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  • The incredible Japanese toy collections of Mark Solondz
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • incredibleJapaneseThetoy

The incredible Japanese toy collections of Mark Solondz

Last year, an event took place which drew large numbers of sci-fi fans and collectors to Pennsylvania, US.

The event wasn't a convention (or at least not at first) but rather the auction of an exceptional collection of Japanese toys, assembled by one Mark Solondz.

It's perhaps easy to underestimate the value of toys and games - especially relatively recent ones - but whether driven by an attraction to the design, or just nostalgia, vintage toys can be very collectible.

In the UK we might think of Dinky cars from the 1950s or similar, but there are more recent examples, such as the classic toys created by Japanese toy manufacturer Popy in the 1970s-80s.

Popy licensed toys based on Anime and Manga characters and accessories. Its breakthrough came with its Chogokin range of metal action figures, based on a fictional 'super-alloy' featured in the animated Mazinger Z series.

Masudaya Target Robot
A tin Target Robot, one of five Masudaya robots

Previously, metal had been used for Japanese toys only if they were vehicles, like cars or planes. But worries that metal action figures would be a flop were unfounded - in fact, they were a huge hit.

Despite this success and the popularity of related toys, a dip in sales in the early 1980s rapidly saw production of unique Popy-style toys cease. Popy was eventually absorbed back into its parent company, Bandai.

However, in the closing years of the company and following its demise, New Jersey businessman Mark Solondz quietly began to amass large numbers of classic Japanese toys based around those made by Popy.

Today, some of the Popy pieces he acquired are now exceptionally rare. For example, a complete series of Ninja Captor and Robocon, and a gold-legged version of Mazinger.

Solondz arranged several trips to Japan specifically for the purpose of collecting. But it wasn't until he brought his treasures to auction that other collectors became aware of him.

He "flew under the radar for years and made very smart buying choices," explained Dan Morphy, head of Dan Morphy auctions, where Solondz's near 1,500 item collection was offered.

"We believe it is the largest single-owner robot, space toy and superhero collection of its type ever to come to auction.

"It stands apart from any collection we at Morphy's have ever seen before because it contains so many of the great die-cast pieces made by Bandai offshoot Popy, in boxes with Japanese writing that are so desirable to collectors."

Tin Radicon Robot
Tin Radicon Robot
(Click to enlarge)

Japanese branded items, die-cast and vinyl toys, and especially superheroes formed the bulk of the collection which appeared at Dan Morphy. Also included were toys based on superheroes from outside of Japan - including ones more familiar to collectors brought up on American DC and Marvel heroes, such as Batman.

But it was the Japanese toys, including heroes unfamiliar to most Westerners like Moonlight Man and Super Kunthat, which drew some fans into making long journeys just to see the auction.

Morphy's, in association with the popular site ToyboxDX, hosted a reception for the visiting 'robot community' at the Black Horse Tavern before the sale.

The reception's highlights included Masudaya robots; among them a tin Target robot which beat its $2,000-4,000 estimate to sell for $5,265, as did its fellow Non-Stop, or Lavender robot (top right).

Super Jetter Toy Race Car
Super Jetter Toy Race Car
(Click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, a near-mint Tin Radicon Robot beat both of those, being taken home for $7,605. The toy can be controlled with a remote control and not only swings its arms, rotates its ears and illuminates its head but also produces sparks from its chest.

Also in the sale, a friction-powered, boxed, near-mint X-27 Explorer Robot sold for $8,775.

The top lot, however, was as some had predicted: a small, boxed, friction-powered space explorer Super Jetter prototype Race Car Toycar. The car doubled its $4,000-6,000 estimate to speed to $11,000 - helped by the fact that it is utterly unique, the only one of its kind.

In total, the auction achieved a grand total of $700,000, and the beautifully preserved pieces are now distributed through the homes of happy collectors across America and Japan. Within these collections, they are likely to increase in value for years to come...

 

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  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • incredibleJapaneseThetoy