I recently completed a Holy Grail collection, so I thought to share it on the Blog. I am referring to the Butterflies to Go collection by Club Earth. I am not sure when it was released, but it was probably alongside the classic Play Visions collections in the late 1990s. The set consists of 12 species of butterflies. All species are marked on the underside with a common English name and number in the series. The species are not to scale and all have a wingspan of roughly 7.0 cm. Most of the species have been made only a handful of times. When it comes to butterflies, several companies like to copy, or at least be influenced by, each other, and it is sometimes hard to tell who came first. There is a ‘knockoff’ set of unknown origin that contains most, if not all, of the species presented here by Club Earth, except they lack the common names on the underside. Otherwise, they are equal in terms of quality and paint applications (I use the term ‘knockoff with hesitation, as there may have been no malicious intent; two companies may have shared the same design). Several of these species in this set also appear in the large butterfly collections by Toy Major and in the sets by K&M International, US Toys, and even among dollar-store bin sets. As such, for most species there are at least 2-4 examples in toy/figure form. Only some of the more common and familiar species (such as the monarch and eastern swallowtail) are more widely represented. It is generally believed these Club Earth figures set the standard for these various butterfly collections, but who really knows?
Because the figures are flat and only painted on the dorsal side, I combined figures at the family level for imaging. I have also included geographic distributions, larval host plants (when known), and relative frequency in the toy market.
First up, the swallowtails (family Papilionidae). From left to right, top to bottom:
- purple-spotted swallowtail, Graphium weiskei. This tailed Graphium is endemic to Papua New Guinea. Very rare in toy/figure form.
- eastern swallowtail, Papilio glaucus. Common species in eastern North America. A successful species, it has a wide host plant range. Uncommon in toy/figure form (more common if one takes porcelain figurines into consideration), but there are several options available.
- Cairns birdwing, Ornithoptera euphorion. Endemic to northeastern Australia, it is Australia’s largest endemic butterfly species. Feeds on plants in the family Aristolochiaceae. Several examples of this species exist in the toy market.
Next, white and orange-tips (family Pieridae). Left to right:
- great orange tip, Hebomoia glaucippe. Occurs throughout much of Southeast Asia and Indonesia. This figure appears to be painted to represent a female of the Taiwanese subspecies, H. g. formosana. Larvae feed on plants in the family Capparaceae. Several examples of this species exist in the toy market (and Kaiyodo made a larva).
- Union Jack, Delias mysis. Native to Australia, New Guinea, and surrounding islands. Larvae feed on mistletoe. Very rare in toy/figure form; the only other I am aware of is this figure’s knockoff counterpart.
The gossamer-winged butterflies (family Lycaenidae) and a metalmark (family Riodinidae). Left to right, top to bottom:
- crowned hairstreak, Evenus coronata. This figure is marked as Hewitson’s blue hairstreak, which is another common name for this species. It is found in coastal Central and South America from Mexico to Ecuador. A handful of examples exist in toy/figure form. Most are not formally identified to the species level, but all appear to be based on this original Club Earth figure.
- genoveva azure, Ogyris genoveva. Larvae of this Australian lycaenid live in the nests of carpenter ants and feed on plants in the family Lorantaceae. Several examples of this species occur in toy/figure form.
- Cramer’s mesene, Mesene phareus. The sole riodinid in the set, this species occurs from Central to South America. Few examples exist in toy/figure form.
Lastly, the four species in the very large family, Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies). I should point out that nymphalids only have four functional ‘walking’ legs; their front legs are reduced to small brush-like sensory organs (hence the common name). Yet, all these figures have six legs. This is a common error, by even large, well-known, reputable companies. Left to right, top to bottom:
- monarch, Danaus plexippus. Widespread in North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, the Azores, Canary Islands, North Africa, Australia, the Philippines, and South Pacific islands; rare stray to the United Kingdom. Larvae feed on milkweeds. This is by far the most common species of butterfly in toy/figure form identifiable at the species level.
- purple emperor, Apatura iris. Common throughout the Palearctic, larvae feed on willows. A small handful of figures of this species exist on the market.
- Cypris morpho, Morpho cypris. This figure is simply marked as a morpho butterfly, but the color most-closely resembles M. cypris. I have five species of Morpho in my collection, and M. cypris is one of the rarer ones. The species lives in Central and South America.
- Grecian shoemaker, Catonephele numilia. This Central and South American butterfly exhibits sexual dimorphism and this figure represents a female. Larvae feed on euphorbs in the genus Alchornea. The only other figure of this species I am familiar with is by Toy Major.
Well that’s all for this quick overview of the Butterflies to Go collection by Club Earth. Hope you enjoyed it.