Back to basics with this one. The first 8 figures to be released in the Motu line were made in Taiwan. The first run we call the “Test Market Run” and can be categorized by having a “G0” MOC that has no warranty in the back, and no serial numbers below the figures in the back of the card. These 8 figures share certain characteristics that make them stand apart from other figures released in subsequent releases. We will be exploring these details in further posts, but suffice for now to say that you see unique paint applications, sharper molds, more pronounced belly buttons, shorter harness straps and in some instances differences in weapons as well.
The Early Release Mer-Man has certain characteristics such as a green belt, sharp molds marks (more sinewy muscles), an uneven belly button, and a short strap more opaque harness that distinguish it from later Merman editions. This figure is marked © Mattel Inc 1981 TAIWAN.
After the Mer-Man green belt release, the green belt paint app was dropped from subsequent releases to reveal an unpainted orange belt and harness straps that are longer (easier for kids to strap on). The longer harness is also more translucent and lighter. As further Taiwan Merman were produced, it’s possible the mold was no longer as sharp and certain fine details were lost. You can see in the diagram how much sharper the mold is on the arms of the green belt than on the orange belt.
Another detail to note is that while the initial Test Market Mer-Man had a sharp uneven belly button, the belly button started to change first to a more rounder, natural looking belly button, to the point where the belly button was lost completely.
Generally, it appears that 1981 later release Mermans changed from a rounder, more natural looking belly button to a very subtle almost no belly button mold. The final Merman releases on the 1982 mold seem to have no belly button at all.