Rare toy train accessories make for collectors’ paradise at Bertoia auction
VINELAND, N.J. – “This was a collectors’ sale,” said Jeanne Bertoia, commenting on the April 9 auction of Jerry and Nina Greene’s personal toy train collection. The prized trains and rare accessories amassed over several decades by the Philadelphia couple were well known within the train community, but it was still a big step for Bertoia’s to auction the treasured collection with no reserve.
“Jerry and Nina were confident that we had done our job in reaching collectors worldwide, so they were comfortable with having no reserve on anything in the sale,” said Bertoia, owner and co-founder of the Vineland, New Jersey auction house. In the end, it was a gamble that paid off. The sale took in a robust $1.2 million, with 40 percent of the lots selling above their individual catalog estimates.
Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.com.
“It was one of our most successful auctions in the sense that we had happy consignors, happy buyers and strong prices,” Bertoia said.
Bertoia’s team went above and beyond expectations in presenting the trains and stations in an artful manner on tables and plinths, and in showcases. Those who traveled long distances to attend – including Europeans who flew in from Belgium, Germany and Switzerland – entered the auction gallery feeling as though they had walked into a world of trains. The stage was set for camaraderie and good-natured bidding wars.
European visitors were especially interested in seeing the Greenes’ Marklin trains and accessories. Gallery associate Rich Bertoia observed: “We were offering some extremely rare tunnels and bridges that just don’t come up at auction. Even some of the really small pieces were very rare. We heard people saying repeatedly that they had never seen this piece or that piece. A small sign, for example, might not have had the highest value in the sale, but it was something they had only seen in books, so they were excited to actually see it.”
The top lot of the sale was Lot 262, a Marklin mountain tunnel with castle tower (above) that sold to an American buyer for $84,000 against an estimate of $18,000-$22,000. Rarity and condition were the two factors that propelled it to a price that was 382 percent of its high estimate. Another Marklin tunnel, Lot 266, sold to a European bidder in the gallery for $27,000 against a $5,000-$7,000 estimate.
The European contingent struck again during the bidding for Lot 283, a rare Marklin O gauge train station (below). It rose to $42,000, more than twice its high estimate.
An American phone bidder who was active on many of the accessory lots is the new owner of one of the most popular pieces in the sale – a beautiful Marklin three-arm lamp. Entered as Lot 359 with a presale estimate of $6,000-$8,000, it commanded a top bid of $19,200.
Other outstanding Marklin results included Lot 342, a girder bridge (below) that sold to a U.S. buyer over the phone for $51,000 (est. $15,000-$20,000); and Lot 140, a train station produced for export to the English market, which was bid to $14,400 (est. $2,500-$3,500).
The Greenes’ collection had evolved in an unusual manner. “Jerry started his collection with accessories, then he bought trains to accessorize the accessories,” Rich said. “It’s not how most train collectors would do it, but thinking outside the box certainly worked out well for him.”
The auctioneer’s hammer came down repeatedly to the tune of above-estimate prices. Lot 407, a Voltamp trolley, sold in the gallery for $11,400 (est. $2,500-$3,000), while Lot 643, a Lionel power and trailer trolley (below), went to a LiveAuctioneers Internet bidder for $20,400 – five times the high estimate. Later, the Internet buyer visited Bertoia’s in person to pick up both the trolley and Lot 662, an Ives flatbed circus car with wagon he had won for $7,800.
A gentleman who was bidding on rare Carlisle & Finch productions prevailed on multiple items, including Lot 653, a summer trolley, $5,700; and Lot 630, passenger cars, $3,900. All of his purchases were acquired for the Carlisle & Finch museum.
Other train highlights included Lot 221, a Bing Jupiter set (below) with provenance from the Ward Kimball collection, $48,000 (est. $25,000-$30,000); and Lot 452, a Marklin three-piece train that sold to a European phone bidder for an above-estimate $27,000.
In terms of sales statistics, 239 lots representing 35 percent of the auction were sold to buyers at the gallery, while 277 lots were purchased via the Internet. Ninety-five lots went to absentee bidders and 92 to phone competitors. It was also noted that the items of highest value sold primarily to live and phone bidders.
“The wonderful thing about this auction was that so many people were able to buy. There were some record prices and then again at the other end of the spectrum, there were some great buys. Everyone left with a bag and a smile on their face,” said Jeanne.
To contact Bertoia Auctions about consigning to a future toy or train auction, call 856-692-1881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to view the fully illustrated catalog for this sale, complete with prices realized.