The Archaeology of a Toy

Written by Myles on Friday, June 25, 2010.

We rarely know the history of toys we own. When we purchase a vintage toy through ebay or Yahoo Japan, its typical a cold transaction. We send the money, and the toy arrives in the mail without much communication or hooplah.  We rip open the packaging, and throw the toy up on our shelves after a little fiddling. We appreciate the toy for its current state and what it represented when it was made, but we rarely know the history of a toy - where it was purchased, when it was bought, or who owned it previously.  Sometimes knowing this can make a collectible all the more special.

In Japan, it was the custom for children to write their names in kanji on their vinyl toys.  As such, you will often find writing in marker on the feet of many vintage kaiju purchased from Japan.  While some collectors shy away from any toys with such writing, others appreciate this for the history it provides and knowing that the toy was well loved.

In some cases, the items are so rare that we can track the history of sales via the auction photos.  Super collectors Dave K. (nekrodave) and Josh F. have often written about this for particular Jumbo Machinder and tin toys, respectively, that they have been tracking. They are able to compare prior auction photos and determine if this is a toy that had previously changed hands, or if this is a new toy up on the market for the first time.

Recently, purchasers of toys auctioned off by John M. (jwm of robot japan) were fortunate to have obtained items for which a detailed history could be provided.  John was the original owner of these toys, and he can recall the exact time period and location of the purchase.

But we are not always so fortunate with our purchases. Most often, the history of our toys is lost or forgotten.

I recently discovered a partial history for one of my toys.  Many years ago, I had purchased a Popy Gatchaman Ken vinyl toy.


I don't recall the specifics, but I believe I bought this through ebay.  The toy was loose and incomplete (no mask or cape), and it contained many scuff marks and other imperfections.  This toy made its way onto my shelf without much ado.

However, I recently revisited a website (Honolulu article) I had seen many years ago (that Denjin Zaboga keeps drawing me back), and lo and behold, there was my toy sitting on his desk!


There is no mistaking it.  From the damage on the nose to the marker on the groin, this is definitively the same toy.  Now I know one of the prior owners of my toy.  I have tried to reach Mr. Park, but I have been unsuccessful to date.  I would love to know if this was his growing up or if he had purchased this from another Hawaiian native who would play with this well-loved toy while watching Gatchaman on TV after school.  Just knowing as much as I do about this toy makes it that much more special to me.  Hopefully, one day, i can learn even more.

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About the Author



Myles a.k.a. Kingboy D calls the paradise of South Florida home.  This closet case collector relishes online gaming as well as a zinc fix away from the children.  Myles is a tour-de-force of once lost archives and a collector of all toys pre-loved.