In the 1950s (and beyond), Japan toy manufacturers had the reputation as the best – in creativity, design, and quality. To this day some of the most wanted post-WWII vintage toys were manufactured in Japan – particularly the tin-litho windups, including robots, i.e. The Alps Television Spaceman and The Radicon Robot.
Still, there are some non-Japanese vintage toy robots that collectors prize – one of them is the DUX Astroman Robot made in West Germany.
Designed by Lothar Stanetzki of Bonn, Germany and originally seen in German catalogs in 1959. The original patent, which was filed in January of 1960 and granted in April 1964, defined the specific distinction of this robot:
…a serious drawback of many presently utilized toys of this general character is that all movements which the toys are capable of performing must occur in a predetermined sequence i.e. that the player cannot change the sequence of movements as he wishes…An important object of [this] invention is to provide an improved automaton which is…constructed in such a way…that the movements which it is adapted to perform are independent of each other and may be initiated either simultaneously or in any desired sequence which dependents only upon the user’s choice.
The final result was a 12″, battery operated remote controlled robot named Astroman – it became a best seller. Astroman has a translucent green body with a light up chest, a forward walking motion, bends at the waist, and opens and closes his arms to pick up objects. He also has a glow-in-the dark head, a clear plastic helmet, red antenna, and headphones.
Plastic robots in the 1950s and early sixties were very rare. DUX Astroman Robot is considered the first of its kind. It’s for this reason that the robot can be quite expensive – not only for its historical value, but also because of the wear and bowing that is known to happen with plastic toys. The red antenna is fragile and is often missing and the pads on the hands can often be worn down or missing altogether. The clear plastic helmet can be discolored after years of being exposed to the elements. A reproduction replacement for the antenna can cost anywhere from $35.00-$60.00 in some places. A reproduction of the helmet can cost as much as $90.00, and a reproduction head/mask can sell for $35.00-$60.00 – most aren’t even glow-in-the-dark. To find an original DUX Astroman Robot in mint condition with all working parts accompanied with the original box, standing display, cargo boxes, and instructions is very rare. Collectors have been known to pay anywhere from $1,100.00 to $1,800.00 for the complete set-up like the one shown below.
So, if you’re a person who visits garage and lawn sales looking for that amazing find, and you see a DUX Astroman Robot set that’s selling for an amazing price, even if you’re not a fan of vintage toy robots, buy it. Consider it a worthwhile investment.
(Photos via ToyTent except where noted)