I never owned He-Man's trusted feline steed when I was a child. The first Battle Cat I ever acquired was from a garage sale about ten years ago. He was sans armor, but in great shape and finally satisfied my childhood green-cat jones. I knew that I would eventually find some armor, or break down and buy a set on eBay or something. For a quarter, he was mine!
Then, this last summer, I finally acquired a complete Battle Cat with helmet and saddle! Woohoo!
My "first" Battle Cat is stamped "Mattel Inc. 1976 Taiwan." I've known for a long time that Battle Cat's origin was from a mold first used to make a regular tiger for Mattel's Big Jim toyline, so the date stamp that pre-dates Masters of the Universe isn't all that odd, but a cool novelty and conversation piece for those three people I know who pretend not to doze off when I ramble on about toys.
So when I found the armored Battle Cat this past summer the first thing I did was check the date: "Mattel Inc. 1982 Taiwan." I didn't think much of it after that, and placed my naked Battle Cat in a box and displayed my armored Battle Cat with He-Man on his back. I'm cool that way.
I decided to thin my collection a bit this weekend, and the redundant Battle Cat was on my "out" list. But I figured I'd place the armor on the 1976 cat and get rid of the 1982 cat. This lead to the discovery of even more, and rather pronounced differences than the date stamps.
If you're still with me, check out the pics. We'll start at the end.
1982 - no stripes on tail:
1976 - striped tail:
The first thing I noticed were the tails - the older cat had stripes. And that was just the beginning - now that I had the two naked pussies together (settle down) the differences were everywhere!
For starters, 1982 is cast in a darker green plastic.
Next, 1976 has more stripes, they are a darker orange, they are crisper, and some span all the way across his back. 1982's stripes have a clear delineation between the left and right side of the cat.
1982 (left) has pointier teeth, and the paint is only applied on the front. 1976 has paint all around the teeth, has orange lips, and a white highlight in each eye.
In the following photos you can really see the plastic/stripes color difference as well as more/crisper stripes on the older cat.
Lastly, and you can't see it in these pics, but 1976 Battle Cat has vertical lines across his entire body, like a record or something. The 1982 Battle Cat does not have this effect.
My guess is that the original mold started wearing out, and so a new mold was cast in 1982.
A non exhaustive search of Battle Cats on eBay and Google reveals that the majority of cats available are more like my 1982 cat. It makes sense, since MOTU came out in 1981/1982. The 1976 cat must have only been used for a short time (as Battle Cat,) and all cats made since 1982 were stamped by the "new" mold cast. But I wonder why they started scrimping on the stripes!
If anyone has more Battle Cat historical info, or has ever noticed these differences and can enlighten me as to the whens whys and hows, please leave a comment!
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