Masudaya Target Japanese tin robot captures $23,600, nearly doubling high estimate

DENVER, Pa. – Morphy’s April 29-30 auction of antique toys and advertising was a resounding success, taking in $1,570,000 (all prices quoted include 18 percent buyer’s premium). All methods of bidding – live, phone and Internet – ran hot throughout the sale. The gallery was brimming with people – both regulars to Morphy’s sale and newcomers who were in the area to shop or set up at Renninger’s Adamstown Extravaganza.

“Having our sale during the Extravaganza was a winner. We’ll be doing that again,” said Dan Morphy, owner of Morphy Auctions.

The auction featured several specialty sections, three of which were: figural cast-iron doorstops and other novelties; early Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper advertising; and a 112-lot selection of desirable vintage robots, space toys and sci-fi vinyls and figures.

Bidding was especially competitive for two robots from the famed Masudaya “Gang of Five” series. The boxy, battery-operated, mid-century Japanese robots are considered classics and are the obligatory cornerstone of any serious robot collection. Whenever any of the “Gang” members appear at auction and are extra clean and complete, a bidding war can be expected.

The top robot lot in Morphy’s sale was a Masudaya Target Robot. This purple tin “Gangster” stands 15 inches tall and comes equipped with a dart-shooting toy gun, and darts. When activated, the robot moves forward, its eyes and mouth illuminated. Next, it turns around as if retreating, but soon turns back and advances forward again. The object is to shoot a dart that connects with the bright red target on the robot’s chest. The example in Morphy’s sale was in excellent condition, complete with its gun, darts and beautifully lithographed original box. Against an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000, it hit the bull’s eye at $23,600.

Another leading lot from the Gang of Five was the 18 3/4-inch tall Radicon Robot. It operates differently than its four brethren, as it is directed by a wireless remote control with antenna. When activated by the remote control, it advances with a sparking chest, illuminated head and rotating earpiece. Its arms swing forward and back. The robot is constructed from a grainy gray metal seen in old filing cabinets of the 1950s. In Morphy’s sale, the Radicon Robot was estimated at $6,000 to $12,000 but surpassed expectations to sell for $14,800.

“Robot collectors are diehards,” Morphy remarked. “They’re so enthusiastic about what they collect, and they really enjoy the camaraderie with fellow collectors. They’ve even held club conventions nearby to coincide with our sales featuring robots. We always look forward to having them here at the gallery.”

Visit Morphy’s website for information on upcoming sales.


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