Smooth sailing for Claus toy boat collection at Bertoia’s $1.8M sale
“The average lot price was more than $8,500. Many antiques and fine art auctions don’t even come close to achieving that amount,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “Needless to say, we were very pleased with the results, and so was Dick Claus, who was in the audience watching the sale, and beaming. It was fun to watch his expressions as each toy was sold.”
Bertoia said European bidders had come forearmed with the knowledge that they might have to pay a steep price to acquire the rare and exceptional boats Claus had favored throughout his collecting years. “There was so much anticipation in the room. It was like a huge club had gathered, and everyone was eager to buy,” Bertoia said. “They were happy to win and, in a sportsmanlike way, they were also happy for those who had outbid them. It was all part of the magic of the day, and afterward everyone said they couldn’t wait for part II (Nov. 10).”
Well before the introduction of the first lot, more than 100 registered bidders staked a claim to their reserved seats at Bertoia’s gallery, while scores of others waited patiently either by their phones or computers to bid online through LiveAuctioneers.
“It’s not unusual at any of our auctions for bidders to ask to be seated in a particular seat or row. Not this time. Bidders said, ‘Just give me a seat – any seat.’ When that happened, we knew something was up. People were anxious,” Bertoia said.
The Europeans seemed especially keen to repatriate the exquisite Marklin, Fleishmann and other Continental boats, but they faced fierce competition from the Americans. Of those who actually won items, it was a 50-50 split between European and US buyers, Bertoia said.
Seven of the auction’s top 10 lots were the handiwork of fabled German manufacturer Marklin, including the majestic 26-inch clockwork-driven Providence that took the blue ribbon at $247,250 (all prices quoted inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium). The buyer was in the room and bidding on behalf of a collector. The circa-1900 to 1902 paddlewheel boat featured finely painted accenting and many of the luxurious extras that attract high-end collectors. The Providence had been entered in the sale with an estimate of $110,000-$130,000. “But collectors had their own estimate in mind, and they called the shots,” Bertoia said.
Runners-up among boats bearing the prestigious Marklin brand included a Battleship Maryland with gun turrets, lifeboats, a 4-tiered mast and multiple observation decks, $143,750; and a Kaiserin August Victoria steam-powered ocean liner modeled after the ship once billed as the world’s largest, $138,000.
Also by Marklin, a boxed, circa-1905 first-series clockwork Battleship New York with fully appointed upper deck, multiple guns on several levels and simulated plank deck dropped anchor at $109,250. From a later (circa-1909) series, a clockwork New York cruiser battleship in a different color scheme sailed to a new harbor for $80,500.
Other Marklins included a second-series Battleship Brooklyn, $103,500; a Tip-Top yacht with canopy-covered dining section and passengers, $36,800; and a Marklin Iowa first-series cruiser, $51,750. A circa 1912-1915 second-series Battleship Baltimore impressed with a winning bid of $80,500.
The top 10 list was rounded out by a circa-1890 Radiguet (French) live-steam gunboat with brass cannons, rope railing and crow’s nest, $36,800; and a circa-1875 Rock & Graner (German) Kaiser Wilhelm steam paddlewheel boat, $46,000. A Gunthermann (German) lithographed-tin scull with uniformed eight-man team and blue-jacketed coxswain was destined for success. Rarely seen at auction and a favorite with collectors, the clockwork gem measuring 29 inches long simulates a synchronized rowing action when activated. Dick Claus’ example was in excellent condition and streaked past its $10,000-$12,000 estimate to cross the finish line at $31,625.
The bidding action was nonstop and frequently punctuated by applause. “It was a wonderful crowd,” said Bertoia Auctions’ owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “It seemed that just about everyone who’s anyone in the toy boat hobby was there. Many collectors knew of each other but had never actually met. They would ask us to introduce them. That’s the kind of camaraderie we witnessed repeatedly.”
Bertoia’s has become well known for its red-carpet welcome and bounteous American-style hospitality. This time auction guests were treated to a beautiful catered buffet that included salmon and filet mignon.
“We truly enjoy playing host to collectors who attend our sales. They think of us as more than just auctioneers – we’ve become friends with many of them,” Jeanne said. “When we travel to Europe for Toymania or other shows, our European friends in the toy hobby are very generous in reciprocating. It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of the auction business.”
Bertoia’s will auction part II of the Dick Claus Antique Nautical Toy and Boat collection on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. To contact Bertoia Auctions, call 856-692-1881 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the fully illustrated catalog for Bertoia’s May 12 auction, complete with prices realized, at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
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Click here to view the fully illustrated catalog for this sale, complete with prices realized.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE