News-Antique.com - Feb 16,2008 - Renowned Robot and Space Toy Collection
to be Sold by Smith House
In the world of 20th century antique toy collecting, robots are among the crown jewels. And in the world of robots, toy collector and author Robert Lesser is considered royalty.
This spring, Lesser’s 30-year collection of the greatest and most desired robots and space toys – which have spent most of the last seven years in museum exhibitions in New York and Chicago – will be sold by Smith House Toy & Auction Company. The phone and online auction will open for bidding April 24 and end May 9. A live preview, by appointment only, will be held in mid-April.
Topping the list of more than 200 pieces will be the toy field’s finest robots, many with their extraordinary original boxes. Among them are the series of large, battery-operated mechanical men made by Masudaya in the 1950s. It was Lesser who coined the description “Gang of Five” for the Sonic Robot, Radicon Robot, Non-Stop “Lavender” Robot, Target Robot, and the scarcest of the group, Machine Man. The Machine Man in this auction was the first example of the toy to emerge in North America.
Another headliner in the collection is the extremely rare red version of the Diamond Planet Robot with box, which was once owned by the renowned Japanese toy collector Teruhisa Kitahara. Other top-shelf pieces are the seldom seen Jupiter Robot with box; a silver version of Mr. Atomic with box, and the “Topolino” Radar Robot with box. Each of these could be the centerpiece of an advanced toy collection.
The depth of the Lesser collection continues through many more layers and collecting levels.
On sale will be an example of what is commonly believed to be the first mass-produced robot toy, the primitive-looking Lilliput robot, created in Japan in the 1940s. This particular toy is unique in that it comes not only with its original box, but also its key and key tag. The unusual Conehead robot has packaging aimed at the Japanese market; most of these Japanese toys are found with English lettering meant for export.
Leading the fleet of space toys in the Lesser collection are the robot-piloted Flying Space Saucer, a beautifully lithographed toy, and the Space Patrol Super Cycle with box and rider and the only known original helmet for the figure. The Super Cycle is among several pieces in the Lesser collection that appeared in the early space toy book, “Robot,” by Pierre Boogaerts. The other vehicles include the Volkswagen Space Patrol Car with box, Moon Patrol Vehicle, and Nomura’s Robby Space Patrol, a vehicle modeled after the one in a 1956 film now considered a science-fiction classic.
Among the Robby toys going on sale are the very limited edition silver Robby, the most desirable example of the famous robot and one of the scarcest robots overall. The Moon Robot, another unusual version of Robby, with its rare box, will also be sold.
Other robots with distinct personalities, and their