Holy Wind-Up Batmobile!
After a long, fierce bidding war, a Batmobile tin toy made in 1966 for the Japanese market roared out of Heritage Auctions
for $150,000 to lead Heritage's two-day Ultimate Batman Collection Signature ® Auction. The ultra-rare wind-up with a painted plastic Batman at the wheel and the original box is now the most valuable Batman toy ever sold at auction.
Yonezawa, one of the most imaginative and successful Japanese tin toy makers of the 1950s and '60s, made the Batmobile, which, on August 4, raced past the previous auction record for a Bat-toy set in 2021. It was also far from the sole Japanese-made Bat-toy to shatter expectations during the sold-out Aug. 4-5 event, totaling $1,395,762.
"The Batman Japanese tin toys certainly made their mark," says Heritage's Consignment Director of Action Figures and Toys, Justin Caravoulias. "They accounted for more than $459,000 of the total."
More than 1,000 bidders worldwide participated in the auction, which abounded with exceedingly rare toys, dolls, robots, action figures, dioramas, original packaging art, prized trinkets and other memorabilia featuring Batman, Robin and their famous foes. These treasures, most in or with their original packaging, also spanned the globe, hailing from Japan, England, the United States, South America, Europe and beyond.
There was no shortage of bidding wars for every Bat-rarity, as evidenced by this Batpen counter display card with a single pen made for the UK market in 1966 by Derasco. After a protracted tussle between collectors, it realized $20,000.
From the moment live bidding began Friday afternoon, it was clear that there was a voracious appetite for the international rarities available in this first-of-its-kind event: The 621-lot auction broke the half-million-dollar barrier in less than an hour.
A beautifully decorated tin friction-powered Cessna, made by Japanese toy manufacturer Takatoku in the 1960s, was the first lot to take flight Friday, and it shattered pre-auction estimates when it sold for $20,000. Moments later, a tin Batcopter made in 1966 by Masudaya realized $22,500.
A few lots later, a tin Batmobile race car with its original box, also from Masudaya in 1966, raced to a new Batcave for $32,500. Just one lot later, a 1966 tin Batmobile race car, this one from Japanese toymaker Yonezawa, sold for $35,000. Then came the $150,000 Batmobile.
The two-day auction proved Heritage is the premier global platform for an increasingly international collector base that covets extraordinary rarities worldwide.
"This weekend's results show, as we've long known, that there is an incredible international appetite for Japanese popular culture," says Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena. "These Japanese toy rarities are largely unknown except in Japan, but it's clear from this auction's runaway success that a worldwide audience is eager to bid on and compete for the best of the best in character collectibles."
Nearly every lot in this event sparked lengthy tussles between client-collectors who quickly realized they wouldn't likely see a collection like this again in their lifetimes.
A battery-operated Batman robot made by Bandai in the 1960s still with its original box realized $42,500. An early action figure made in Hong Kong in 1966 likewise proved its reputation as a holy grail: Bidding on Marx's bendable Batman who's still attached to his card, encased in plastic alongside his cape, Batarang, roller skates and several other accessories lasted several minutes and closed at $21,250.
Collectors vied for numerous utility belts, but none more so than the Bat-Belt & Gun Set made by Toyo Denki in 1966, which remains in its original box and realized $13,750.
"Heritage is truly a global platform, which brings collectors from around the world to compete for all manner of rarities across collectible categories," says Joshua Benesh, Heritage's Chief Strategy Officer. "We continue to smash barriers, make discoveries and open up marketplaces, including in places like Japan, which has its distinct pop culture collectibles and, as this auction proved, has a unique spin on internationally recognized characters, Batman among them."
This event had its share of modern centerpieces, too, chief among them Hot Toys' one-of-a-kind 2016 1:6-scale Batcave diorama, with a Batmobile and four "strange costumes" lifted straight from the cover of Detective Comics No. 165. This dazzling display replicates Adam West's underground lair down to the Batcomputer, Anti-Crime Eye Checker and Batanalyst.
This holy prototype, first displayed at the Batman 100 Hot Toys exhibition in Tokyo in September 2016, realized $27,500.
"These Japanese toy rarities compete with and often dominate the best of the best of traditional toy collectibles," Maddalena says. "This auction demonstrates that with the tremendous interest in character-driven collectibles, there is an extraordinary interest in toys from around the world, and Heritage is eager to continue meeting that demand."