Some people collect coins, others collect sports memorabilia, but few collect giant radioactive reptiles with atomic breath. Jason Aquino, a senior English student, has a collection of figures depicting monsters from the Godzilla franchise.
The majority of his collection showcases different iterations of the “King of the Monsters,” but his collection also includes other beasts such as King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra, just to name a few. Jason estimates his collection to include about 60 figures in total, and the largest figure in his collection towers at three feet tall.
At about a foot tall, Aquino’s newest figure of Godzilla from the movie Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. stands with outstretched claws, while showing off its menacing array of bone-white dorsal plates that poke through its back. The figure cost him $75 and was manufactured by Bandai, one of the largest manufacturers of collectible figures.
Describing his newest purchase, which he bought on eBay, Aquino said, “I like it because it’s one of the few figures I have where Godzilla has lightning-bolt shaped dorsal plates that generate blue atomic breath, because that shape is usually associated with orange breath. It’s unique.”
Zoe Saufler, a senior graphic design student, commented on his personality. She said, “Jason’s hilarious but also very introspective. He has a kind-hearted personality. One minute we’ll be joking about YouTube videos and the next we could be talking about theoretical universes and its effects.”
There are 34 Godzilla films in existence. From 1954 to now, the enormous reptile has been depicted in many different ways. Besides this, there is a swarming array of other giant monsters that Godzilla battles throughout the franchise’s history. So it’s safe to say companies that make collectible figures for the franchise have a lot to work with.
Since the Godzilla franchise originated in Japan, a majority of its collectible figures are also made in Japan. Aquino explained that there is a lack of stores in our area that sell figures from the franchise. To get around this, he goes online.
When it comes to looking for a new figure to add to his collection, Aquino keeps a few things in mind. The condition, paint quality, film-correct details, and the inclusion of an authenticity tag all factor into his willingness to outbid others in those tense eBay bidding wars he knows all too well.
The rarest piece in Aquino’s collection is a figure of Titanosaurus, which cost him $90. It was the lowest price he could find for it and that particular figure ran out of stock soon after he confirmed his purchase. His most expensive piece, a figure of Battra, cost him $150.
Aquino’s father introduced him to the Godzilla franchise, presenting him with a box set of Godzilla films when he had gotten home from preschool one day.
He was only five years-old when he had got his first two Godzilla figures. One figure was of Godzilla and the other was of Mothra, the second most-featured monster in the franchise.
Matthew Aquino, Jason’s twin brother and a senior graphic design student, said, “Since we were little, he’s had action figures and owned all of the original movies. He knows all of the history and back stories of each character, who their enemies were, and the different stages of their character development.”
Aquino described his emotional connection to the Godzilla franchise as one of the reasons why he collects the figures. He proudly declared that Godzilla’s unique, and incredibly piercing, roar resonates with him like a “battle cry.”
“[Godzilla movies] are empowering in a way because you think to yourself, okay, if I can be like this giant radioactive dinosaur who can stomp on buildings at a whim, I can easily overcome whatever it is that is bothering me at this point in time. You have the battle cry and the musical scores of these films, that together, paint an image of strength,” Aquino said.
Aquino feels his hobby as a collector has helped bolster a feeling of control over his destiny, and it has improved his self-confidence.
Jamie Goodwin, Ph.D., a specialist professor of psychology, commented on the general psychology behind why people collect things as a hobby.
She noted that the benefits are primarily emotional: the excitement of hunting down a rare item, rewarding sensations related to acquiring a new addition, the relaxing nature of organizing a collection, the pride of having a comprehensive collection, and the joy of connecting with fellow collectors or enthusiasts.
Goodwin also described why people might collect things from their childhood. “It’s a way of recapturing some of that youthful innocence or that joy of discovery of when you first got interested in that particular thing,” she said.
Even though Aquino has reaped many benefits from his hobby as a collector, he has missed out on one of those benefits. Aquino expressed that he rarely has had the opportunity to meet other Godzilla collectors.
In lieu of this, he is a member of several Facebook groups devoted to Godzilla fandom, as well as selling and trading collectibles. However, Aquino admitted that he does not plan on selling or trading any of his figures; he’s just there to search for more to add to his collection.
He also mentioned his desire to attend a convention in Illinois called “G-FEST” in the future. According to G-Fan.com, a website created by G-FEST’s founders, “G-FEST features presentations and Q&A sessions by actors and crew from the Japanese Godzilla films, fan presentations on topics of interest, contests and gaming, new and classic kaiju movies, the western world’s largest kaiju-oriented dealers room, and lots of fun and camaraderie.”
As Aquino eagerly looks to expand his collection, he’ll have even more figures to choose from as two new Godzilla films are set to be released in the near future. Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be released this May, while Godzilla vs. Kong will appear on the big screen in the spring of 2020.
Currently, he is scouring the Internet for a figure depicting King Ghidorah, as it appears in the franchise’s upcoming film.
“Right now you can buy it on preorder for $178, but I need money for the summer. So, I’m going to wait until September,” said Aquino.
Referencing the figures already in his collection, Aquino continued, “This is something I take pride in and I really like having the opportunity to talk about them.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Jason Aquino