Friday, July 16, 2010

Electro Art Works On Display!

I'd like to give a shout out to sculptor Andy Hill, who has three of his Andy Bots included in an exhibit called "The Art of the Robot" at the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas.

Photo: Curator Carol Emert for the Mulvane Art Museum. Via Alphadrome.

Andy is a talented artist who creates fascinating toy robots out of found objects. His pieces are always fun and full of personality, and wrought with such skill that you can rarely tell where the individual parts originally came from. I've written about him, and have posted pics of my own Andy Bots, here.

"The Art of the Robot" runs through September 19, and includes works by 17 artists, including Hill, Clayton Bailey, Eric Joyner, Nemo Gould, and David Lipson. For more information, visit the Mulvane Art Museum's web site.

You can find out more about Andy Hill's work by visiting his site, Electro Art Works.


  1. Congrats to 'Andy Bot'!!

    Hey hiya Doc... Just a thought/idea.

    If you have not already, and think it's one you want to do...

    How about a post on affordable vintage robots and ray guns for the new/beginning collector?

    What kinds of robots and ray guns could those of us who know nothing about this area could buy affordably and easily on eBay, and know what really is a vintage versus a reproduction?

    Personally I'd love to know the types made in the 50's and early 60's, plastic or metal, no matter to me, but thought you might share your expertise for those of us who are interested, but know very little, and who are not sure if they want to invest a lot of money (yet).

    =) Just an idea...

  2. @1950's_atomic_ranch_house
    That's actually an idea I've been toying with for a while. There are a couple sticking points, though, that keep me from actually following up on it.

    Let's say that I set the parameters to include only the toys I consider a part of the so-called "Golden Age" of of robots and ray guns. Generally, this means the mid Thirties through the late Sixties. Pretty much everything I've written about, with a few small exceptions here and there. (Some of the best Horikawas came out in the Seventies, for instance.)

    If these are the toys we're talking about, then the reality is very few are available for less than $100 (to pick an arbitrary price point). Some ray guns, but that's about it. Generally, the low end for robots is considered to be between $150 and $350. There are some cool ones to be had for less, but not too many. I'd say that only five or six of the robots that I've written about reliably fall into this price range. Most of the others... well, they cost a lot more.

    Like I said, ray guns are generally a better bet if you're shopping on a budget. I can think of many amazing pieces for under $100. But, again, I can think of many more that leap well out of that price point. I'd say way more than half of the toys I've posted are in this latter category.

    So what defines "affordable"? That's the first of the big sticking points.

    The other one has to do with reproductions vs. originals -- again, as you suggested. Usually, I can just tell when something's fake. It comes down to the subtle differences in manufacturing, the hue of the paint and the way its aged, and other tiny, almost subconscious tell-tale signs that I've learned to identify over the years. Unfortunately, I'm terrible at pointing them out -- it's just a gut feeling most of the time.

    There are definitely distinct, identifiable differences between reproduction toys and the originals. Usually, these are the best way to identify the fakes. But again, I've got a problem -- I'm just not that familiar with the reproductions. I don't collect them, I don't study them, I don't really bother to keep any sort of notes regarding differences in lithography, joints, sizes, etc. I can usually tell at a glance when something's fake so I never bother to do more research than that.

    So I don't want to say anything because I don't want to be wrong and then inadvertently cause another collector to spend money on a fake. That's a nightmare of mine!

    However... However.

    This doesn't mean I won't eventually do some sort of post that helps a newbie get into the hobby. So many collectors extended their own hand to help pull me up, it'd be horrible for me to not do the same for anyone else. That's one of the reasons I have this blog; I want new collectors to find it and read it and get a better sense of some of the toys out there. It's limited, of course, by my own collection, but it's a start and it's better than nothing. It's getting to be about time to take it to the next step, I guess, and write up a few helpful tips.

    Whew. Long answer! Aren't you glad you asked?!

  3. lol, actually I AM glad I asked!

    And I can see your point. In my mind, "mid-century" means, 1945-1965, give or take a few years. But other fellow mid-century bloggers see late 1960's - late 1970's as mid-century as well. To me, the interior and design styles are so different, they belong in another category. Others disagree. So... There you go.

    On the issue of "fakes" or reproduction, I would simply caution my audience the way Antiques Roadshow tends to do it. Know that even the top experts are *sometimes* fooled, but it's best to get to know the category you are interested in first before investing any significant amount of money. Also, buy what you like, don't buy because you think it might be a *good investment deal* unless you really know your stuff. Just in case.

    I consider myself a very good judge of "vintage", but via eBay (where we can't pick that item up and look it over) I have been fooled a couple times. If I am unsure, I gauge based on cost: Is it cheap enough and do I like it enough to be "ok" if it's a reproduction after all? Well, that's how I do it, in addition to all the things you mentioned about "gut instinct".

