Series: Dragon Ball Z
Company: Irwin Toy
Size: 1.8~4.3 cm / 1″
Main distribution: Europe, America
Irwin Toy was a Canadian distributor and manufacturer of toys. They started off by re-releasing Dragonball Z figures from other companies, like AB Groupe’s “Super Guerriers” (Super Warriors) or 2″ figures, bringing these toys to America. Later they made their own version, 1″ figures, using the exact same molds scaled in half. They made 96 different ones, released in 12 packs over 8 series. KidzBiz re-released some of these again.
The figures came in a blister pack, with generic purple/green and red flames cartons, under the line “The Saga continues”. 12 figures came in a pack, and on the back the other 4 series were shown. Series 1-4 (1999) and Series 5-8 (2000). KidzBiz re-released some of these under their “The Legend is Here” banner in blue packaging.
Although the figures are the same as AB Groupe‘s, they are half their size, making them uniquely Irwin Toy. (I have found different paint variants, mainly skin colour and red mouths, which I’m guessing are KidzBiz’)
All of the figures have ©1989 B.S/S.T.A. on them somewhere, most likely their back. Although the figures have 1989 on them, they were released in 1999 and 2000 by Irwin Toy as the show become popular in the West around this time. It is possible it’s referring to the copyright of Dragonball, which released in 1989 in Japan.
8 series of 12 mini figures in total were made, resulting in 96 figures.
I had a Puar and Gotenks Kamikaze Ghost of them since childhood, but never realised they were smaller than the 2″ figures of AB Groupe (Puar and the ghost are kind of small characters anyway) until I got a 2″ ghost and compared them. Since then I’ve been buying more of them, trying to get them all.
I will also list the number of which AB Groupe box the figure originates from.
I have 54/96.
This set has Pikon (#12), Goku (#17), Super Saiyan Vegito (#19), Buu (#18), Cell Jr. (#6), Great Saiyaman (#8), Gohan (student) (#9), Yamcha (#5), Tapion (#9), Super Saiyan Vegito (#16), Mr. Satan / Hercule (#19) and Super Saiyan Goku (#8).
I got 0/12.
This set has Super Saiyan Gotenks (#12), Great Saiyaman 2 / Great Saiyawoman (#10), Goku (#17), Janemba (base form) (#4), Goten (#6), Gotenks (#11), Gotenks (#12), Bojack (full power) (#7), Wild Tiger (#11), Buu (#18), Kibito (#1) and Super Saiyan Goten (#2).
Interestingly Kibito appears to be mirrored.
I got 0/12.
This set has Trunks (#11), Goku (damaged knees) (#17), Turles (#9), Hirudegarn (#10), Super Saiyan Goku (#2), Oolong (#14), Imperfect Cell (#15), Super Saiyan Goku (#4), Metal Cooler (#11), Goku (#17), Future Trunks (#5) and Super Saiyan Goten (fusion pose) (#15).
I got 10/12; missing Hirudegarn and Goku.
This set has Videl (#8), Super Saiyan Vegito (#20), Super Saiyan 3 Goku (#19), Kami (#13), Majin Buu (#18), Super Saiyan Gotenks (#4), Master Roshi (#12), Super Saiyan Gohan (Great Saiyaman) (#1), Vegeta (#3), Super Saiyan 3 Goku (#3), Gohan (Great Saiyaman) (#13) and Majin Buu (#16).
I got 0/12.
KidzBiz re-released this as their Series 1.
This set has Gohan (adult) (#7), Super Buu (#11), Saike Demon (#10), Janemba (#4), Super Saiyan Trunks (fusion pose) (#10), Gotenks Kamikaze Ghost (#9), Puar (#28), Super Saiyan Gogeta (#3), Perfect Cell (#5), Ultimate Super Saiyan Broly (#2), Super Saiyan Goku (#7) and Super Saiyan 2 Gohan (#6).
Interestingly they kept the white Gi on Super Buu like AB Groupe‘s.
I got 11/12, missing Janemba.
KidzBiz re-released this as their Series 2.
This set has Baba (#10), Spopvitch (#1), Android #19 (#12), Frieza (#16), Buu (#3), Android #16 (#6), Janemba (#3), Super Saiyan 2 Gohan (#8), Super Saiyan Trunks (#2), Supreme Kai / Shin (#1), Zangya (#2) and Goku/Hercule Fusion (#11).
I got 11/12, missing Janemba.
KidzBiz re-released this as their Series 3.
This set has Frieza (second form) (#9), Buu (#12), Tien (#7), Trunks (#8), Minotia (#23), Super Saiyan Goten (#15), Uub (#16), Mr. Popo (#9), Buu (#18), Ultimate Super Saiyan Broly (#8), Hercule / Mr. Satan (#5) and Mighty Mask (Trunks and Goten) (#1).
I got 11/12, missing Broly.
This set has Super Saiyan Goten (#13), Goku (#21), Hirudegarn (#27), Hercule / Mr. Satan (#27), Machine Gunner (#14), Grand Kai (#13), Goku (#17), Bardock (#14), Evil Buu (#14), Super Saiyan Vegeta (#6), Master Roshi (#10) and Hoi (#14).
I got 11/12, mising Hirudegarn.
I was a massive Dragonball fan at the time, and one of the first series I truly collected besides the Lion King. I spent all my pocket money on these.
This was a time before internet, and we hunted for these figures in all the shops. Trading and selling on was a huge part of collecting, especially then, and it created some cool friendships.
The local Bruna (a stationary shop of all places!) had these figures in a large pot at the register. They were cheap, only cost about ƒ1 or ƒ2 as I recall, and after school me and my friend would go by the shop on the way home and buy one daily. This is why I had so many random ones and not full sets. Although most were AB Groupe’s 2″ figures or re-releases, I managed to get 2 of these Irwin 1″ figures; Puar and Gotenks Kamikaze Ghost. I always had them mixed up with the others, as far as I knew, it was from the same set.
When I started saving for Uni, I sold a lot of my collection. These were kinda derpy to me, and I was never going to get them all. Whenever I thought I had them all, another one I had never seen would show up. So I only kept a few of my favourites. Thankfully that included my tiny Puar and ghost.
Looking back, I have huge regret of this of course. It’s mostly nostalgia, as they aren’t that great looking, but it’s cool to have some early European merchandise. I have since tried to buy them all again. And when I bought a couple of lots, I found a 2″ ghost, at which point I realised there were smaller figures! I ended up with a bunch more of these 1″ figures in lots since.
I love tiny things, so these small, if slightly derpy, figures are just great I think. As simple as they are, these are also nostalgic to me. If I see them for cheap I’ll buy them.
If you like European or vintage Dragonball Z merchandise, you might want to look into these. If you’d like more high quality stuff, you might give these a miss.
Got any more details / information you think I should add? Or did I get something wrong? Do you own any of these figures? Do you agree or disagree with my findings? Let me know in the comments below!