NEW HOPE, Pa. – Noel Barrett wrapped up a year of estimate-topping auction results with $2.3 million in combined sales from his spring and autumn auction events. Several distinguished private collections had contributed to the $1.54 million gross in Barrett’s April 11-13 Antique Toy & Americana sale, in which a superb carved-wood cigar store Indian earned $77,000 (all prices inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium). The company’s Nov. 15-16 auction titled Toys & Other Things included approximately 600 premium lots from the late Stan and Priscilla Cypher, and grossed $770,000 – a full $200,000 more than the total high estimate.
The 1,220-lot November sale inventory was topped by a Marklin O-gauge Royal Blue Limited passenger train set. Featuring an American steam profile 0-4-2 locomotive with forward/reverse action and brake levers, a four-wheel tender and four cars with hinged, opening roofs, the appealing circa-1906 set made for the U.S. market barreled past its $12,000-$15,000 estimate to settle at $36,300. Another strong performer among the trains was a Marklin Gauge I American Eagle passenger set, which handily exceeded its estimate to garner $28,600.
In Barrett’s auction, the Marklin name proved magical across the board. “We had six bidders on the phone from Germany, but the top Marklin lots still went to American bidders. Prices went through the roof,” Noel Barrett said. The premier German toy firm’s Traction Engine #4153 – the largest and finest of all toy steam traction engines – came with its original wood factory box and an extra spring in an envelope marked F.A.O. Schwarz – NY. The 14-inch-long by 19-inch-tall toy flattened its $7,000-$9,000 estimate to score $13,200 via the Internet.
Another technically advanced piece for its time was the scale-model sample for a double gang plow made by Peru Plow & Wheel Co. The 44-inch-long farm implement came complete with levers and foot treadles to drop or raise the plows and shift the pitch of the wheels. A superior example of agricultural Americana in miniature, it was bid to $12,100, more than three times the high estimate.
A delightful set of finely molded papier-mâché skittles depicting a recumbent camel on wheels, with ninepins fashioned as costumed Arabs retained its paper label indicating German manufacture. “What made this set so special was the fact that the camel’s head functioned as a nodder,” said Barrett. “It was the first of its kind I had ever seen, and we have had some exceptional skittles sets come through our auctions.” The colorfully hand-painted set rolled off to a new owner for $10,450.
Barrett said he never expected to receive an Ives consignment from Down Under, but a truly exceptional one – clockwork African-American boxers in excellent to near-mint condition – had, indeed, come from an Australian consignor. In fine working order and retaining its original Ives box, the desirable crossover toy knocked out its estimate to retire at $10,450.
An 1882 production by Ives Blakeslee, a mostly brass Neptune live-steam launch with original box, attracted a flurry of bids from nautically minded collectors. Appearing never to have been fired up, it more than tripled its high estimate to drop anchor at $5,225.
Early American toys continued their winning streak as a 20-inch painted and stenciled tinplate express wagon by Merriam crossed the auction block. The very same example pictured in Jeffrey Levitt’s book The World of Antique Toys, its rear-panel stencil included a patent date of April 29, 1873. It sold for an above-estimate price of $7,150.
The auction opened with a large crowd in attendance. “As bidders made their purchases, the crowd dwindled, but there were many online, absentee and phone bids keeping the momentum going through the sale,” said Barrett.
The year ahead already looks promising for Noel Barrett Auctions. “We have some very nice European toys coming, as well as an outstanding Schoenhut circus collection, and some amazing boats and toy soldiers that came to us through the estate of someone whom I barely knew,” Barrett said. “In his will, he stipulated that he wanted us to auction his toys.”
Noel Barrett remains firm in his commitment to conduct only two well-produced, well-publicized sales per year. “A collection can take a lifetime to collect, but only a day or two to sell,” Barrett said. “When someone entrusts their collection to us, the least we can do is treat it with the respect it deserves by not letting it get lost in the shuffle.”
Noel Barrett Auctions’ Spring 2009 sale will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26. For additional details contact Noel Barrett by calling 215-297-5109 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the company’s Web site at email@example.com.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE