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Bertoia’s Spring Signature Sale of American and European antique toys tops $1.8M

Ives (USA) Uncle Sam clockwork perambulator, believed to be one of only two known examples, the other being the example depicted in Blair Whitton’s 1981 reference book ‘American Clockwork Toys 1862-1900.’ Sold for $72,000 against an estimate of $20,000-$40,000

VINELAND, N.J. – Bertoia Auctions welcomed spring with a beautiful selection of rare American and European antique toys and banks at their March 24-25 Signature Sale, which exceeded $1.8 million. The 708-lot event was highlighted by fine mechanical banks and bell toys from the renowned Rudd Trowbridge collection, Phil and Joan Steel’s prize collection of French-made Martin windup toys, and additional high-quality consignments. Absentee and Internet live bidding was provided by LiveAuctioneers.

Ives Uncle Sam clockwork perambulator, one of only two known, nearly doubles high estimate, pedaling to $72,000

The top lot of the sale was a folky 19th-century Ives Uncle Sam clockwork perambulator (shown at top) that amazed even the most seasoned of early American toy collectors. Bertoia Auctions’ president, Michael Bertoia, had described it in the sale catalog as “a once-in-a-lifetime find,” adding that the toy was discovered in a wooden crate at an upstate New York real estate tax sale. The crate contained a trove of early toys and appeared as though it had been left undisturbed for decades, Bertoia said. Following scrupulous research, Bertoia concluded that the Uncle Sam perambulator was “one of only two known to exist.” With expectations of reaching $20,000-$40,000, Uncle Sam pedaled confidently to $72,000.

Oversize Ives (USA) horse-drawn fire hose reel, 25½in long, pristine condition. Sold for $14,400 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000

Another American antique toy that found favor with bidders was an oversize (25½-inch) Ives horse-drawn fire hose reel in near-flawless condition. It galloped to $14,400 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

Extremely rare Kenton Speed Truck in 16½in size, the largest of its series. All original and in pristine condition, with provenance from the legendary Donald Kaufman collection, it sold for $16,800 against an estimate of $6,000-$9,000.

From the early automotive period, a very rare circa-1932 Arcade cast-iron Brinks Express Truck looked like something out of an old black-and-white cops-and-robbers movie. The bright-red 12-inch-long truck is one of very few of its type known to exist. It sold near the top of its estimate range for $14,400. Even larger, an extremely rare Kenton Speed Truck measuring 16½ inches long had everything going for it. It was all original and displayed pristine condition, but as if that were not enough, its line of provenance included the legendary Donald Kaufman collection. Against a pre-sale estimate of $6,000-$9,000, it raced to its new owner for $16,800.

Kyser & Rex (USA) Chimpanzee cast-iron mechanical bank, all original, uncommon color scheme. Grazing its high estimate, it sold for $34,800.

Cast-iron bank collectors had a field day choosing from the many rare, all-original mechanicals from the Trowbridge collection. A Kyser & Rex (Philadelphia) Chimpanzee bank displaying an uncommon color scheme of lime green with red, blue and gilt accents was a crowd-charmer. It landed just shy of its high estimate at $34,800. Another beloved character bank, a J&E Stevens Professor Pug Frog’s Great Bicycle Feat bank, with strong action, great form and appealing colors, sold for $32,400 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000.

J&E Stevens (USA) Professor Pug Frog cast-iron mechanical bank. Sold for $32,400 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000

A third stellar entry was an exciting Giant In Tower mechanical bank made circa 1892 by the English firm John Harper and Co. Very hard to find in all-original condition, this visually compelling bright red-and-yellow money box closed its bidding run at $25,200 against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000.

Circa-1892 John Harper & Co. (England) Giant In Tower cast-iron mechanical bank. Authentic and all original. Sold for $25,200 against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000
Circa-1892 John Harper & Co. (England) Giant In Tower cast-iron mechanical bank. Authentic and all original. Sold for $25,200 against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000

Bertoia’s has auctioned many legendary toy train collections over the years and enjoys a large international following with railway enthusiasts. Leading the train category in the March auction, an attractive hand-painted Carette (German) Gauge 2 16-inch Vauclain locomotive with tender, believed to be the only extant example in this size, sold for $34,800 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000.

Carette (German) Gauge 2, 16in Vauclain locomotive with tender, hand-painted, believed to be the only surviving example in this size. Sold for $34,800 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000

An American treasure, an 18-inch-long Voltamp #2115 electric Interurban Trolley, created in the coveted 2-inch gauge, was attic-fresh and truly immaculate. It breezed past its $12,000-$18,000 estimate to settle at $24,000.

Early Voltamp (USA) #2115 Interurban Trolley, 2-inch gauge, electric, 18in long. Described in the auction catalog as one of the nicest examples Bertoia’s experts had ever seen. Sold for $24,000 against an estimate of $12,000-$18,000

Of the many tempting Fernand Martin toys consigned by Phil and Joan Steel, one example in particular captured collectors’ imaginations. The circa-1912 production known as “L’Intrepide,” a wind-up jockey on horseback shown absconding with a Mona Lisa painting under his arm, alluded to a headline-making story of its era. The year prior to its manufacture, the famed Leonardo da Vinci painting had been stolen from the Louvre in Paris. Fortunately, it was recovered unharmed and the perpetrator was sent to prison. The shocking crime inspired the French toymaker Fernand Martin to commemmorate the event in tin. The example offered by Bertoia’s sold for $11,000 against an estimate of $5,000-$7,500.

Circa-1912 Fernand Martin (France) L’Intrepide Jockey wind-up toy, rider carries ‘Mona Lisa’ painting under arm, a nod to the 1911 theft of the famous painting from the Louvre museum in Paris. Sold for $11,000 against an estimate of $5,000-$7,500

Germany’s esteemed Marklin brand was well represented in the sale, in particular by a large (21-inch-long) JU-52 Lufthansa airplane with German military markings. It soared to $10,800, the top end of its estimate range. Also, a pristine circa-1928 Marklin hand-painted tin limousine with a removable roof, side handbrake and clockwork motor handily achieved its high-estimate price of $9,000.

To discuss consigning to a future toy auction at Bertoia’s, please call 856-692-1881 or email All enquiries are kept strictly confidential. Visit Bertoia’s online at

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