Vintage Robot Toys

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After traumatizing you all with freaky celluloid toys last week, I figured I owed it to everyone to counter this week with some good vintage toys – and because I really like robots, I figured I’d see what kind of vintage toy robots would be out there.

It turns out there are a lot of them. A whole lot, especially if you go looking for ‘tin toy robots’. So I figured I’d just pick a handful of the more unusual ones I came across in my browsing to show today.

Remco 1969 Wizard of Oz Tin Man Robot

As soon as I saw him, I fell in love- and not just because he walks like a man! This toy is just all kinds of adorable, even if he’s more Tik-Tok than Tin Man, and not terribly accurate to either film or original illustrations. He radiates charm with his cute pink cheeks, inviting smile and wry eyes, and the detailing of the three rivets on his head is quite nice. His body clashes with his head, although the arms are also well designed, and if I had to guess, I’d say that manufacturer Remco may have taken another toy robot sculpt and added this Oz head to it.

Remco’s most notorious and sought after robot figure these days is their version of Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space; collectors have come to find that figure particularly desirable, and the value of an original Remco Robbie has jumped to almost $900 at some auctions. Remco hasn’t produced anything under their own imprint since Swat Kats in 1994; Jakks Pacific currently owns the company.

Gabriel 1978 Mickey Mouse Wind Up Robot

Mickey was manufactured by Gabriel in 1978. Gabriel Toys has an interesting history; they were purchased by CBS, the television network, and mutated into CBS Toys, a video game manufacturer, which distributed ColecoVision. Later the company was sold to ViewMaster, ultimately to become part of what is currently Mattel when ViewMaster was sold in turn.

This robot toy is interesting because by today’s standards it’d be considered “off model”- the eyes are too close together and too small in size, giving it an inauthentic feel. This seems unusual when Disney has been so notoriously obsessed with quality control of their merchandising and the maintenance of their mascot’s good appearance. The windup mechanism being inside a clear jacket is a cool touch, though.

Ideal Mr. Machine 1978 version

There’ve been several releases of Mr. Machine. The original dates back to the 60’s and rang a bell in addition to just walking. The original toy could be taken apart and reassembled, like a primitive K’Nex or a motorized LEGO set. At one time Mr. Machine was even Ideal’s company mascot! In an interesting and curious coincidence, Ideal was also sold to Viewmaster in 1987.

The 1978 reissue, of which this auction is one piece, was retooled heavily. Critical changes for child safety reasons were made, including making it so that the toy couldn’t be dismantled. Rather than ringing a bell and ‘sighing’, the 1978 release whistled “This Old Man” when wound up.

Cheng Ching 1970’s Space Warrior Robot

Ah, the delicious taste of hilariously obvious bootlegs. As this sort of thing goes, though, this one’s pretty entertaining, a combination of Darth Vader and an Imperial Stormtrooper that walks, rotates and presumably does not use Force powers to choke people. “Space Warrior” was manufactured in 1985 by Cheng Ching (also known as C. C. Huang), a Taiwanese company well known for thinly veiled knockoffs of figures from other lines.

For example, their Nebular Warlords line was blatantly “inspired by” Masters of the Universe – although I do quite like the fact that their He-Man figure, “Iron Man”, rides a rhino rather than an armored cat. They also created a strange hybrid of Dairugger and Voltron in 1985 and released three robots under the group name of The Botix Warriors.

Unknown 1970’s Diecast Japanese Transforming Robot Figure

And last, dear readers, I leave you with a mystery item. Just what the heck is this? I’ve done quite a bit of googling attempting to identify this strange pre-Transformers figure. I can’t even tell what the heck it’s supposed to be in its disguised mode – some kind of speaker? A cigarette case? The world’s oddest paperweight? Sadly, the images for the auction don’t reveal very much, giving no maker mark or model, and the robot itself is almost featureless.

All we know is that the toy is Japanese, originates around the same time as the first transformable toy figures and may either immediately date to or follow shortly after the same time period as Daiclone and Microman – though without the technical and artistic innovation of either. It’s years too early for Machine Robo as well, since that series began production in 1982. This rather more reminds me of the watch-transformables or the novelty Coke-can transformer – it’s got zero points of articulation to speak of, just a bendy neck and solid arms that go in and out of its sides. And why was it diecast? Not all toys get the diecast treatment after all, although it was much more common back then.

Have we found a Mesozoic changer, some lost and forgotten relic from the prehistory of transforming toys? Drop a comment if you can identify any aspect of this odd little changer.

Cassandra writes about media and randomness at her blog, cassandrapoe.com, and dreams of having her very own mysterious robot companion someday…

Want to read more articles about classic toys? Check these out:

Forget-Me-Nots: My Lone Ranger Action Figure

Mr. Potato Head: Under The Tater Skin

The Plastic Wars: A Retrosepctive on Army Men

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2 Comments

  1. Howdy…nice photo of Tin Man by Remco.
    Just FYI…the Lost in Space robot was NOT named Robbie…..he had no name. They just called him “Robot”.
    Robbie was Forbidden Planet’s Robot.
    You can correct this on your site if you wish.
    RK

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