My Spacetoy History
In the year I was born (1967), an era ended in which the most creative spacetoys ever, were made. It was a pure coincidense that also in this year my favorite spacetoy was made by Yonezawa in Japan. It took over 30 years before I could lay my hands again on this beautiful spacetoy. (spacetoys are not that common in Holland). Here is my story, welcome to vintagespacetoys.com!
My whole life I am fascinated by technique, electronics, can motors, batteries and those little lightbulbs. When I was young I took most of my toys apart to see how they looked from the inside and how they functioned. Some toys from my youth survived but most of them were not so lucky. a tin tank with remote corded control and a tractor survived. Also a flying saucer survived but only in my head… It was a flying saucer with flashing lights and a propeller and when placed on the ground it bumped into things and found itself always a way out… that`s all I could remember.
Just like most people of my age, I totally forgot about my childhood toys but when I became a father and my son was a few years old, we found a very old Japanese robot on a market. As an “experienced” father that took everything apart in his own childhood, I took the non working (piston)robot apart and got it working again. My son enjoyed this old spacetoy a lot and it remembered me of my own flying saucer I had when I was of his age.
I started searching again to this forgotten toy from my past and I found an internetsite (danefield.com) filled with flying saucers from the 1950`s and 1960`s and yes, there it was, the “thing” I have had in my mind for at least 30 years. Yonezawa flying Saucer Space Patrol 2019. (how could I forget 🙂 and believe it or not it just looked like the “thing” I had in my head for such a long time. Now I had seen this spacetoy again, the search began and after a few months, I was able to lay my hands on a perfectly working Space Patrol 2019 in its original box and it would not be the last one that I would hold…
From that moment I had been “infected” by the spacetoy virus, I started collecting, creating, repairing and trading them. I decided to focus only on battery operated space toys, robots, saucers, ships and rockets, the ones that I personally like. On Vintagespacetoys.com you will find a part of my total collection of high-end spacetoys. They are all authentic and original Japanese handmade pieces that are thoroughly inspected. Thanks to my background I understand the need of an experienced collector. That is why all my spacetoys not only look good but they perform as well now as they did 40 – 50 years ago. Since 2010 I also started creating Robots and Spacetoys out of old broken toys. You will find many of my creations on my website. Also you will find artwork created by myself along with the creations. These creations are always made out of authentic and original parts.
Vintagespacetoys.com is updated on a regular base and every toy you see on this site is actually available and for sale. Feel free to contact me about prices, additional pictures and all your questions.
1950’s: The Golden Age.
Its not easy to find some general information about the history of space toys. In the book “Vintage Toys” I found a nice story that tells about the glory days of space toys. The Golden Age. As with every phenomenon, it only happens once and for space toys, that time was the decade of the 1950`s. There are countless reasons for this explosion in popularity, but perhaps the greatest influence come down to motion pictures and the launch of Sputnik. These two factors contributed greatly to the public`s awareness of \’outer space\’ as a concept, and space toys and flying saucers in particular.
Though science fiction had been around for decades and had gained momentum in the 1930`s with the rise of pop culture icons like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon it underwent a profound maturation in the 1950`s. To be sure, most sci-fi content was still aimed at children; from the Captain Video television series to the hapless relaunches of the anarcronistic Rogers and Gordon, kids were awash in goofy, silly, and often trite portrayals of science fiction.
But Films like Destination Moon ( 1950 ) and The day the Earth stood still (1952) demonstrated the increasing seriousness and maturity that sci-fi jubject matter was enjoying. Just as the kids of the 1930`s had grown up so too had their sci-fi entertainment. This enhanced respectability had widespread social impact, including an embracing of space toys by toymakers and consumers alike.
Combine this increased pop-culture awareness with the reality of the 1956 launch of Sputnik and american consumers in particular had plenty of reason ( good and bad ) to focus on the skies when they shopped for toys.
And no one was better positioned to respond than the toymakers of Japan. Can motors, D-cell battaries and beautifully lithographed tin, the three basic components of a produkt strategy that would rule toy design and marketing for a generation.
1960’s: Fantasy Meets Reality
From a design point of view, the 1960`s were a time when the fantasy of science fiction collided headlong with the reality of the american and sovjet space programms. No longer were spacecraft the exclusive design domain of creative thinkers at pulp magazines and toy companies. Suddenly, with the dawning of the Mercury space program, there were actual, true to life examples of space vehicles for children and toy designers to ponder.
This infusion of reality into space-toy design had profound impact on both child demand and the toys that emerged in response. Interest in fanciful designs waned; toys based on the Mercury, Gemini, and ultimately Apollo spacecraft supplanted whimsy with blueprinted reality. And all of this change took place amid the Tokyo to industry`s struggle with skyrocketing overhead costs.
Japan had dominated the 1950`s space toy category with innovation, creativity, and perhaps most important, low price points. Yet their success was also their undoing, because as the Japanese saw their standard of living grow, the costs assosiated with their succesful industries also rose, reducing their marketplace competitivensess. In the end, it was a no win situation: costs rese at a time when the export consumer was demanding more for less. Most Japanese toymakers fought this losing battle well into the decade, but by the end of the 1960`s, most had either vanished or constricted precipitously. In fact, as the 1970`s dawned, it was becoming difficult to find playthings on american toy shelves marked “made in Japan”.
the meteoric spectacle of succes was almost over for Japan. But not before a handful of stunnig final efforts would emerge.
1970’s: In the End…..
In the end, when space toys had finished their marketplace run, there was very little sadness or public display or remorse. Time had moved on; builders and marketers had wrung the life from this one-vibrant category. Perhaps most important was the change which took place in the consumers mind.
No longer was the concept of an “outer space” toy novel or interesting; in fact, even the american space program would wind down by 1974, the victim of declining popular interest and sagging financial support. Even going to the moon had become passe. Rising overhead costs had decimated most of the major names in the Japanese toymaking. Many went under, others retooled and became manufacturers of consumer electronics, and a few survived to continue their toymaking ways.
One country`s loss is often an others gain and as Japan`s fortunes waned, those in HongKong and Taiwan began to rise. Many of the 1970`s more memorable playthings would emerge from these enclaves outside the People`s Republic of China. Indeed, throughout the 1970`s, it was far more likely to came across a toy marked “Made in Hong Kong” or “Made in Taiwan” than it was “made in Japan”. and In 1977, with the arrival of George Lucas groundbreaking Star Wars, space toys would once again rise up, but this time, in a completely new and differnet way. Licensing was the new path toy makers would follow; no more want fanciful, in-house designs be the Next big thing. for that, such ideas would have to come from outside.
And so it is, to this very day……………………
source: Vintage Toys 1999 by Bunte, HallmanMueller
If you have questions about robots or spacetoys you own, found or want to sell or trade, plz contact me directly on: firstname.lastname@example.org