Nintendo was already well known as a card manufactured, but was a small fry in the general toy market when compared to other companies like Epoch and Bandai.
Nintendo needed something to put itself on the map in the toy area, and the first toy designed in 1966 by Gunpei Yokoi provided this much-needed recognition.
|The Ultra Hand - the first Nintendo toy by Gunpei Yokoi|
Selling for ¥600, the Ultra Hand (ウルトラ ハンド) was a plastic toy that could be expanded and contracted by moving the handles.
The top of the box contained a drawing with a spectacular display of the fun to be had with this toy.
The toy came with three colored balls with stands, which could be used to practice.
Around the release of the Ultra Hand, Nintendo had not yet found its final corporate identity, and the logo still changed regularly. The Ultra Hand was released under the "Nintendo Game" brand; with the "NG" logo.
Besides the box, the toy also contains some further Nintendo branding.
|The Nintendo name is stamped on the small weight that keeps the cord straight|
|The Nintendo name can also be found on the toy itself|
Operating the toy is pretty much straightforward, though grasping an item in the claws requires some practice.
|Instructions in the Ultra Hand manual|
As explained in the manual, the “hands” at the end of the Ultra Hand could be closed to grab an item, by pulling the red string.
The Ultra Hand became a great success and more than a million were sold between 1966 and 1970, making it Nintendo’s first million seller.
|The manual shows a happy 60s family|
At least 5 different versions of the box design have been released in Japan over the years. Besides the three pictured below, a blue variant of the white box exist, as well as a design with the newer NG logo.
|The Ultra Hand has been released in different box designs|
There are also some differences in the interior of the boxes. The nicest versions have silvery lining which provides a more luxurious and futuristic feel.
A blue variant exists of the white box shown below. It is identical in design, except for the background color which is blue instead of white.
|Note the copyright: (c) 1966 by Nintendo|
The white box has an alternative cover for the manual.
The rarest box is the one pictured below. Given that this logo and box style was introduced in the early 70s, this version is believed to be the last incarnation of the Ultra Hand. By this time, the price has gone up from ¥600 to ¥1,200.
An even more spectacular find is the Ultra Hand version released for the Australian market by an Australian company named "Hong Kong Handarts".
This must be one of the first, if not the first Nintendo toy to make it out of Japan. Until the 80s Nintendo did not distribute their own products internationally, but worked with international partners. However, until the release of the Ten Billion puzzle and Game & Watch, the items that were made available abroad were limited and the volumes low.
|Ultra Hand sold in Australia by "Hong Kong Handarts"|
The box art was changed using some local inspiration.
Swiping a baby kangaroo out of its mothers pouch may not be advisable in real live, but here it sure looks fun.
Recently, the Ultra Hand has been featured in a WiiWare game called “Grill-Off with Ultra Hand!” available to Club Nintendo members in Japan and the USA. In this version the Wii Remote and Nunchuk are used to simulate the handles of the Ultra hand.