Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Dinosaurier Trading Cards

I recently opened my email to find a lovely gift, spread across three messages: a set of German dinosaur trading cards, simply and appropriately titled Dinosaurier. They were donated generously by reader Olliver Krone, and I hope I make him proud with today's Vintage Dinosaur Art post. I apologize for being two days tardy, but this weekend and Monday were more hectic than usual for me, and I couldn't do these justice. They were released by the publishing company Altenburger Speilkarten, holders of a truly unintentionally hilarious abbreviation and logo (for the English-speaking world at least, and this similar set is even funnier). Olliver received them in the mid-nineties, but was not sure about the original publication date.

dinosaurier trading cards

One reason I find the work of this unidentified illustrator so delightful is that it is a perfect illustration of how dinosaurs have been unfortunately stained with the word "reptile" since the very beginning. People are slowly, grudgingly accepting the evidence that the dinosaurs were a more bizarre, diversely adapted group of creatures than many of us were led to believe as children. But they will always be branded with the -saur suffix, and in some sense will always be as much lizard as they are terrible.

But these cards take it to the extreme. Witness this hilariously wrong, crocodylian Velociraptor. From the claws of its scaly, humanoid hands to the tip of its nonexistent sickle-claw, this is nearly unrecognizable as the world's favorite dromaeosaur.


At least Velociraptor gets to eat its usual diet. Not so for Compsognathus, oddly marked as a veggie-saurus.


Poorly understood Procompsognathus is depicted similarly, though the icon in the information box is that of a carnivore.


Daspletosaurus, on the other hand, gets to eat its meat, in gruesome fashion.


In countenance and scaly integument, it's hard not to see a bit of Knight's Leaping Laelaps in the mystery illustrator's theropods, also evident in Ceratosaurus and Allosaurus.



I've saved the best for last: what may be the most ridiculous Spinosaurus I've ever seen. A Dimetrodon and a monitor lizard have somehow conceived a chimeric offspring.


I can only imagine that this was inspired by occasional paleontological conjectures that Spinosaurus was a quadruped, but to veer so drastically from the theropod bauplan is folly of the highest order. Please don't be nonplussed by my high dudgeon. This is serious business, folks.

Update, 9:15 PM: A commenter has brought up the possibility that this is a simple case of mistaken identity, confusing Spinosaurus with Dimetrodon. Sadly, this is not the case!


Oopsie doopsie!

Because of the size of the collection, I've chosen to focus only on theropods today. I'll revisit the collection's take on other branches of the dinosaur family tree in the future. Feel free to take a peak at the rest, housed cozily at my Flickr photostream. If you happen to have an idea of who might be the illustrator, please let me know in the comments below.

Again, I thank Olliver for kindly sending me these via email. If you've got old dinosaur artwork you'd like to share, I'll gladly feature it here - just share it at the Flickr Vintage Dinosaur Art pool or email them to me at the address in the sidebar!


  1. Give them more credit on Spino there! Clearly this was an artist's depiction of Dimetrodon, especially going by the to-human scale image, which should be the same scale as the Allosaurus, one given a 12m length. What obviously happened is that someone on the team knew they'd get blasted for including Dimetrodon in a Dinosaur collection, so they scrambled to fix the error as best they could without commissioning more art. :)

    I was wondering why there was no comment on the rarely-depicted swimming stegosaurus behavior, but what I thought was water appears to just be creases on the image. Disappointing! :(

  2. I see where you're coming from... but I'm afraid that's not the mistake they made. The reason I'm sure of it is that the set includes Dimetrodon, as well:

    I'll edit the post to reflect this, though.

  3. And the Spinosaurus isn't even scaling correctly, with the spines far short of the maximum preserved length of nearly 8ft!

  4. On the subject of when the cards' publication date, I've noticed that some of the silhouettes are the same ones seen in David Norman's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, so they couldn't have been published prior to 1985, when that book was published.

  5. That "Spinosaurus" reminds me of a similar CG illustration from a terrible dinosaur book I came across. They took a Dimetrodon "clipart" and just very slightly made it rear up into the air, labeling it as a Spinosaurus.


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