VINELAND, N.J. – Bidders ventured into the outer limits at Bertoia’s May 20-21 spring toy auction, as one lot after another spurred aggressive competition to achieve estimate-smashing prices. From the moment a German-made Marklin oceanliner Amerika set sail, there was little doubt where it was headed: straight to the top of prices realized. The pristine 38-inch-long vessel, all original and retaining its lifeboats, masts, four stacks and other beautifully detailed appointments, cruised at top speed as it rose through the bidding ranks toward a final payday of $271,400, almost four times its high estimate. The buyer was a private party from Europe who chose to remain anonymous.
Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.com.
“This boat was an extraordinary find,” said Bertoia Auctions owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “It had come out of an attic where it had remained for many years. When it was removed from its storage place, the boat had layers of dust and grime, and we believe that’s what helped preserve the paint. Once it was cleaned, it was bright, colorful and absolutely pristine.” The former world auction record for a toy boat had been held by a Marklin Chicago paddle wheeler from the renowned Dick Claus collection. That particular boat sold at Bertoia’s on Nov. 10, 2012 for $264,000.
Antique American toys were led by a superb, circa-1850 Francis, Field & Francis hand-painted tinplate train. Like the Marklin Amerika, the train was the object of fierce bidding because of its astonishing all-original condition. “Often, if an early American tin train appears at auction, it shows signs of paint touch-up or re-soldering, but this train was totally pure,” said Bertoia. Estimated at $15,000-$25,000, it quickly rose to $35,000, at which point the bidding narrowed to only a few competitors. The train (below) sold for $64,900 to a collector who is fairly new to the world of antique toys.
“The buyer is a collector of many things of quality, but it was the Donald Kaufman sale (Bertoia’s, March 2009-April 2011) that opened his eyes to antique toys. He buys only the best of the best, and in the realm of American tin, this train was one of the very best,” Bertoia said.
The ingenious designs of Lehmann, Martin and Gunthermann found favor with buyers on both sides of the Atlantic. German-made Lehmann toys that fared best were a Boxer Rebellion, $18,880; and excellent-condition Baker and Sweep with original box, $4,425. An extremely rare Martin (French) Roller Skater (below) sped off to a new owner for $16,520 – four times its low estimate.
Comic character highlights included an Aunt Eppie Hogg and Auto, $5,900; and Jiggs Bumper Car (below), $4,425.
Pressed-steel advertising trucks continued their long-running streak of popularity. A boxed Metalcraft First Prize Ham truck with an Albany Packing Co. decal on its doors sold for $4,130; while a Sturditoy U.S. Mail truck in exceptional condition delivered on expectations and then some, at $4,720.
Strong prices prevailed on cast-iron toys, like a Globe Police Motorcycle, $3,245; a Pickwick Knight motor coach, $4,720; and a Hubley swivel-head crash car, $4,130. One hundred lots of figural cast-iron doorstops and doorknockers were offered, and as expected, the highest-achieving lot was a Bradley & Hubbard Little Girl Holding Dress in superior condition, which rose to $3,540.
If the day belonged to any particular group of collectors, it was the Christmas crowd, which seems to have the holiday spirit even when it isn’t a holiday.
“Usually there’s a sizable turnout for Christmas items, but this time I was surprised to see how many bidders had flown in to attend the sale rather than bid over the phone,” said Jeanne Bertoia. “I think when collectors come in and see things in person, it makes a difference. They’ll tell me that they thought a particular item was nice after seeing it in the catalog, but when they saw it in person, it was even nicer. We hear that all the time, and not just with the holiday collectors. I think it’s one reason why we consistently have a large live-audience attendance.”
The grand master of the Christmas parade – which featured Part II of a wonderful private collection – was a 20½-inch papier-mache and composition nodding-head Santa (below) on a wheeled platform that sold for $16,520 against an estimate of $800-$1,200. It was followed by a Santa in sleigh pulled by a key-wind nodding reindeer with bridle, harness and glass eyes, which commanded $7,670, more than twice its high estimate.
Extremely tall for a candy container, a 23-inch-high Santa (below) with feather tree attracted a sweet price of $7,080 against an estimate of $1,800-$2,500. A magnificent “snow” flocked German wicker auto with Santa driver exceeded expectations as $4,130, as did a very early German belsnickle with blue coat, $3,245 against an estimate of $200-$400.
“The items in this sale finished within or above estimate 90 to 95 percent of the time. It was an excellent sale from start to finish,” Bertoia concluded.
Bertoia’s will host its traditional pre-Thanksgiving auction on Nov. 11-12, 2016. It will feature premium-quality European trains, Part II of the Jim Ferguson American Flyer train collection, toys, doorstops, banks, penny toys, and holiday antiques.
To contact Bertoia’s, call 856-692-1881 or email email@example.com.
All prices quoted are inclusive of 18 percent buyer’s premium.