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Toy Robots to Have and to Hold


Here is something irresistible:
Share your life with a bunch of cute Japanese toy robots!

Oh, the glory days of Japanese vintage toy making! All sorts of Robots from Outer Space were popping up in the minds and imagination of Japanese designers - to be treasured by human collectors, and ultimately preserved by some kind of Wall-E disposal unit.

(image credit: Jill N. Hamilton-Krawczyk)

In our previous "Robot Art" articles we featured some of the modern miniature robots (which will surely become collectible in the future) - but today we're focusing on the fabulous metal toys of the 1950s:

(images credit: theweaponshop)

Robot toys tend to grow into considerable collections. They are rarely seen only as single individuals. The first purchase somehow always leads to another, and another - until there is a good crowd of'em:

"The Robot Hut" is where all good robots end up in afterlife

"Every Time You Use the Internet, a Robot Goes to Heaven" - verseguru

John Rigg from The Robot Hut built a whole barn for his immense collection of toy and movie prop robots. Most of the movie prop robots he builds himself including Robby, B-9, Star Wars droids and Huey, Dewey & Louie from the movie "Silent Running" to name a few. He also built a replica of the Time Machine from the classic movie.

Here is Tobor the Great huge robot (a couple of them) from 1954 - recreated:

Check out its remote control unit, too -

A mean-looking character, for sure (as a rule, most of 1930s-50s sci-fi robots were not very friendly) -

He also made the "Forbidden Planet" Robby Jeep (a looker in traffic, for sure) -

(image credit: Frederick Barr)

We like this used, rusty-looking guy (the hard-working "Robot Chief" kind) -

Goodwin Museum Toy Robot Collection:

(images credit: Goodwin Museum Collection, The Robot Hut)

Russians were sending dogs into space, Japanese sent little toy robots instead

It's possible that Japan will go down in history as the manufacturer of toy robots, rather than anything else - when our sentient robot successors like Wall-E start digging out the long-buried treasures from the rubble. These beauties will take a most prominent spot on Wall-E shelves, only to be upstaged by better-looking (designed by Apple, of course) EVEs from outer space.

One of the most gorgeous Japanese toy robot galleries on the net is located here (from a collection of Tom Geismar). Check out this valiant green warrior, next to atrocious Outer Space Spider - eeek!

(images credit: Richard Nichol)

The packaging was something else, too - click to enlarge:

(image credit: Frederick Barr)

"Space Crawler" neat idea for Moon transportation:

Die-cast toys by "Dinky" displayed some imagination:

If you ever wondered, which parts went into the "Forbidden Planet" Robby, here is your chance to find out:

(image credit: neatstuff.net)

Fully motorized robot with a micronaut figure inside - If you are a collector, you probably know about the very unusual Biotron / Robotman / Cosmobot 1975 series (more info)

(image credit: microforever)

The Beautiful and the Ugly

Mr. Atomic is a potential winner of "Vintage Robot Beauty Contest", if there was such a thing! It's got 16 blinking lamps to show off its considerable intelligence:

The ugliest? Perhaps this weeeeird creation (with a cigarette lighter inside). Can you say BLING!..

(photo courtesy Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame)

No one knows why these vintage space kids are grumpy. They would look good on some Cheese Moon together with Wallace & Grommit, I dare say:

Let us know about your robot collector's treasures, or that dear little metal guy that brightened your childhood... I don't need to remind your that they don't make tin metal toys any more.

Popular culture moves by leaps and bounds, making whole categories of toys obsolete and unexciting in a blink. New looks of heroes and sequels of franchise movies set their own production rules. For example, the new generation of Transformer toys made all previous ones a (possible) collector item:

(image credit: Archimedes Chen)

Next installment in this series will feature some great Russian futuristic toys:

A few other mentions and links: Robot Mania site features some nifty retro-look icons and site design, besides being full of great images of vintage toy robots and such. Buy, sell, trade vintage toy robots on this site - a collector's community page.

A bad hair day:

(image credit: liechtenrose)

Take care of your toy robots! Otherwise they will go wandering around, looking forlorn:

(image credit: Nathalie)

And God forbid, will end up somewhere on the street, with a terrible hangover:

Also read: Ladies & Robots!

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Category: Gadgets,Vintage

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! That takes me back; my father bought us the blue and the brown robots, on the 2nd row, in London in 1970.
You could pose the arms with satisfying clicks. With AA batteries in their legs they buzzed along on rubber caterpillar tracks, lights flashing!

Anonymous Andyman said...

For the record...yes they do make tin robots today. Although they're most likely made in China and considered "adult collectibles not suitable for young children".

In fact, in that first group of tin robot pictures in the bottom left corner is an gray R-1 robot produced about 10 years ago by Rocket USA. They still make versions of it today.

Anonymous KaiserTroll said...

And the one on the middle at the top may very well be the inspirations for the "aliens" from the manga/anime Pani Poni

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, this Zerak robot (the blue one) has the same problem as mine; his pants fall down! Compare him to the box art!

Blogger Ken said...

Fun post!

The "Space Crawler" is a GI Joe accessory. I had one and it was very cool. It went with a "moon base". I have no idea what happened to it.

I had a little blue plastic robot that with arms that swung around. It came to a spectacular, pyromaniacal end when I grew tired of it.

Anonymous jenjen said...

If you like robots AND DONUTS, check out the art work of Eric Joyner (http://www.ericjoyner.com/) - he paints excellent toy robots being perturbed by donuts, often of giant proportions. Two great tastes that taste great together.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the space crawler is a 1960's Matt Mason toy, from Mattel.
Look it up, I had one as a kid a looooong time ago.

Blogger Musback said...

in the picture
"Goodwin Museum Toy Robot Collection:"

You can see the robot Gort ( http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/The-Day-the-Earth-Stood-Still-757302.jpg) from the movie "the day the earth stood still"

Brilliant movie by the way.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The five Dinky toys are of course all from Gerry Anderson series: UFO, Thunderbirds and Joe 90.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a CBS Toy Maxx Steele Robot I would like to sell (good working condition). Anyone interested?


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