Saturday, March 20, 2010

Common Toys, Rare Boxes: I'm Baffled

This isn't what you're thinking: I know that vintage boxes are rarer than the toys they held. Cheap cardboard can't stand up to the ravages of time like sturdy plastic, tin, and steel. On top of that, most kids just tossed the boxes with absolutely no thought whatsoever for the feelings of future collectors.

Little bast--! Ahem. That is to say, "Little dickens!"

No, what I'm really thinking about is how the ratio of relatively common ray guns to their boxes is much different than the ratio of relatively common robots to their boxes. That is to say, of the common robots that appear on eBay, many have their boxes. Whereas, of the common ray guns that appear on eBay, very few of them have their boxes.

Case in point: Chief Robot Man. Not too uncommon a robot, and with a box that I see more than a few times every year. Same goes for the W robot, the Battery Operated Planet Robot, the Battery Operated High-Wheel Robot, the wind up Easel Back Robot, and the little, red Yoshiya Jupiter Robot. If you decide to only buy these toys if they're mint in box, you won't have too much trouble, or spend too much extra money.

Conversely, the Buck Rogers XZ-31 Rocket Pistol, a toy that is always available -- always -- almost never has its box. Same goes for the Hubley Atomic Disintegrator, the Wyandotte ray gun, the Ideal 3 Color Gun... The list goes on and on.

I don't know -- is it my imagination? Am I just dreaming? I haven't conducted a proper investigation, and to tell you the truth, I don't plan on rolling up my sleeves and really digging into the problem. It's a mystery of the hobby, I guess.

Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?


  1. Well I can see parents in the "old days" thinking of a toy robot as a high end, more "collectible type "toy" for their kid. like a train set or something - even I kept all my train set boxes because after play, they held them nicely for storage.

    Yet a gun is a gun. You are going to store it in your belt or a makeshift holster. Not a box. Who keeps a gun in a box? Guns are for shooting, son!

    That's my thoughts on the matter. Purely scientific and exhaustively researched.

  2. I'd agree with Bubbashelby on this. Also it seems to me a lot of ray guns came in bags with header cards but this was not the case with robots. So maybe the manufacturers saw ray guns this way as well.

  3. The mention of bags and headers for ray guns is interesting.

    In my mind, it comes down to the original price of such items. So I agree with the above 2 comments. Let me use the example of vintage vinyl kaiju versus plastic/die-cast robots. Robot toys were relatively expensive back then. Boxes also probably provided a good spot to store unused accessories. Vinyl toys were considered cheap, so kids probably ripped through and tossed packaging. As a result, you will almost never see the bag and header for a Bullmark vinyl. Popy die-casts are much more likely to include the original packaging. The extent to which this figures into pricing is a good question, since robot collectors seem more preoccupied with packaging and paperwork than vinyl collectors.

    Though I admittedly have limited knowledge of the subject matter, I suspect a similar phenomenon to be at play.

  4. All very good points... And I can completely understand why bags and header cards might be lost over time. Among little kids they definitely lack the appeal that a nice, well-illustrated box might have. And this would explain why so few guns are found with packaging, period. (I'd add that many guns were also sold in "multi-boxes" up by a store's counter -- kids took one and never got any packaging at all.)

    All that said, I was thinking about more of an "apples to apples" comparison. That is, guns that originally came in boxes compared to robots that originally came in boxes.


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