What you see: A TV Space Patrol toy car with box, made in Japan, probably in the mid-1950s. Morphy Auctions estimates it at $3,000 to $5,000.
The expert: Tommy Sage Jr., head of toys and trains at Morphy Auctions.
Do we know when this TV Space Patrol toy car was made? I don’t see a date in the lot notes. There’s not an exact date, and there’s not an exact company. It just says “Made in Japan”. There is no maker [indicated] on the box or the car. I would say mid-1950s. It’s definitely 1950s, that’s for sure. It [looks like] a concept car or a Batmobile.
How often does the TV Space Patrol toy car come up with its original box? It’s rare with or without the box, but it’s especially rare with the box.
The lot notes describe its condition as “near mint”. What does that mean here? It’s got some scratches on top of the plastic dome. But usually, the dome is broken or missing. Most times, [the toy] doesn’t have it. This has it.
How many TV Space Patrol toy cars have you handled? I’ve handled four, and there were two boxed ones.
Do we have any notion at all of how many TV Space Patrol toy cars might have been made, and how many might have been imported to the United States? We don’t know how many were made, but there probably weren’t many. I’ve had four in 40 years.
This is described as a “Friction-powered” toy. What does that mean? You push it forward, and it rolls forward. Also, the spaceman inside has a TV camera, and he rotates, like he’s taking pictures on a planet or something, I guess. [Laughs] It was [made] 15 years before we actually landed on the moon. The pulp magazines got some things correct, and some things not nearly correct.
This TV Space Patrol toy car is definitely cooler-looking than the moon buggy that the Apollo astronauts drove on the lunar surface, I grant you that. It was a lot cooler. And it wasn’t large, maybe nine and a half inches long. Maybe it didn’t sell well because of that. If they had made this car bigger–15 inches instead of nine–it could be worth $20,000. That’s my opinion.
The box calls this a “TV Space Patrol” toy car. Was there a TV show connected with it? No. There was a TV show called Space Patrol, but it had nothing to do with this.
What’s your favorite detail of the TV Space Patrol toy car? The cones in the front are very cool. You can kind of twist them. They come off, and when they come off, they’re gone. Kids could pull them right off. They usually don’t survive. And having an astronaut with a smiling face [in the driver’s seat] that rotates and takes pictures is pretty neat.
If I was going to dream up a mid-20th century toy car, I would dream of this–something with fins and a dome and cones on the front. It’s impressive. It’s a really nice car, but seeing it in a book [before] seeing it in person, you think it’s going to be bigger. It’s not to scale.
Why did this particular TV Space Patrol toy car survive so well? I don’t know. Somebody probably owned it–there’s a ‘J’ written in pen on top of the box. Sometimes, kids write on the box. You see that a lot. Like a kid writing his name in a baseball glove–same thing.
You mentioned earlier that the dome tends to be broken or missing, and the cones on the front tend to get lost. What other problems have you seen with TV Space Patrol toy cars? The hubcaps go missing. It has four white hubcaps, and they pry right off. A lot can go wrong with the car. If it’s in good condition, it will bring a lot of money.
We’re speaking on September 9, 2019, and there’s already a bid of $1,500 on the TV Space Patrol toy car. Is that meaningful? No. There are going to be a couple of serious bidders–usually calling in bids on the phone, or bidding during the auction.
What’s the world auction record for a TV Space Patrol toy car? Was it set at Morphy Auctions? In September 2013, we had one that brought $16,800. It might have been a shade nicer than this one. There was no scratching on the top of the dome. I would think that would be the record. I can’t remember one bringing more.
Why will this particular toy car stick in your memory? Because it’s boxed. I’m kind of a box freak. The box is probably worth as much as the toy. And there’s real character and a sense of history about the toy car because of when it was made–15 years before we landed on the moon.
Tommy Sage Jr. has appeared once before on The Hot Bid, discussing a record-setting Gang of Five Machine Man Japanese robot toy.
Image is courtesy of Morphy Auctions.
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