1931 Japan, Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, & Bimbo; Flower Tops in Original Box

1931 Japan, Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, & Bimbo; Flower Tops in Original Box

When I purchased this beautiful early Japanese made tin litho character toy I noticed something a bit unusual. Although I had never seen it before, the image of Mickey looking more rat than mouse, in a stiff saluting position, with chest medals, epaulets and swagger sword seemed to mean something more than just the popular Disney character. It was meant to satirize someone. I knew the approximate date it was produced. I also recognized that Japan would never depict one of their own military as a mouse. So I did a little research.  

In September, 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria in the northern Chinese mainland. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, head of all Chinese forces and Chairman of the National Government of China had already initiated his policy in south China to eradicate the Communist Party inside his country. Without a man to spare, Chiang ordered a complete withdraw of his troops in Manchuria allowing an easy foothold for the Japanese. The tin litho image of the meek mouse-General represented Japan's opinion of Chiang Kai-shek. As a toy it was easily exported as a "subtle" form of propaganda. I've included an early photo of Chiang which clearly shows the interpretation behind the mouse-General.

Of course this was an unlicensed toy. Each disk was marked "Made in Japan" and features Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, and Bimbo. Each character lies on a saucer shaped spinning top. The toy comes complete with its original tin litho/die cast corkscrew spinner, plus flower print cardboard insert, and the original box. The manufacturer is unknown.

The bottom center of each disk is raised to form a tip. The center top of each character is also raised to accommodate the corkscrew spinner. The idea was to place the cup end of the corkscrew spinner in the center of the disk and press down. The force of the corkscrew would supposedly start the top spinning. As you can see by the outstanding condition of the disks they were probably never used. One "spin" and the die cast metal cup would scratch the center of the top. The corkscrew spinner was made from die cast lead set into a tin litho "straw" with a welded cap. 

The reason the toy was never used is because there's no physical way for it to actually work. The corkscrew spinner extends from 5" to 7", although it also probably had a handle of some kind. Even so, there's no way for it to corkscrew down fast enough to enable the disks the rotate on their own. The small die cast metal cup can't "grab" the disk. For that reason they were probably never played with. The rubs that you see on the Bimbo disk were due to hitting up against the other two tops while inside the box. 

The box lid print shows a bucolic scene of several "westernized" children playing with their flower tops while Mommy looks on. Soft pastel like colors were used. The box is also marked "Made in Japan". The insert has a red and white flower print and was die cut with a circular hole for each disk. The box is complete with original top and bottom sections. The side of the box lid is stamped "191/55". This same notation was written in pencil on the bottom of the box. 

Size: Flower Tops 2¾". Box 8" x 3½".

Sold: Jan. 2007

Price Sold: $ 662


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Subject: 1931 Japan, Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, & Bimbo; Flower Tops in Original Box

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