Old Toy Soldier Auctions chalks up ‘best sale to date’
PITTSBURGH – Ray Haradin’s Old Toy Soldier Auctions operates in a world of miniature antiques, but prices on top lots were strictly big league in the company’s May 1 auction featuring the collections of John Graham (part III), brothers Bill and Don Thompson, and other consignors.
“At $229,000 with 99 percent of the lots sold, it was, by far, our best sale to date,” said Haradin. “I was thrilled with the result.”
The 645-lot auction inventory featured an extraordinary toy soldier collection that was established in the 1940s by two brothers from Chicago, Don and (the late) Bill Thompson. When their family moved to California in 1947, the boys’ carefully wrapped and boxed toys made the journey as well, but they would remain in quiet storage until 2009, when they were unwrapped and assessed for auction purposes.
“We got terrific prices on the Thompsons’ soldiers because they were very desirable, early pieces in fabulous condition,” Haradin said. “I think condition was the reason there were so many new bidders for this sale. I suspect many of them were younger people, too, since 47 percent of the purchases were made online through LiveAuctioneers.”
Among the highlights from the Thompson collection was an exceptionally rare version of Britains’ 1937 Coronation Coach Set #1476 containing a single figure of the uncrowned King Edward VIII. The 28-piece boxed set, which also included grooms, footmen and Yeomen of the Guard, topped its high estimate to settle at $5,015 (all prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 18% buyer’s premium).
Another lot with an Edward VIII connection consisted of a figure of the British monarch in his purple, ermine-trimmed Coronation robes. Made by Britains prior to the King’s abdication, the figure came in a box with both a yellow manufacturer’s label marked “King Edward VIII” and a Marshall Field department store $1 price sticker. In Old Toy Soldier’s sale, it concluded its bidding run majestically at $3,422.
There was widespread interest for a Haffner (German) 21-piece military set featuring Frederick the Great with mounted troops, two drummers, a flag bearer and other figures. The very rare ensemble mustered a winning bid of $3,186 against a presale estimate of $1,200-$1,500.
Competition was keen, as well, for knights produced by the British firm Courtenay. A signed and numbered (XX1) hand-painted figure known as “Le Borge de Prie” was pushed well beyond its $400-$600 estimate to close at $1,062.
An early production by the still-active British company King and Country depicted a dashing corps of Seaforth Highlanders in foreign active service dress, complete with piper and mounted officer. The 26-piece set garnered a within-estimate price of $590.
Unlike W. Britains, whose origins date to the mid-Victorian era, King and Country was a late entry on the toy soldier playing field, Haradin said. “They started in the early 1980s but didn’t become popular till the mid-1990s. Now they rival Britains in sales and maybe even surpass them. There’s a very dedicated following for this brand when it’s offered in our auctions. Newer collectors want to buy the pieces that came out before they got into the hobby.”
Speaking of the playing field, bidders came from all directions to pursue a seldom-seen Cherilea postwar baseball set featuring 11 figures, including a black-suited umpire. In its original, colorfully lithographed box and with each of the pieces still tied in place, the like-new set estimated at $1,800-$2,400 crossed home plate in championship style at $4,425.
Other notable boxed sets in the auction included a Britains 8-piece prewar “Los Rurales de la Federaction” Mexican Infantry Set #186, $1,770; a 1937-1941 British Army Active Service Display Set #1328, also by Britains, $1,298; and a postwar Mignot (French) 6-piece “Gardes du Corps du Roi” set #294 featuring an officer, trumpeter and standard bearer, $325.
“What impressed me most about this sale was that it was strong across the board. We made sure we catered to every type of collector, and we didn’t note softness in any category,” Haradin said.
Old Toy Soldier Auctions is expanding its operations. Joe Saine of Toledo, Ohio, an expert in both new and old toy soldiers, is joining the company’s staff to assist with future sales. Additionally, OTSA will conduct its first-ever two-day sale over the weekend of Nov. 20-21, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. The auction will feature part I of the late Fred Wehr’s collection, which contains many rare, early Britains, approximately 140 King and Country sets, German-made Heyde figures, and an extensive selection of figures by Bill Hocker, a boutique manufacturer from California whose contemporary toy soldiers are often favorably compared to Britains.
To contact Ray Haradin and Old Toy Soldier Auctions, call 412-343-8733 (tollfree: 800-349-8009) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE