Bertoia’s Nov. 14-16 Annual Fall Auction features array of rare toys

Annual Fall Auction

Marklin ‘Olympia’ gunboat, circa 1904, clockwork tin with hand-painting, 16.5in long. Provenance: Collections of Malcolm Forbes, Dick Claus, Sam Downey. Estimate $14,000-$20,000. Bertoia Auctions image

VINELAND, N.J. – Last March, Bertoia’s was honored to auction Part I of the diverse and ultra-high-quality Sam Downey Jr. estate collection. The second and final installation of the multigenerational Downey collection is the headliner of Bertoia’s Nov. 14-16 auction and will be the exclusive offering on day three. Toys and banks from other premier collections will be sold on days one and two. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

A beloved lifelong student and collector of fine toys who passed in November 2018, Sam Downey Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father, Samuel Downey Sr., whose collection he inherited and expanded upon over several decades.

“Both father and son were attracted to the same types of toys, and both acquired only the finest examples, so their collections blended together seamlessly,” said Bertoia Auctions president and auctioneer Michael Bertoia. “Sam was an active buyer throughout his life and never missed a Bertoia sale. He would sit in the kitchen area with his buddies, watching the sale through a large window. Whenever he wanted to place a bid, he would knock on the window.”

The Downey Jr. collection shows significant diversity, but at its core is European turn-of-the-century tin, particularly large boats. The auction includes 35 European boats, including a Marklin Battleship Maine and Marklin Battleship La Plata, made for the Argentine market and formerly part of the Bill Bertoia collection. Various other brands are seen in this grouping, which includes submarines, speedboats and other craft.

Sam Downey’s European automotive toys run the gamut from limos and runabouts to racers and fire pumpers. Also, there are several early German and French push planes and a large Marklin zeppelin. A small satellite grouping of American cast iron includes motorcycles, racecars, still and mechanical banks, and a few figural desktop items.

Annual Fall Auction

Yonezawa Atom Jet Racer, tin, friction driven, 26in long. Estimate $6,000-$9,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Trains were always a major source of interest to Downey. Part II of his collection reveals European trains and accessories, Marklin train stations and accessories; and early Bing bridges and buildings in brightly painted colors. English steam entries include Marklin and Bassett Lowke steam locomotives, coaches and complete sets. His prized American train sub-collection features 2-inch Carlisle & Finch trains with endless track, multiple accessories and boxes; as well as Voltamp and Howard accessories. Steam engines from Doll, Schoener and Marklin will be ready to fire up, and Michael predicts the hot air engines will command high prices.

Sam also had an affinity for Halloween, as evidenced in his 25-piece collection of candy containers, and antique shaving mugs, most of which are the occupational variety. The 50-piece mug grouping is topped by a rare example depicting a fire brigade vessel putting out a tugboat fire.

Annual Fall Auction

Occupational shaving mug with image of ferryboat approaching riverboat on fire. Provenance: Sam Downey collection. Estimate $1,000-$2,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Within the multiple-consignor sessions, an important Midwestern collection of cast-iron toys will step into the spotlight. Many pieces retain their tags from prestigious Bertoia sales of the past, including the company’s auctions of the Dick Ford collection and the legendary Donald Kaufman series. Combined with high-end pieces from other collections, there will be a sizable selection of Kenton and Dent productions from which to choose, as well as luxury sedans and racers. In all, nearly 100 cast-iron lots are cataloged, not counting the horse-drawn cast iron or the 50+ figural cast-iron doorstops and novelties. Leading the doorstop section are a rare Football Player and several desirable Bradley & Hubbard designs.

Annual Fall Auction

Figural cast-iron doorstop depicting a football player running with the pigskin. Estimate $4,000-$7,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Three major still bank collections will be auctioned, including several blue-chip pieces from the Elinor Ross collection. A rare Judd Giant with Club, and desirable Springing Cat are expected to be among the top-selling mechanicals.

Annual Fall Auction

More than 100 large and small pressed-steel vehicles form an impressive motor pool. All of the best names are represented, such as Kingsbury and Buddy ‘L.’ An added bonus is the inclusion of approximately one dozen tether cars.

Annual Fall Auction

Buddy ‘L’ Trench Digger, 20in long, heavy pressed steel. Estimate $3,000-$5,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Popular Fernand Martin and Lehmann toys (including a very rare Coco and several motorcycles) plus hand-painted European tin toys of many types will share the spotlight with tin clowns, animals and figures.

In the European tin vehicle lineup there are racecars, limos, prewar Japanese productions and a sensational selection of 60 motorcycles that includes large Tippco and M&K bikes and an Ingap sidecar ’cycle. “This is a ‘must-attend’ part of the sale,” Michael noted.

Annual Fall Auction

Boxed Bandai Flying Spaceman friction motorcycle with siren, 12in long. Estimate $6,000-$9,000. Bertoia Auctions image

One hundred penny toys from multiple collections were hand-curated by Michael, whose own exquisite lifetime collection of small-scale rarities was auctioned earlier this year. There are many articulated designs, highly decorative transportation examples, and whimsical pieces that would make any penny toy collector smile.

More than 200 excellent-condition comic character toys will cross the auction block, many of them retaining their original boxes. Classic Popeye and Superman toys are in the front line. “Arguably, this is the best grouping of comic character we’ve had in years. There are nearly as many boxes as there are toys, which, themselves, are predominantly in pristine or near-mint condition,” Michael said.

Annual Fall Auction

Jackie Robinson Pocket Baseball Game boxed set with 13-inch doll holding bat. Estimate $1,500-$2,500. Bertoia Auctions image

Just in time for the Christmas season, Bertoia’s will present an extensive array of crowd-pleasing holiday antiques. Among the 120 top-quality Christmas lots are Santa nodders (some with multiple actions), Santas on donkeys, glass kugels, Dresdens and more. As this article was going to press, Bertoia’s team was still unboxing and discovering marvelous Christmas and Halloween items, so there will be many surprises for collectors to anticipate in this auction.

Annual Fall Auction

Santa on polar bear growler toy, 22in long, bear wears leather harness and has brown glass eyes. Head moves. Estimate $3,000-$4,000. Bertoia Auctions image

For additional information on any item in the sale, call 856-692-1881 or email