In the atomic era of the 1950s and 1960s, people of all ages were mesmerized by space exploration during a time characterized by limitless possibilities. To capture this sentiment, toy companies around the world began creating out-of-this-world tin toys and robots.
Japanese manufacturers like Masudaya, Yonezawa , and Nomura whose robots were made from tin plate, were lithographed, had bright fun colors, were mostly battery-operated, had eyes that would light up, they even made noises and sounds and could move. Today these collectible wonders from yesteryear are highly sought after treasures among vintage toy hunters and collectors everywhere!
After being hidden away for decades, the most elusive and sought after Masudaya Gang of Five robots: ‘Machine Man’, complete with its original box, made a grand appearance at Morphy Auctions in 2020. This unique early 1960s Japanese-made tin lithographed battery-operated robot is so incredibly rare having only been manufactured for one year, sold for an impressive $159,900! It’s safe to say this extraordinary space-age treasure has set a new trend as far as vintage toy prices go – wowza!
Space age tin toys, like the iconic ‘Gang of Five’ robots, are still cherished today! These five vintage robots – Machine Man Robot, Radical Robot, Non-Stop Robot, Giant Sonic Robot, Shooting Giant Robot, were produced in the mid 1950-106s by the Masudaya toy company in Japan and were fully battery-operated. Not only did their designs reflect popular science fiction movies such as “The Day The Earth Stood Still” or TV shows like “Lost In Space”, but amazing collectibles also pay homage to real life events: namely Sputnik’s launch back in 1957. Each robot has its own features that make it a true and timeless treasures!
This incredibly rare robot organ built by Gebroeders Decap features a 105 key instrument created in 1963 for Mr. Krekel of Hotel Eemland in the Netherlands. It is rumored that only three of these 105 key Robot organs were ever built. This one sold at Morphy Auctions in 2022 for a whopping $342,000!!
The most iconic robot of the space-age era is probably Robby the Robot from the 1956 movie “Forbidden Planet.” Today, originals of Robby the Robot can sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars.
These Japanese robots are highly prized by collectors today, and the market for them stems from the fact that they were game-changers in the toy world when they were introduced as well being made from high-quality materials, were battery-operated and were animated with sounds and movements so children were excited to play with them.
If you’re interested in collecting space age tin toys, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, condition is everything. Toys that are in mint condition with their original packaging will be worth more than those that have been played with or damaged in any way. Second, rarity is also a factor. Certain toys were produced in smaller numbers than others and are therefore more valuable today. Toys marked Japan are highly desirable by collectors and less likely to be reproductions.
Space age tin toys and robots captured the imagination of a mid-century generation enthralled by space exploration. These highly collectible toys are now prized by vintage toy collectors and Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts alike. If you’re interested in collecting space age tin toys and just starting out, here are some really good books to get you started that full of photos and information.
1000 Tin Toys by Teruhisa Kitahara
Robots. Spaceships and other Tin Toys by Teruhisa Kitahara
Robots: Tin Toy Dreams by T. Kitahara
Please note that if you purchase from clicking on the link, some will result in my getting a tiny bit of that sale to help keep this site going.
Robot pictures are from:
C&T Auctioneers and Valuers Ltd. | RR Auctioneers | Antique Toy Collectors of America, Inc. | Live Auctioneers