Robot Conquers Auction - Antique Trader

DENVER, Pa. – After spending decades tucked away in an attic, the rarest of the "Gang of Five" robots, "Machine Man," has set a new world-record auction price at Morphy.

Complete with original box, the ultra rare battery-operated tin-lithographed robot from 1960 sold for $159,900, handily beating its estimate of $60,000-$90,000. 

Unlike most kids’ toys that spent their days being played with and banged around, this Machine Man lived a much quieter life for 60 years.

“It came from an attic, right from the original owner, who had it as a child but didn’t play with it for some reason,” said Tommy Sage, Jr., head of Morphy Auctions’ toy division. 

Masudaya Machine Man robot with original box, 1960, set a record when it sold at Morphy Auctions for $159,900.

Masudaya Machine Man robot with original box, 1960, set a record when it sold at Morphy Auctions for $159,900.

The near-mint 15-inch-tall robot is one of few known examples of its type from Masudaya’s revered postwar “Gang of Five” produced in the late-1950s and early-1960s. Its bright red body features lithographed rivets and gears on its chest plate, and its eyes and ears illuminate through colored plastic. When activated, it has a bump-and-go action. Machine Man is the most sought-after of all space toys because of its rarity. 

“Machine Man was made for only one year – 1960 – and it had to be specially ordered from an importer,” said Sage. “The other four could be ordered from a catalog, but not Machine Man.”

The other four robots are Radicon, Target, Non Stop and Sonic.

The addition of Machine Man's original box – with graphics showing the robot at work on a foreign planet, while a man and woman enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the robot work – put the robot in another league altogether from the other record breakers at Morphy. In 2012, Morphy sold an unboxed one for $45,600, and in March 2019, it auctioned a high-grade unboxed Machine Man for $86,100. 

These Japanese robots are highly prized by collectors today, and the market for them stems from the fact that they were game-changers in the toy world when they were introduced. Their size was unlike any other robot on the market at that time and they also had features that had never been seen before. For example, Radicon was the first wireless remote-controlled robot toy on the market.

Because of the extra steps required for ordering Machine Man, the robot was produced in much smaller numbers than the other four in the gang. As a result, probably less than a dozen exist today and of those, Sage estimated that only two or three exist in their original box. 

"This boxed Machine Man was a once-in-a-lifetime buying opportunity,” Sage said.