in the toy making business during the late 1940’s and early 50’s. Among
their toy line they included a large, but rather ungainly looking, dump truck
which had a big scoop attached to the front that could be raised over the
cab to deposit its load of dirt directly into the bed of the truck. These
rather improbable trucks never really caught on in the toy collector
market, but are often associated with the Robert's name.
These were truly spectacular toys. They were sturdy and large enough
(22” long) for a small child to comfortably ride and easily control with their
raised steering wheels.
Today’s collectors value these vans primarily for their wonderful
advertising logos. The huge flat side panels of the Robert’s vans made
them ideal for displaying colorful graphics and intricate decal work.
Robert’s vans featured many well-known products. See the list on this
page. There may be more out there!
Production dates for these vans are uncertain, but they were marketed
from at least 1948 through 1955. McElwee’s Collector’s Guide #10,
published in 1994, has a good overview of the Robert’s vans. Reprints of
these booklets can be found on Ebay.
The most distinguishing characteristic between the very earliest of the
vans and later models was the style of the grille. The early van grille was
a separate piece of sheet metal which was lithographed with horizontal
bars and then inserted behind a large gaping hole above the front
bumper. A metal plate was used for the Roberts name badge just above
the grille opening.
Later vans did away with the separate grille and replaced it with a simple
decal. Grille decal designs and colors changed over the years. The metal
"Robert’s" name badge was also eliminated in favor of a decal above the
windshield. At first the decal read simply, “Robert’s” and later it read,
Two types of steering wheels are also used. The early vans featured a
simple one-piece bent rod wheel and column assembly with no bell
attached - a bell was added later. The steering wheel design was
changed to a stamped metal shape attached to the steering column with
spot welding. These later design steering wheels had bells.
In addition, the early vans used two-piece spot welded wheels with
rubber tires and came with painted steel front bumpers. Later versions
were covered by a rubber channel stapled in place over the steel bumper.
As an added extra, some of the Robert’s vans came equipped with
ladders mounted on both sides through slots cut in the body. The TV
repair trucks had these ladders as did the Rescue Squad van. However,
many other ladder-less vans were produced with these slots still in place,
leading to some confusion as to their purpose.
You just can’t beat the Robert’s vans for pure eye-appeal! They really
stand out as excellent examples of advertising toys of that era.