Fieldings Friday Facts - Collecting Vintage Robots

LET US ENTERTAIN YOU - Fieldings Friday Facts - Robots!

It’s Friday again and time for some more fun facts where we can share some of our knowledge and hopefully get you to say “well I didn’t know that!”

This week, our toy specialist and self confessed toy-a-holic Kayleigh Davies takes a look at Japanese toy Robots. While many of you are at home with the kids, this is the perfect little article to share with them, inspire them and get them interested! Who knows this may spark the passion of the next budding collector and with items as cool as these who wouldn’t want to get collecting. 

The 1940s saw new innovations like the automatic washing machine, promising to make our lives easier, leading to an increased interest in and drive for new technology. People were starting to imagine the ultimate convenience, a mechanical assistant to carry out chores, a robot! At the same time, science fiction had been popularised through the 1930s with characters like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. This combination led to the golden era of space toys of the 1950s and 1960s. Japanese toy robots captured the imagination of children during this exciting period, and they still remain popular with collectors today.

The first toy robot was the Japanese Lilliput Robot, probably made in the early 1940s. The small clockwork toy is a classic that has been reproduced many times, so prospective purchasers beware. Originals should be marked ‘Made in Japan’ and feature the logo of the manufacturer ‘KT’. If you manage to find one of these toys, finding an original box is harder still and will make a big difference to the value. Reproduction boxes are another thing new buyers should look out for, as they often make their way into collections when a genuine box couldn’t be obtained.

The most desirable of all toy robots are the ‘Gang of Five’, produced by Masudaya in the 1950s and early 1960s. These battery operated robots all feature the same ‘skirted’ design, and the gang includes Radicon, the first radio controlled robot (and only the second radio controlled toy). Machine Man, the final member of the gang, is the most expensive toy robot of all, the most recent example to sell reaching $86,100. If this is beyond your budget (to be fair its beyond most peoples budget), they were reissued as small clockwork toys in the late 1990s for collectors.

Collecting robots doesn’t have to be expensive. We must remember that these were mass produced items, and although many may have been well play worn or thrown out, good examples can still be found. The Chief Robotman by Yoshiya is a great looking robot, with a skirted design like the Gang of Five, but can easily be found for under £100. When you’re looking at a battery operated toy you must always check the battery compartment, if it’s clean you may be in with a chance of your robot coming to life, but a corroded compartment is bad news. The same robot may also be found in different variations, and it’s worth remembering that earlier versions will be tinplate while later examples may be found with plastic feet or arms. 


Does anyone out there own one of these wonderful characters? Why don’t you share pictures of your Robotic friend, after all they are great fun and never fail to bring a smile to our face!



Posted on 3 April 2020 in: Auction life

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Kayleigh Davies
General Valuer & Toy and Model Railway Specialist

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