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The original toy offerings from Japan were clockwork or friction powered, stamped steel and similar to the popular German and American toys before WWII.

The Marshall Plan was designed to help rebuild European and Japanese industries after WWII. The thought was to give assistance to Japan by building industries that would not be a threat to its American counterparts. It was suggestive that low profit, high labor, small item manufacturing industries would fit the requirements. U.S. companies had found that these products incurred high costs and lowered profit margins. They reasoned that by having the manufacturing done in countries with lower wages, they could import the product most cheaply and sell at a higher profit than if they had done the manufacturing in the U.S. American toy imports such as Louis Marx, Cragstan and Mego sold toys that had been made by Nomura, Masudaya (Modern Toy), Daiya, Yoshiya (Kobe), Yonezawa and Horikawa.

The Japanese perfected many of their toy designs and added improved features such as unique actions, tin lithography and battery power.

The first toy robot is considered to be Robot Lilliput from Japan. It is a boxy, yellow clockwork. The exact year of its creation is unsure; the date ranges from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s. The next Japanese robot Atomic Robot Man and was made in the late 1940s. The box for Atomic Robot Man was certainly a reflection of current events when it was made. It depicted a robot marching through a city that had been annihilated with an atomic mushroom cloud overhead.

tin robot toys

Robby the Robot

One of the most famous tin robots is Robby the Robot. Robby the Robot was a fictional character who had a number of appearances in science fiction movies from the 1950s onward. "Robby" was a 7 ft 2 inch mechanical suit designed for an actor to wear, to play the part of a robot. It was originally designed for the 1956 MGM movie Forbidden Planet and it became an icon representing the genre of science fiction films.

Before the appearance of Robby, robots in movies and plays tended to lack characteristics attributable as personality, being simple mechanical devices. Since his appearance, robots with personalities have become more and more common in movies.

For many years, Robby the Robot was on display at the wax figure museum Movieland in Los Angeles, CA. The museum is now closed.

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Robot value

What's it worth? Take a look at this Robot price guide: sold listings for a value indication.

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