    Affordability is an issue too. Perhaps you could "group" things by cost. Robots on the upper end, guns and other things on the lower, if that's how they work out to be. And perhaps, branch out a bit to similar toys and games to include a more "affordable pool" of things to talk about? Not sure, just a thought. I notice vintage space friction toys *seem* to be on the lower-ish end, and I adore them! There are a few of the same design mechanical coin space banks that come up often, and one in great condition sold for less that $70 a couple weeks ago. Not sure what else, I still am not familiar enough with the category as a whole to see.

    And perhaps you don't think it's "right" to include other things like mechanical space coin banks in these categories. Don't mean to be stepping on any toes here, just a noobie who finds all this fascinating. =)

  4. I tend to include a word of warning re: reproductions within the individual posts themselves; if a toy's been reproduced, I let readers know. But I think a more general warning within the context of a beginner's guide would certainly be appropriate. I would also include some of the basic tips to avoid being scammed.

    I'm less inclined to branch out into non-robot or ray gun items, simply because I don't know as much about them. I'm familiar with all sorts of space banks -- for instance -- but not enough that I can really talk about them in specific terms. I don't collect them. The same goes for rockets, space cars, space tanks, flying saucers, or any of the other numerous categories of space toys that are out there. I'm certainly aware of them them, and in some cases I have much more than a passing knowledge, but I don't know them well enough to feel comfortable getting into the nitty gritty details.

    So while I know for a fact that there are numerous space toys in the lower end of the price spectrum, I don't know a heck of a lot about them.

    Re: Friction Toys: It's true, there are a lot of inexpensive friction space toys, especially ones that came out in the Sixties and Seventies -- and later. However, again, if you're talking about "golden age" pieces, it's definitely not a truism. I can think of a few friction toys off the top of my head that have recently sold for about $12,000. If that's "entry level," I'm playing in the wrong sand box! (Ha ha.)

    If I were to write such an entry, I'd definitely position it as a guide to robots and ray guns, with maybe a small note regarding other space toys. Stick with what I know, ya know?

    Anyway, I'm giving it some thought. A guide for beginners -- it's a lot of responsibility! Don't want to cost anyone any money...

  5. Yeah, stick with what you know best, and are most familiar with. And if you think there is a *golden age* of toys, then talk about those. I stick to what I like best on my blog, and that's what I consider the *golden age* of mid-century.

    You provide enough individual information about the toys you own (I'm assuming you own most or all of the one's you feature) to give a very good indication already. All anyone has to do is search for a particular name within your blog.

    Sooooooo if you wish to focus or do a summary about the toys you know and love the best, do so.

    I found it very informative that you mention the kinds of things often missing or broken off on certain toys, because if you are not familiar with each toy, you may not know that fact.

    Sooooooo if you think your blog is enough info by itself for the newbie collector, then it is. =)

  6. I think the blog is enough to supplement a newbie collector's own research. I don't think anyone should rely on only one source of information when jumping into a hobby that's going to cost them money. I spent months sifting through various web sites and books before I spent a dime. I asked questions, I studied eBay auctions, I tried to figure out what was what -- and what I actually liked. It paid off -- I got great toys for great prices instead of getting burned.

    The Attic is just one collector's chronicle of his toys, nothing more or less. It's presented in a way that, hopefully, will help out other collectors with information they might not already have, but it's by no means the definitive guide to the hobby -- or even the toys I've written about. (And yes, except for those in guest blogger's posts, I own them all.) New information is constantly coming to light, and even if I update my entries, I know I'll always run the risk of being behind the curve. So it goes.

    Oh, and "Golden Age of Space Toys" isn't so much my terminology as a given concept within the hobby. It signifies a wave of space toys that preceded all others. There were no toy robots prior to 1938, and no toy space guns prior to 1934. (That we know of, anyway.) And up until the late Sixties, these companies were pretty much spitting out original creations left and right... It wasn't until the late Sixties and early Seventies -- when space exploration became really real -- that we finally saw a seismic shift in new directions in terms of design. The fantasy left the toys and was replaced by a desire for realism. Or, at least, more realism. Add to shifts in manufacturing, technology, etc., and you suddenly found a very different space toy landscape.

    So while these later toys might be great, they're definitely part of a second wave. A "Silver Age of Space Toys," if you will. "Golden Age" doesn't signify quality, just the toys' generation.

  7. Great advice, about spending the time to search and research before buying. Couldn't have said it better myself. It took me a while to figure out *exactly* what I liked most, and wanted to collect among my collections, and I am glad I didn't simply start 'buying like crazy' just because I decided *to* collect.

    It DOES save you from getting burned, or buying something that you later find out is not a complete item (missing parts or only one of a set, for example).

    Interesting about the "division" in space toy collecting too. As a noob, I didn't know or think about it, but yes, there were the space toys and such prior to space travel, and those after. I'm trying to confine my space "stuff" to around the late 1950's-early 1960's (only because that's the age of my house, and I prefer "authentic things of the time" in my case), but I see the difference now that you mention it. Oh, if I didn't confine my buying in some ways, I'd never stop lol, hence my decision to limit the 'age' of things.

    Well, interesting enough! Meanwhile, I continue to throughly enjoy your blog! =D


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