Wednesday, July 18, 2012

German made wind-up turkey - tin toy or automaton?

The line between a sophisticated toy and simple automaton is not a clear one. My thinking is that it boils down to the target market. If it was for adults (and costly) it is probably an automaton. If it is for kids (and inexpensive) it is a mechanical toy. The turkey in the video is much like one currently for sale on ebay. It may have crossed this imaginary divide of mine.

From the eBay description:

Made in germany by Kohler. Wind-up lithographed Turkey circa 1950, blue leg version. The best I've seen in very well. Key is included. Walks very deliberately forward while legs articulate as if strutting along, while plumage spreads out & raises up. Nothing missing, very excellent condition. Very few produced, no loose wheels or bent shafts or broken or loose tabs. 7" long.

I am guessing it started out as a fairly inexpensive toy for children.My visits to antique stores have shown that these tin toys are no longer inexpensive -- especially if they work and are in nice condition. I doubt many kids are spending hundreds of dollars on these antiques. By my definition above, this might suggest that it started life as a toy that has, over the years, become an automaton because it is now collected by adults. There is probably a flaw in this logic, but it's an interesting notion at least.

Here is where you can see more nice photographs of this German made wind-up turkey in toy.

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Blogger J. E. Johnson said...

Yes a curious thing. The technology is so simple but even if a toy company chose to reproduce this exact "toy" it would still sell more to adults. I don't even know if you could sell it to children being as metal toys are regarded as too dangerous for small children. Even so it could you could not compete for the same price point in the injection molded and integrated circuit toy market. And the nail in the coffin of this enterprise would be that this turkey is not cross marketed with any television shows, movies or soft drinks.

July 23, 2012 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...

It's an interesting thing, isn't it? The lines between automaton, mechanical toy, and robot are anything but clear to me. I think mostly it comes down to the intent of the original creators and the target audience, rather than anything intrinsic to the machine itself.

July 24, 2012 at 12:56 PM  

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