Bulgarian toy robot from the 1980's


RO 1

RO 2

RO 3

EMI factory, part of "Mladost" group ("youth" in Slavic languages), that was producing this robot, was in the toy industry between 1971. and 1991., later privatized and moved away from toys, so most of the robots we see today are from the 1980's. According to EMI's catalogue there were 3 versions: RO 1 with single eye and elbowed arms, RO 2 with 2 eyes and huge hands, and RO 3 with more round body, different legs than the previous two, arms with pinching hands (vs. wrench ones in previous two), and insect like eyes and head. Their nicknames given by collectors are Cyclops, Bucket head and Big ears. Based on EBay auctions and YouTube clips, Bucket head is the most prevalent, while Cyclops and Big ears are more rare. Close inspection finds RO 3 to have more modern battery contacts, cover and ON/OFF switch, and having the highest number in the series it is easy to conclude that it was designed and its production started by the end of the 1980's. Since the toy production in the factory ceased beginning of the 1990's, not sufficient number of RO 3 was produced, explaining their rarity. Likewise, RO 1 was the oldest, soon replaced and outnumbered by RO 2, making him also more rare.

The robot walks forward (stepover walk), moves arms and turns the light in the head (eyes) on and off. Its height is 18 cm, and operates on 2 AA 1.5 V batteries. The robot is made of a variety of colors of plastic. The three robots have several parts in common, with RO 1 and RO 2 being more similar (same body and legs, shape of the hands). Sold in a cost saving box with both robots RO 1 and RO 2 (on opposing sides) pictured.

See the toy in action on

I even went on and made replica boxes for my robots (on the left) based on the images of the original boxes from the web (on the right). Details include original way of opening and price decals from 1986. Other images of original boxes posted on the web feature lighter colors, but these corespond to 1986.


Recent find: Yonezawa Laughing Robot, circa 1984., Made in Japan by Yonezawa, perhaps one of the last robots to be made in Japan. Similarities of Bulgarian RO 1 to this robot are apparent: the upper body and chest, arms, elbows and hands, head and face mask, especially buttons and dials. Laughing Robot has a speaker behind the chest grille, so space between bars is open, on RO 1 the space is closed, sealed, since no speaker exists. This makes the Laughing Robot predecessor of RO 1. Laughing Robot also comes in several color variations, and was copied by other makers (KIKE in Spain). Rarity of RO 1 may be also attributed to this, since EMI soon developed RO 2 to distance from Yonezawa robot.

      
      

History of my collection (3 images at the top of this page): they were all bought within a week from a local Serbian EBay style web site. They were $6 each, but required a lot of TLC (Tender Love and Care) / repair, mostly battery contacts and switches, but also some gluing and occasional arm, hip or shoulder replacement. They came from south east Serbia, region bordering Bulgaria. RO 1 was bought in 1987. off of a car hood spread of a Bulgarian day trader / tourist, RO 2 in Bulgaria proper also in 1987., while whereabouts of RO 3 were unknown. Couple of years after their initial purchase, they ended up in cellars, to resurface more than 20 years later with the rise of online auction sites. They probably waited for a while for the real collector and repair person to find them, but now they are in safe haven of BG RC collection, saved from child's abuse and adult's neglect. They even got replica boxes, and the plan is to make replacement / replica battery covers for RO 1 and RO 2 once I find an original one.

UltraHome 2002. - 2014.