Updated: February 01, 2022|
Space toys encompass everything from robots to rockets to ray guns. Primarily associated
with the tin and plastic toys of the mid-20th century, space toys reimagined and replicated
the hardware used by matinee movie idol Buster Crabbe, who played Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers
in the 1930s, as well as William Shatner, who portrayed Captain Kirk on "Star Trek" in the
1960s, and Harrison Ford, who inhabited Han Solo in the "Star Wars" films of the 1970s and '80s.
Beyond space toys tied to high-profile entertainment franchises, many collectors are quite happy
to get their hands on objects that live only within the universe of toys. These include tin and
plastic flying saucers and battery-operated robots, many produced in postwar Japan, with generic
names like Atomic Rocket, Rocket Racer, Robotank, Capsule 5, and Mr. Atomic, which was "A Cragstan
Toy" from the 1950s made by Yonezawa.
The craze for Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon toys in the 1930s was actually spurred by the comic strips
and radio shows for these outer-space adventurers, which preceded the movie serials. According to toy
ray-gun collector Justin Pinchot, the first space gun was offered as a premium in 1933 by Cocomalt, a
brand of powdered chocolate milk, which sponsored the Buck Rogers radio show. This early gun was made
of cardboard, but in 1934, Daisy Manufacturing created the first metal space pistol for Buck Rogers,
the XZ-31. By 1937, Marx had released the Flash Gordon Radio Repeater, a lithographed-tin gun that
made a clicking sound when the trigger was pulled.
After World War II, space toys proliferated as the public became increasingly interested in the promise
of technology, whose terrible power had been displayed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and space exploration.
Companies such as Buddy L, Ideal, Hubley, J. E. Stevens, and Kenner made space toys out of everything
from lithographed tin and paper to diecast metal, molded plastic, and even wood. In addition to
Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.