NEW YORK — Created and produced by the so-called “master of disaster” Irwin Allen, known for his movies The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, Lost In Space debuted on television in September 1965. The show was a hit and ran for three seasons, tapping into a strong interest in outer space and science fiction. The Twilight Zone had already been on air for several years at that point, and NASA’s manned space flight program was going strong with Mercury and Gemini.
Inspired by the classic book The Swiss Family Robinson, the TV show was set in 1997 when Earth’s overpopulation prompted a family (yes, they were named the Robinsons) to voyage into space as colonists. Their mission is sabotaged by stowaway Dr. Smith, who was recruited by an unspecified rogue nation. Dr. Smith is brilliantly acted by Jonathan Harris, who steals most every scene he is in. As the title implies, the family, their robot and the saboteur find themselves lost in space, encountering dangers, aliens and adventure at every turn.
The original series ran for 83 episodes, generating slightly more entries than the original Star Trek, which made its TV debut a year later, which would total 79 regular season episodes. Lost In Space was also rebooted by Netflix and ran for three seasons, from 2018 to 2021. Toys associated with the original TV show were, and still are, sought after.
“Lost In Space is one of those classic shows that will always have an audience,” said Alex Winter, president of Hake’s Auctions in York, Pennsylvania. “While the original show is beloved, the fact it has been reinvented as a full-length film and more recently a Netflix series, shows it has staying power and fans, both new and old. It has also been done in comic book form a few times and that helps keep the fires burning.”
Among the most fiercely pursued vintage toys associated with the show is the Lost In Space Switch ‘n Go set that contained a toy styrofoam model of the Jupiter 2 spacecraft as well as tracks, nine figures and other accessories. A store version from Sears made by Mattel, retaining its original box decorated with striking and colorful litho graphics, sold at Hake’s in September 2020 for $6,490, including the buyer’s premium.
“The piece we sold at auction is one of the most sought after of all original series merchandise. The fact we had one in such a high grade is the reason our result was so strong — well above our conservative estimate but by no means shocking based on just how rare it is to find in this condition,” Winter said. “Vintage LIS items are still very coveted among pop culture collectors and there was a wide assortment of very cool merchandise created for the show. This will keep these items at the top of collectors’ want lists for years to come.”
Also tops among toy collectors was Mattel’s Roto Jet Gun Roto-Sound Weapons set in a colorful box depicting a scene from an episode that aired during the show’s first season, There Were Giants In the Earth, in which the Robinsons encounter a cyclops giant. A factory-sealed example realized $5,888 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2017 at Hake’s Auctions. The multi-functional set contained two hard plastic pieces that were separate standalone weapons (one was called a pistol and the other a roto-launcher). The two pieces can be united by placing the small piece in front of the larger piece to create a rifle. When the order of assembly is reversed, it becomes a toy sub-carbine.
Actor-worn clothing and props from the original show are also of high interest to collectors. Child actor Billy Mumy was a solid favorite for his portrayal of Will Robinson. His purple-and-yellow tunic ensemble from season 3 achieved $75,000 plus the buyer’s premium at Heritage Auctions in November 2021. In that same auction of Hollywood and entertainment memorabilia, Mumy’s silver spacesuit costume with red trim from season 1 realized $30,000 and a walkie-talkie prop brought $3,200, plus the buyer’s premiums.
The LIS collecting base reaches beyond toys. Printed memorabilia and photographs have a firmly established niche and, naturally, the scarcest examples will perform the best. Guy Williams, who played the family’s father on the show, retired from acting in 1973, which means there are few photos of the cast signed by all of the actors. A fully-signed 8-by-10 glossy cast photo that went out at $2,746 plus the buyer’s premium at RR Auction in August 2019 might be one-of-a-kind.
Given the recent reboot, it’s clear that Lost In Space will live on in the hearts of fans. While a line of toys and action figures has been made for the new show, some collectors will continue to gravitate to the original toys. Of course, what’s considered original is heavily dependent on perspective. Perhaps in 30 years, future collectors who grew up with the reboot will show the same devotion to that generation of toys.