What’s the difference between Monrovia and San Dimas?

The Hagen-Renaker factory was located in Monrovia, CA from its beginnings in the 1940s, to the early 1960s. In 1962, a new property was purchased in San Dimas, with a gradual shift of production to the new facility. As a result, while pieces made before 1962 are “definitely” Monrovia issues, and ones after about 1966 are “definitely” San Dimas, there is uncertainty about what was produced where, between these dates.

Most of the Monrovia decorators had been housewives from the local community. By the time of the move, many had been working for Hagen-Renaker for a decade. Although San Dimas is only about 14 miles away from Monrovia, a short distance by today’s standards, almost none of these decorators transferred with the company to the new location. We can speculate that many of them did not have a car, or the commute seemed too long to be worthwhile. Instead, Hagen-Renaker hired all-new decorators for San Dimas production. This caused noticeable changes in the figurines. Perhaps not being as experienced as the Monrovia employees had become, the new decorators turned out pieces with noticeably less hand-painted detail; for instance, instead of finely drawn eyes with eyewhites, the animals made in San Dimas tended to have eyes which were merely black dots.

Over time, the detail of San Dimas pieces has improved immensely. For example, in the 2000s, eyewhites reappeared, even on the tiniest Miniatures. Therefore, a formerly time-honored test of Monrovia vs. San Dimas, the existence of eyewhites, is no longer completely applicable. Determining the exact age or era of a piece can be difficult even for seasoned collectors.

For this reason, describing a piece simply as the “Monrovia version” or “San Dimas version” can be unhelpful and I have tried to avoid relying on it. I’ve attempted in the Field Guide to mention more specific differences between pieces which were made in both eras, and to provide illustrations of pieces with varied production dates, to help collectors determine their age.

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