1990s Windups Can Cause ProblemsBy

1990s Windups Can Cause Problems

Replicas of early 1950s Japanese tin windups made in the 1990s can be confusing. Probably the most accurate–and most easily mistaken for vintage–are new toys produced by Teruhisa Kitahara, an expert and author of books on the subject of Japanese toys.

During the mid-1990s, Kitahara created a line of limited edition reissues that were virtually exact copies of vintage originals. Examples are shown in a 1990s catalog page (Fig. 5) and Fig. 1. Original dies and molds were used to make the reissues so new and old are, for all practical purposes, virtually identical (see Figs. 1-2).

Dating the new pieces may be especially difficult because the copies have what appear to be vintage marks. The new Circus boy, for example, has the 1950s trademark of Nikko Kogyo, a manufacturer of vintage toys. The new Circus Boy also includes the original Japanese Design Patent number (Fig. 4) issued between 1935 and 1940.

The key to recognizing the Kitahara copies is Kitahara's own trademark on the 1990s copies. The Kitahara mark is a crown enclosing the initials "TK" surrounded by a banner with the word "Toy" (Fig. 3).

Kitahara's reissues were expensive at the time and made in very limited numbers. Each toy retailed in the mid-1990s for $150 to $200 each. Only 1000 of each toy were made. Although the Kitahara copies may become collectible in the future for their own merits, they should not be confused with vintage originals.

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Fig. 1 A 1990s reissue of Circus Boy tin windup.

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Fig. 2 Original ca. 1950s Circus Boy tin windup.

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Fig. 3 Teruhisa Kitahara's mark on 1990 reissues of vintage 1950s Japanese tin toys.

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Fig. 4 Marks of the original Japanese toy maker, Nikko Kogyo, and pre-1940 patent number on Kitahara's 1990s Circus Boy.

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Fig. 5 An offering of the Kitahara toy as shown in a 1995 toy catalog. The bell-ringing figures–-the bear, dog and Santa–-are all based on the same mechanism and body molds. Only the heads and paint change from toy to toy. All the versions shown are from original tooling from the early 1950s.

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Fig. 6 All the new toys were sold in vintage-styled boxes. The new Circus Boy box is shown here.

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Fig. 7 The Rabbit Drummer is the largest of the new copies at 8 inches tall.