1972 Horikawa (Marumiya), ChangeMan Robot in Original Box

1972 Horikawa (Marumiya), ChangeMan Robot in Original Box

Magnificent museum quality example of one of the most beautiful, elaborate, and elusive lithographed tinplate robots known to exist. This is ChangeMan Robot manufactured by Marumiya for Horikawa in Japan. Pristine near mint to near mint+ condition in excellent+ original box. Both the robot and box are complete and all original without any repairs.

Only 50 examples were produced in several configurations.

ChangeMan is a large heavy toy weighing approximately 1½ lbs. It represents a composite figure of a human astronaut with a tin litho body and a hard plastic dinosaur head. The head is beautifully painted in several colors, is well-detailed and very life-like. I believe the arms and hands are painted synthetic rubber similar to Neoprene.

This example has a green uniformed body with red and yellow details. It wears a chrome plated belt with an embossed sunburst design in the center. The arms move manually.

The toy is battery operated, controlled by a 30" long tethered two-button, pale blue, plastic remote controller. One button controls forward movement. Pressing the other button produces a low growling noise. Immediately the dinosaur head splits apart vertically down the center separating into two equal halves. An unpainted green plastic human head rises up out of the body and lights up. Continue pressing the button retracts the human head into its original position. Once completely below neck level the two halves of the dinosaur abruptly snap closed. Pressing both buttons at the same time allows all of these actions to work simultaneously. Best of all everything works flawlessly and without hesitation.

Technically, ChangeMan was a prototype. In other words it was never produced for public sale. As a result the box artistry was never done. It's all white; completely blank on every panel. The white box that comes with the robot is authentic and correct for the toy. It has both original top and bottom sections.

The story behind Changeman is complicated and until recently was unknown. I've provided a short history below.

The details behind the existence of ChangeMan robot were mysteriously unknown for nearly half a century. Unexpectedly it first turned up in the world famous robot collection of T. Kitahara. Over time several more examples surfaced, but they all seemed to be variations. There were some with different colored lithography. Some of the pop-up human heads had painted details, while others were solid green. Some had an electrified sunburst chest plate with kaleidoscopic changing colors. Others had a chrome plated sunburst that was not electrified. Some had different remotes. And some had moving or non-moving arms. Boxes were found that were colored or blank white. It was all very odd and unexplainable.

In actuality the ChangeMan robot was the creation of a small Japanese company called Marumiya; now known as Metal House. Horikawa was allegedly the distributor, not the manufacturer. The toy was intended to be a high end robot with unique actions like swinging arms, opening dino-head, extensively painted details, and kaleidoscopic chest plate. However, due to its complex requirements the projected retail price would have been prohibitively expensive. Eventually Horikawa's interest in the ChangeMan robot faded.

Despite fading interest by Horikawa, its Marumiya designers continued developing the toy until ultimately it was recorded in the "Toy Registration Society of Japan" (as number 5263, November, 1972). Marumiya tried making the robot less expensive by altering the kaleidoscopic chest plate, eliminating painted head details, and using stationary arms rather than moving. Parts were manufactured to produce 50 robots. From this stock approximately 20 completed examples were built for approval. Unfortunately, despite the changes it was still judged too expensive. Marumiya's development work ended.

However, still in existence were enough remaining parts to complete 30 additional robots. These were stored and forgotten; but not discarded. Years later the project was resurrected by Mr. Kitahara and its original designer, S. Miyazawa. At that time ten more robots were constructed leaving parts for the last 20 samples which were returned to storage.

More years pass. Mr. Miyazawa, now retired, tinkered with the remaining components completing an additional 12 of the last 20 examples. He sold three of these before he passed away leaving nine completed robots; along with the remaining additional parts, prototypes, blueprints, etc. This cache was discovered in Mr. Miyazawa's home after his passing.

These last examples were in various stages of completion and reworking along with box color variations. This remaining stock accounted for subsequent examples with differences in structural design, painted details, arm motion, chest plate type, and lithography. Apparently the least number of completed robots were as per its original specifications (lighted kaleidoscopic chest plate, painted details, moving arms, etc.).

Today surviving examples in any configuration have found their way to museums and into the hands of a few lucky collectors. Many thanks to Marco of Vintage Space Toys.com for this wealth of information. Most likely the robot offered here was one of those first 20 examples sent for approval.

Size: 14". 

Price Sold: $ 0


 

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