Well-defined and well-refined private collections of folk art, Americana, toys and trains were an eye-pleasing medley in Noel Barrett’s $1.54 million Spring Sale
NEW HOPE, Pa. – A booming opening session of Americana and folk art nearly doubled overall expectations to set the tone for three days of estimate-topping auction results in Noel Barrett’s April 11-13 Antique Toy & Americana sale. Several distinguished private collections contributed to the $1.54 million gross, with a superb carved-wood cigar store Indian from an important collection leading the pack at $77,000 (all prices inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium). As with all Noel Barrett auctions, auction catalog preview and Internet bidding were provided by www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
“The folk art was very strong,” said auction company owner and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Noel Barrett. “The Friday evening session was comprised primarily of the Jerry Smith collection, an early and widely renowned collection of Americana that eventually was purchased by Hallmark and retained at their Kansas City headquarters. It had all the key ingredients for auction success – provenance, quality and rarity. Sales totaled $440,000 in the folk art session, alone.”
The aforementioned cigar store Indian, a 64-inch-tall depiction of a chief in feathered headdress with tomahawk in one hand and tobacco leaf in the other, had been entered in the sale with a $12,000-$15,000 estimate. A stately figure with fine overall patina, it had no trouble flying past expectations to settle at $77,000. A second cigar store figure, a carved and painted-wood figure of an Indian scout, probably from the workshop of Samuel A. Robb, doubled its high estimate to sell online for $24,200.
Several charming weather vanes crossed the block, including a 30-inch-long gilded-copper trotting horse with cropped tail, $8,800; and a similarly sized zinc leaping reindeer, perhaps by Fiske, $12,100 against a $600-$800 estimate.
Antique trade signs came in every shape and size. A 48-inch-long carved-wood trout with silver-washed finish reeled in a $5,500 winning bid, while a remarkable late-19th-century 10-foot-long double-barrel shotgun sign formerly positioned over the door of a Kansas City gun and bicycle store more than tripled hopes at $6,500
Bids flew in from all directions when a 32-inch-tall plastic statue of Bibendum – the Michelin Man – was introduced. With an eerie expression on its face, the iconic advertising piece from the 1920s, incised on the base Michelin Tires and Tubes, rolled past its $800-$1,200 estimate to finish at $8,800. Hot on Bibendum’s heels was a colorfully lithographed Marathon Tires advertising sign. It depicted a driver maneuvering his early open tourer around a narrow ledge while three anxious passengers looked on. Against a $5,000-$7,000 estimate, the sign made $17,600.
A fascinating assortment of antique patent models – each a one-off used in applying for a U.S. Patent – represented various themes, from agriculture to office machinery and medical devices. A model demonstrating the mechanical production of paper collars earned $4,675, while a scale model of an Indiana invention, an 1880 corn planter, realized $4,950.
American tin trains from the Andy Lukach collection were led by a 35-inch-long Althof-Bergmann passenger train with Union-Pacific markings, $3,575; and a George Brown New York locomotive and tender, $1,320.
A handsome fleet of boats, ocean liners, warships and submarines followed. It was a collection that had rested quietly at Barrett’s headquarters for three years, awaiting settlement of an estate. “It was certainly worth the wait,” Noel Barrett remarked. “It was a good collection of more than 100 lots. The total high estimate for the group was $171,000, but they brought $245,000.” Best-performing lots included two Marklin productions: a 13-inch cannon boat New York, which dropped anchor at $35,200; and a 25-inch battleship Philadelphia, which sailed into port at $30,800.
An electrifying entry in Saturday’s session was the very rare original Monopoly “tie set” with hand-colored oilcloth roll-up board consigned by a woman from Easton, Pa. According to Barrett, she inherited the Charles Darrow-designed treasure from a relative who had worked as a nurse in the Darrow home. “There was tremendous interest in this set, but it was still a shock when it opened for bidding at $30,000,” Barrett said. Ultimately, the game sold for $46,750, to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. As for the consignor, said Barrett, “She was in the room when it sold, and she was very pleased.”
Sunday’s session contained the Mike Christensen collection of pressed-steel and metal toys. A 14-inch mint-condition Lincoln sedan with accompanying house trailer sold, with original carton, for $3,575. Another rarity, a 19-inch Smith-Miller Mack Blue Diamond dump truck in orange paint rumbled away for $2,750.
European trains found favor across the board, with certain Marklin and Bing models reaching the mid-four-figure range. A Marklin gauge I American steam profile 4-4-0 clockwork passenger set chugged to $4,400 – nearly triple its high estimate. And a trio of British-made Bassett Lowke vans advertising Colman’s Mustard and other brands impressed at $4,125 against an estimate of $500-$600.
American trains and paraphernalia were not to be denied. A Beggs passenger train set with lithographed-cardboard and painted-tin U.S. Mail postal car and passenger coach well exceeded estimate to reach $4,675. Rare diecast-engined Dorfan trains from the Eugene Straub collection drew a sizable contingent of specialist collectors. “This brand is highly sought after if the train is in great condition, especially in the larger gauge or in accessories,” Barrett explained. A Dorfan 3930 passenger set with box and additional cars, finished in yellow and red, made $5,500. Even a wide-gauge passenger set that was missing its motor doubled the high estimate to realize $1,760.
Toy railroad advertising was intensely pursued. A framed Dorfan advertising photo, 30 inches by 22 inches, surprised the house when it roared to $8,800, more than 20 times its high estimate. An Ives lithographed tin sign with prominent train image climbed to $7,150, almost nine times its high estimate.
In all, it was an exciting, extremely successful sale with variety to please all who attended or bid via the phones and Internet. Collectors complimented Noel Barrett for the logical catalog presentation, with items shown in affinity groups and a table of contents that made it easy to locate specific categories. Also, the book was efficiently bound with a spiraled metal spine, now a standard feature in Barrett catalogs.
Noel Barrett will present a Nov. 15-16 Fall Auction featuring a broad variety of toys and Marklin trains, highlighted by the collection of the late Stan Cypher.
To view the fully illustrated auction catalog, with prices realized, please visit www.LiveAuctioneers.com.