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Get Wound Up with Vintage Toy Robots

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/28/2007 | Hobbies
Toy robots are not just for kids. It seems adults are amassing their own collections of these wonderful toys. In fact, vintage toy robots have become extremely collectible items, especially vintage Japanese tin toy robots. Serious collectors prize them for their artistic value as well as their contribution to science fiction. Some can command very high prices in today's marketplace, even though they were inexpensive toys that originally sold for only a few dollars. A robot with its original beautifully illustrated box will fetch even more.

There is some debate as to the actual year the first mass-produced Japanese tin toy robot was manufactured. It is believe to be sometime between the late 1930's to the mid 1940's. A little yellow robot, named Robot Lilliput is generally thought to be the first Japanese tin toy robot.

Japanese manufacturers produced numerous fine tin robots using sheet iron material plated with tin and printed with a process called lithography. The first robots were friction or clockwork robots that could be wound up. They were followed by battery operated ones. These robots could perform various play actions, for example, walking, bump and go, moving head and arms, flashing lights, puffing smoke, operating tools or vehicles, shooting guns and turning gears, talking voices or making various sounds. Each style of robot had its own unique personality.

Many United States importers traded in them. The following is a list of the better known Japanese manufactures and some of the robots they made.

1. Asakusa - Thunder Robot

2. Daiya - Astronaut Robot, Laser Robot 008, Ranger Robot

3. Horikawa - Busy Cart Robot, Engine Smoking Robot, Excavator Robot, Mr. Patrol Robot

4. Masudaya - R-35 Robot, Gang of Five Robots

5. Noguchi - Mechanical Robot, Mighty Robot

6. Nomura - Musical Drummer Robot, Radar Robot

7. Yonezawa - TV Space Man, Buzzer Robot, Directional Robot, Easelback Robot, Moon Robot, Space Explorer Robot, Talking Robot, Winky Robot, Mr. Atomic Thinking Robot

8. Yoshiya - Chief Robotman, Chief Smoky Robot, Mighty Robot, High Wheel Robot, Sparky Robot

It is important for a collector to protect his valuable collection. Taking out batteries before storing or displaying robots to prevent damage caused by battery leaks. Care should be taken to shelter the robots and their boxes from direct sunlight to avoid fading. Also, they must be protected from excessive cold, heat and moisture. It is recommended to operate the robot occasionally not only to enhance the collector's pleasure in his hobby, but also to maintain the robot's machinery.

Vintage toy robots are able to stir up magical memories and feelings of nostalgia with people who enjoyed these toys as children. Many excellent reproductions are currently being produced. Which should allow waddling, blinking and beeping robots to continue delighting generations of children well into the future.