First, a little bit of history on puzzles that is perhaps not known to all of you.
In 1970 Larry Nichols filed a patent (which he was granted in 1972) for a 2*2*2 cube based on a magnetic mechanism.
He proposed bars of magnets. So, unfortunately, in turning the pieces they would repel each other.
The solution was to half the cube, rotate 4 pieces and put the cube together.
Clearly, this does not at all compare to a Rubik’s Cube (which was invented later), but since he indicated in his patent alternatives based on mechanical arrangements such as ‘tongue in groove’ parts, it was claimed that Rubik’s Cube (via the company Ideal in the USA) had infringed Nichols’ patent. After a struggle in court, in 1984, the court in the USA ruled that Nichols’ patent was valid and was infringed by the sale of Rubik’s Cubes by Ideal.
This is all rather remarkable since it is obvious to all of us that a magnetic mechanism with partially repelling magnets and the need to separate the parts to allow rotation does not compare with ‘real (Rubik’s) cubes’ based on mechanical mechanisms.
More information on this part of history can be found in the ‘Cubic Circulars’ by David Singmaster and in the book “Puzzles old and new” by Jerry Slocum.
I am digging up this story since some 20-25 years ago in Japan another much better magnetic 2*2*2 cube, called ‘Miracle Eight’ was invented.
I believe only very few samples were made. A sample is shown in the mentioned book by Jerry Slocum on page 139 and I expect that a couple of our Japanese friends may have a sample. The Miracle Eight is based on a metal ball shaped core with 8 surrounding pieces that each contain 2 very small magnets. In contrast to Nichols’ Cube, the pieces can be rotated around the centre core without halving the cube or separating the pieces. Although the movement is somewhat limited and although it is still possible to cheat and although speedcubing is no issue, it works in a very nice way. In fact it is a rather unique puzzle.
A picture of the puzzle is at the twisty database (see; http://twistypuzzles.com/cgi-bin/puzzle.cgi?pid=967
I was very lucky to acquire a second sample from a Japanese friend (not part of this forum).
Anyone interested in a trade (I am not selling the puzzle + please take into account the absolute rarity of the puzzle), please send me a pm or e-mail.
I would also be interested to know who else has a sample. So, in case you also have a sample, please let me know.