Masudaya 'Gang of Five' Robots Pack a Punch at Morphy's

08 January 2013
imports_CCGB_19354089_92007.jpg Masudaya 'Gang of Five' Robots Pack a Punch at Morphy's
Machine Man and Radicon robots steal the show at the $1.68 million auction. ...
Masudaya 'Gang of Five' Robots Pack a Punch at Morphy's Images

Two rare Masudaya robots, along with a sought after Thunder Robot, caused a storm at Morphy's Premier Auction in December and helped the three day sale realise a spectacular $1.68 million (prices include 20% buyer's premium). The collection of mechanical men had been put together by a collector called Dave DiMartino who had travelled throughout Europe, acquiring many rare and desirable robots along the way.

In particular he had managed to collect a full set of the so-called 'Gang of Five' robots by Japanese manufacturer Masudaya - although interestingly there were actually six planned, despite the name. Released in the 1950s the gang all featured a very similar body/head but had different paint jobs and features. Included in the gang are: Sonic Robot, Non Stop (Lavender) Robot, Target Robot, Machine Man, Radicon Robot and Giant Shooting Robot, which was never actually produced.

Among these the rarest is considered to be the Machine Man (left), so it should come as no surprise to hear that this was the most sought after item of the auction. The bright red robot had several areas of oxidation and litho loss, along with corrosion throughout, but that didn't stop it shooting past its pre-sale estimate of $20,000-30,000 to realise a wonderful $45,600.

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It was joined in the high earners gang by the battery operated Radicon Robot - billed as the first ever radio-controlled robot. Again this example did feature some oxidation and discolouration, along with a re-sprayed battery box, but a lucky bidder snapped it up at $10,800. In fact, bidders had the opportunity to pick up all of the Gang of Five and the rest of a group achieved the following prices: Target Robot, $10,200; Non Stop (Lavender) Robot, $7,200; Sonic (Train) Robot, $8,400.

Another equally sought after item was the fantastic Thunder Robot (right) by Asakusa Toy Company. This impressive-looking menace walks along and raises its arms while making a gatling gun noise. Again, it's a very rare piece to track down - something that's made harder by the numerous replicas available of the market. However, this was certainly the real deal and it thundered past the pre-sale estimate of $2,500-3,500 to achieve $10,200. You can actually see one in action in our video review of a previous auction at Vectis - take a look here.

Finally many robot collections aren't complete without at least one Robby the Robot, as featured in the film Forbidden Planet, and there were several examples of Robby-style toys in the auction. The highlight among the crowd though was lot 1141 a battery-operated take  on the famous robot in silver by Japanese maker Nomura. Although it did feature some minor touch-ups and stress lines, it sold for an impressive $10,200.