Bertoia’s Spring Antique Toy Auction draws global interest, with 36% sold via LiveAuctioneers

J & E Stevens cast-iron Germania Exchange mechanical bank with painted-lead goat figure, circa 1880s, $51,000


VINELAND, N.J. – Collectors started planning their bidding strategies weeks ahead of Bertoia’s million-dollar 2017 Spring Auction, held June 2-3 at the family-owned company’s sleek New Jersey gallery. Extra time was needed, some said, because of the auction’s large and exceptionally fine array of toys, banks, dolls and doorstops from some of the best collections to reach the marketplace in years.

Among the choice offerings were a Swiss family’s multigenerational collection of hand-painted German tin toys, the final installment of Jay Schoedinger’s pristine pressed-steel toys, and antique teddy bears from the highly regarded Catherine McKinney teddy bear collection. As if that were not enough, the sale also included several toys with provenance from the legendary Donald Kaufman collection, which was originally auctioned by Bertoia’s in 2009 and 2010.

Reaching a $1.05-million total, the nearly 1,300-lot sale left auctioneers Michael Bertoia and Tim Luke feeling as though they had run a marathon. Bidding had been fast and furious, between a packed gallery, constantly buzzing phone lines and nearly 1,200 people who took part via LiveAuctioneers.

“There was interest from all over the world, including Russia, South Africa, Australia and many European countries,” said Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions. “If a collector wanted a toy, they had many ways in which to pursue it.” Absentee and gallery bidding accounted for 40 percent of the lots sold, while Internet bidders claimed 36 percent, and phone bidders, 24 percent.

The top lot of the sale was a coveted J & E Stevens Germania Exchange cast-iron mechanical bank (shown at top of page), which sold for $51,000, twice the high estimate. A whimsical depiction of a three-dimensional painted-lead goat seated atop a beer cask and holding a mug, the bank had been discovered in the attic of a Virginia home. Other popular mechanicals included a Ferris Wheel bank (ex Max Berry collection), $6,600; and a J & E Stevens Hen and Chick, $3,600.

Hubley 13-inch-tall, three-dimensional cast-iron Giraffe doorstop, $10,800


Still bank highlights included an Eggman, $840; a Kenton Presto bank, $870; and a Two-Face Devil, $720. Looking right at home among the banks was an array of beautiful painted cast-iron doorstops. They included a spectacular 13-inch-tall, three-dimensional Hubley Giraffe, $10,800 (against a $3,500 high estimate); West Wind Girl, $4,800; Hubley’s very rare Bugle Boy, $3,900, Little Black Sambo, $3,300; Pheasant, $3,000 (against a $900 high estimate); and a near-mint Lobster, $2,700. Many doorstops reached or exceeded their high estimates.


Early Pratt & Letchworth cast-iron horse-drawn hook & ladder with original drivers and accessory wooden ladders, $5,400


Bidders turned up the heat when American firefighting toys crossed the auction block. A striking Pratt & Letchworth cast-iron horse-drawn hook and ladder fire wagon with original seated drivers and accessory wooden ladders, had the unmistakable look of originality from front to back. It blazed past its estimate to settle at $5,400. From a later era but equally desirable, a circa-1920s Buddy ‘L’ pressed-steel fire pumper measuring 23.5 inches in length was also complete and original in every respect. Estimated at $2,000-$2,500, it commanded a healthy $3,900.


Buddy ‘L’ pressed-steel fire pumper, circa 1920s, 23.5 inches long, $3,900


Many eyes were on a particular automotive prize with Donald Kaufman provenance – a late-1920s Hubley cast-iron racer finished in a bright yellow and black motif. Its details included a driver figure, nickel grille, electric lights and white rubber tires. An extra-nice detail was the hood, which could be lifted from either side to reveal a battery. In pristine to near-mint condition and accompanied by its colorfully illustrated original Hubley box, the speedy racer handily surpassed expectations to cross the finish line at $7,200.


Hubley cast-iron racer with nickel grille, electric lights and white rubber tires; late 1920s, original box, ex Donald Kaufman collection, $7,200


Superior-quality European toys found favor with bidders hoping to repatriate them to the Continent, but American competition was very strong. A Phillip Vielmetter Clown Artist, whose ingenious design enables the clown figure to draw various pictures according to which interchangeable cam is installed, was bid to $6,600; while another German-made toy, a boxed Lehmann Masuyama, commanded $6,000.


Very rare Phillip Vielmetter mechanical Clown Artist toy, Berlin, 1885, with cams enabling clown to create different images, $6,600


Lehmann Masuyama clockwork toy with original box, German, $6,000


An elegantly attired Gustav Vichy Monkey Harpist automaton was ready to entertain bidders with a repertoire of two songs and multiple movements that included realistically strumming the harp strings, blinking his eyes, moving his head and opening and closing his hinged jaw. Formerly in the private collection of automata expert and book author Christian Bailly, it well surpassed its $2,000-$4,000 estimate, selling for $7,200.


Gustav Vichy monkey harpist automaton, French, circa 1885, ex Christian Bailly collection, $7,200


A parade of gorgeous early teddies was led by a Steiff center-seam cinnamon mohair bear with glass eyes and original nose. Measuring 20 inches high, the long-limbed charmer sold within its estimate range for $4,200.


Steiff center-seam cinnamon mohair teddy bear, German, glass eyes, 20 inches high, $4,200


There was great interest in an 18th-century English painted wood and gesso Queen Anne-style doll made by Lance. With jointed hips and knees, and dressed in brocade period clothing, the 21-inch doll estimated at $2,500-$3,500 ended its bidding run at a remarkable $19,200.


Late 18th-century Lance Queen Anne-type wooden doll with painted features, English, 21 inches, $19,200


“We could not have been more pleased with the outcome of our sale, or with the enthusiasm bidders showed on both days,” said Jeanne Bertoia. “The prices paid in every category showed how strong the market continues to be for antique and vintage toys, and the excitement continued even after the auction. Our phones were ringing off the hook with requests from successful bidders who wanted to organize payment immediately so their toys could be shipped.” Each parcel shipped from Bertoia’s gallery is packed with care by in-house auction-house staff.

Bertoia’s next Signature Auction will be held on Nov. 11, 2017. Among the highlights are a fresh-to-the-market Fernand Martin clockwork toy collection, Marklin boats, trains and stations; store-display Santa nodders, top-quality comic character toys, and cast-iron automotive toys, mechanical banks and doorstops.

Visit Bertoia’s online at to learn more about upcoming auctions, including the popular new series known as Bertoia Basics. To contact Bertoia’s, call 856-692-1881 or email

All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of buyer’s premium.