Toy military motorcycle and sidecar, trade mark Modern Toys, metal, clockwork operated, made by Maysudaya, Tokyo, Japan, c.1935
This tin toy military motorcycle and sidecar was made in about 1935 by the Japanese manufacturer, Maysudaya, a firm which is perhaps better known by its trademark, Modern Toys.
The first full-size motorcycles were manufactured in about 1900 and even though initial reviews of these motorised bicycles were mixed, children's enthusiasm was almost immediate. It was not long before toy manufacturers began making frail tin toy versions with ladies sitting primly in sidecars of toy motorcycles which looked more like horsedrawn sleighs. Motorcycles increased in popularity and toy versions matched the rapidly developing technology in design and appearance, especially between 1920 and the 1940s. Characters from all walks of life were depicted on toy motorcycles including policemen, tourists, racers, circus clowns, animals, children, soldiers and even Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Japanese tin toy manufacturers closely copied the famous German brands and this toy motorcycle has many features in common with those by the famous German maker Tipp & Co of Nuremberg. Although made in Japan before the Second World War, it has a German military look about it as the Wehrmacht made prolific use of heavy sidecar combinations. The tin printing on the sidecar represents riveted armour, while a special shield for the sidecar passenger was provided with an eye slot. Despite its German appearance, the markings on the sidecar show the British Union Jack and a roundel usually reserved for French aircraft. The toy displays an interesting and conflicting combination of design elements and was clearly destined for the Japanese pre-war export market.
Gibson-Downs, Sally and Christine Gentry, "Antique and Contemporary Motorcycle Identification & Values", Collector Books, Schroeder Publishing Co. Inc., Paducah, KY, USA, 1995
Curator, Science & Industry
The Masudaya firm, known as Modern Toys because of their "MT" trademark, are Japan's oldest toy manufacturing firm established in 1724 and in 2008 are still in production making toys. Over the years toys made by this firm have included aircraft, boats, cars, trucks, military vehicles, household appliances and space rockets. Manufacturing has been undertaken at the K.K. Masutoku toy factory in Tokyo, Japan. The material for the toys has changed over the years from tinplate to celluloid and, later plastic, many with battery-operated mechanisms.
This toy motorcycle and sidecar is part of a large collection of toys purchased in 1985 from the remarkable tin toy collector Ken Finlayson. As a boy Finlayson admired steam trains but never owned a model train. As an adult he began collecting Hornby model trains, and his interest spread to other model trains and tin toys. He developed his collection at auctions, swap meets and market stalls, and through his connections with toy dealers and other serious collectors. Some toys were simply found sitting on the neglected shelves of remote country newsagencies, brand new and never opened.
Finlayson's knowledge and love of toys brought him a collection of nearly 2000 items, including highly collectable tinplate toys manufactured by respected names such as Carette, Bing, Marklin and Lehmann, as well as a variety of other German, English and Japanese makers. The Finlayson collection contains every type of transport toy - cars, trucks, tractors, fire engines, buses, motorcycles, aeroplanes, ships and trains,- as well as novelty toys, robots, kitchen toys and Meccano sets. It represents the type of toys that were available in Australia in the twentieth century, including ones made in this country by Boomaroo, Wyn-toy, Cyclops, Ferris and Robilt. These Australian toys were usually built from heavy gauge pressed steel rather than thin tinplate, making them sturdy enough for rough treatment in Australian backyards and sandpits.