Founded in the late 1940s, its prolific output of tin toys continued until diecast metal and plastic began to dominate. Especially well known is the Nomura (also known as TN Toys) ‘mechanized robot’ which was clearly based on the ‘Robby’ robot from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, if not officially.
A Nomura battery-operated tinplate robot inspired by the high-camp TV show Batman starring Adam West appeared at Bury St Edmunds saleroom Lacy Scott & Knight (22.5% buyer’s premium) on October 28. In its original box and in working order, it doubled the top estimate to take £5000.
LSK said the battery compartment looked unused and described it as being ‘in superb condition with a superb original colour picture artwork box, cape in excellent clean original condition’ and the model ‘has been well looked after’.
That result followed another Nomura Batman robot offered also at LSK in August 2021 which took a low-estimate £2500.
In December 2019 Teesside auction house Vectis (20.83% buyer’s premium) sold a Batman robot for £3000 (estimate £1800-2400). That example, from 1966, 12½in (32cm) high, was catalogued as an ‘Excellent Plus bright example’ in a ‘Good Plus illustrated box’ (which did, however, have some slight fading to the printing on the top left-hand corner and side of the box).
Last month, on October 27, Vectis sold another 1966 example, this time unboxed, for £1300.
Join the gang
Masudaya’s robot quintet known as the Gang of Five is among the most famous of all Japanese space toys.
Also at LSK, a tinplate and battery-operated model of a Gang of Five Target Robot, 15in (38cm) high, c.1965, sold for £5100 against a guide of £5000-7000. It was described as a ‘rare example in excellent condition, missing the wheels/working components for the robot to move’.
In 2020 US collector Ozzie Bilotta (see Collector Interview, ATG No 2554) purchased the boxed Gang of Five Giant Machine Man robot in 2020 at US saleroom Morphy, which set the record for the most expensive toy robot ever sold, at a hammer price of $130,000 (£102,700).
Unlike the other members of the Gang – Lavender Robot, Giant Sonic Robot, Radicon Robot and Target Robot, all available from a catalogue – ‘Giant’ Machine Man had to be specially ordered from an importer. It was perhaps made for one year only, in 1960, and fewer than a dozen exist today it is thought.