom, one of which is incorrect (a rare problem with PV figures, but it does happen), and the ‘PV” logo. The inspiration for many PV figures can be traced back to familiar books at the time, and the figures in this set seem to been based on photographs in Art Evan’s An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles (1996).
For starters, let us look at the one mislabeled figure in the set. For years, this figure was a conodrum to me. It is labeled ‘South African longhorn beetle’ (implying a member of the family Cerambycidae), but is clearly modeled after a member of the genus Chrysochroa (family Buprestidae) from Southeast Asia. To confuse matters more, the color scheme is not like any member of Chrysochroa, but is spot-on for Tragocephala variegata, which happens to be a longhorned beetle from South Africa! Looks like confusion between the parties responsible for sculpting, labeling, and painting. Chrysochroa figures are essentially nonexistent outside of Japan; the Blog actually already has a review of one of them here.
The next figure is marked ‘Carrion Beetle’ and represents a member of the genus Nicrophorus. Most Nicrophorus spp., at least the Holarctic species, have this general color scheme, so a species-level ID is probably not possible. A staphylinoid beetle is a rare treat in toy/figure form!
Our next figure is marked ‘Fungus Beetle’. Ever since I first acquired this figure I knew it was one of the ‘pleasing fungus beetles’ (family Erotylidae), but its exact identification eluded me for years. After more snooping around, and consulting an erotylid specialist, I have come up with the species ID of Micrencaustes lunulata, from Singapore.
Next up is the ‘Goliath beetle’. There are five species of Goliathus (depending on the taxonomy you use), all endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, and the best fit for this figure’s color scheme is the royal Goliath beetle, G. regius. My guess, is that the paint scheme is intended to be a bit sensationalized, and the similarity to G. regius is coincidental (but hey, let’s go with it!). Notice how the front wings (elytra) are closed when the flying wings are exposed. This is characteristic of goliathine and cetoniine scarabs. Nice touch!
Our next figure is labeled with its correct Latin name: Macrodontia cervicornis. This is a very distinctive animal that hails from the rainforests of South America, and there is no question to its ID. This is one of the largest cerambycids in the world. The only other figure I am aware of is by Kabaya for their Insect Directory set.
This next figure is also a cerambycid, but it is simply labeled ‘Wood-boring beetle’. It is clearly painted to represent something in the genus Rosenbergia, which contains over 30 described species from Southeast Asia and the Malayan Archipelago. I have databased my figure as R. straussi from Papua New Guinea, but an argument could probably be made for any number of species.
Our next figure is also labeled with its correct Latin name, Jumnos ruckeri. This species is another Afrotropical goliathine like the G. regius (above). This figure is a bit flashy in its paint application, and the figure by Wing Mau is probably a little more realistically colored. Still this is a nice representation of an interesting species.
The last figure in the set is the ’emerald weevil’, Eupholus sp. This is a large genus of attractive weevils endemic to Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands. There are too many species, and the paint application is probably a bit exaggerated, to get a reliable species-level ID. Despite being the second largest family of beetles, weevils are rare in toy form, and among those they are rarely recognizable at the genus or species level.
If you are a general collector, you probably have, or have tried to acquire, Play Visions figures. If beetles are in your taxonomic wheelhouse, this set come highly recommended. And among Play Visions figures, this set is not quite as rare as some of the others. Still, PV figures these days can often be expensive, and a set like this could run between $50 and $100 USD depending on the source!