VINELAND, N.J. – Widely regarded as the ultimate assemblage of antique and vintage toys in private hands today, the Donald Kaufman collection is headed for the auction spotlight at Bertoia’s, starting with a 1,500-lot offering on March 19-21, 2009. Kaufman, one of the founders of K-B Toys, is considered a pioneer in the toy hobby, having started his collection nearly 59 years ago.
The Kaufman auction debut will follow a carefully mapped-out plan, with Thursday evening’s 6 p.m. session serving as a comprehensive “sampler” of all categories to follow in the full-day sessions on Friday and Saturday. “We’ve chosen some wonderful highlight pieces for a panoramic overview on Thursday,” said Bertoia Auctions’ owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “Collectors won’t be able to sleep that night. They’re going to have plenty to dream about.”
Traditionally, a symbolic meaning is attached to the opening lot of each Bertoia sale. The Kaufman sessions will open on March 19 with a factory sample of Hubley’s Royal Bandwagon, representing the commencement of a procession of toys worthy of a ticker-tape parade. It will be followed by nine more factory samples from the same series, including a very rare Monkey Cage, formerly in the Perelman Museum. The cast iron continues with a Carpenter Engine House (ex L.C. Hegarty collection), an Ives Fire Engine House, and an Ives General Grant Smoking a Cigar.
A superb selection of more than 100 Lehmann toys will be offered, including examples of all five of the tinplate motorcycles produced by the celebrated Nuremberg firm: Pilot, Quex, Roon, Echo and Halloh. The latter two are boxed. Other key Lehmann lots include a Primus (roller skater), three large-size sedans, boxed delivery trucks, a Lo and Li (clown accordionist and dancer), a Snik Snak (man walking dogs) and perhaps the finest known example of a Miss Blondin tightrope walker.
An outstanding Marklin toy in the Kaufman collection is the rare 1909 circus road train with clown riders known as “Fidelitas.” One of the rarest and most immediately identifiable of all European “connoisseur’s toys,” it will be joined by exquisite productions from other dominant manufacturers of the golden era of toy-making, like Bing, Tippco, Distler, Hans Eberl and Charles Rossignol.
French autos dating to the turn of the 20th century are expected to garner keen interest. Among them are an Edmond Falure Automobile Vivant runabout with its original box, and a 17-inch-long circa-1908 French town car with open chauffeur’s compartment.
The opening session also includes an extensive assortment of figural automotive-theme biscuit and candy tins, including a rare De Andreis racecar and a Lu trolley; airplanes, rare, boxed TootsieToys, and some of the rarest of all racers produced by Gunthermann.
On March 20, the first full day of buying will start with the remainder of Don Kaufman’s Lehmann toys, followed by early cast-iron runabouts by Kenton and Harris, and cars made by A.C. Williams, Kilgore, Arcade and Hubley. Kaufman’s Hubley clockwork Mack dump truck may be the only extant example.
Next up will be a fine representation of taxis and farm toys, with Caterpillar-type tractors by Hubley and Arcade, some boxed. An envy-stirring selection of boxed Japanese tin friction cars includes a 1957 Alps yellow and orange Chrysler Newport, a striking Yonezawa Lincoln with orange body and pink roof, and a very rare boxed set by Bandai comprised of a Cadillac, Rolls-Royce and Nash Rambler.
As the procession continues, bidders will have their choice of rare biscuit tins, prewar Japanese cars and planes, an extensive motorcade of Märklin open roadsters, Bing trucks and racers from as early as 1904, and exceptional Continental autos such as a 17-inch-long French double-phaeton of unknown manufacture.
An impressive series of racers includes rare variations of the Kingsbury Bluebird and Golden Arrow (gold, violet and white), a few boxed 1950s Japanese Atom racers, and a boxed French Super Racer similar to the famous Agajanian.
The Arcade taxi rank will be brimming with a rainbow of color variations, including a 1932 Checker Cab that every specialist collector seeks. Other Arcade rarities in the collection include a painted-brass prototype REO coupe that came straight from the factory, a David Storage delivery van, and a 16-inch Kenton Speed Truck.
The cast-iron motorcycle section contains many prized entries, such as a near-mint Hubley Hillclimber in orange with black rubber tires, a Harley-Davidson ’cycle with sport (civilian) rider, a Hubley Indian with sidebar, sport rider and woman passenger (ex L. C. Hegarty collection; and a Hubley Schaber’s Cycle Shop delivery van. The blue ribbon, however, goes to the extremely rare Hubley clockwork “Say it with Flowers” van, formerly a highlight of the Hegarty collection.
The wow factory continues with cast-iron airplanes, moving vans and municipal vehicles. The second session concludes with colorful Marx tin trucks and a fleet of European tin racers and luxury autos. Leading the latter lineup are a Marklin Torpedo open tourer and a Bing tonneau with seated tin figures in period attire.
The March 21 auction session will commence with incredible European autos, limos and work vehicles. Among the standouts are a superb Bing limousine with taxi meter and one of Don Kaufman’s most treasured toys – a striking Spanish-made Hispania limousine measuring 20 inches long.
Test driving is allowed, if you’re small enough to fit into the seat of any of the 40 pedal and oversize pressed-steel cars in the sale, including examples with provenance from the Harrah and Ray Holland Collections.
The sale inventory then takes a turn toward friction automotive, with toys from Dayton, D.P. Clark, Converse, Cor-Cor and Kingsbury. Some examples are boxed.
Those who favor advertising trucks will be spoiled for choice with the many Metalcraft private-label productions, including a few prime Art Deco-style vehicles, with boxes. A few of the top truck entries include those emblazoned with company logos for Decker’s Iowana, Goodrich, Toy Town Grocery, and Kroger. Each retains its original box, and the Kroger truck features its own interior grocery store display.
The pressed-steel offering continues with a panorama of vehicles by Keystone, Structo and Buddy ‘L,’ including the latter company’s tugboat, Popular bus, and one of the finest Outdoor Railway sets ever offered. The railway set, which will be sold as a single lot, contains a caboose, cattle car, boxcar and other cars.
Jeanne Bertoia remarked that her company’s gallery and staff will be at their hospitable best for the Kaufman debut sessions. “There is only one Kaufman collection,” she said, “and we want the first of the sales in this auction series to be an event that will always be remembered.”
Bertoia’s premiere auction sessions exclusively featuring the Donald Kaufman collection will start at 6 p.m. on Thursday March 19, at 1 p.m. on Friday March 20, and at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 21. All items will be available to preview during the month leading up to the sale, but please call to arrange a preview time during this period. During the week of the actual sale, preview hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. The preview will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturday, but because of the user-friendly arrangement of the gallery, previewing will be possible as the sale is in progress.
The full-color hardcover catalog costs $55 postpaid to U.S. addresses and $65 if sent overseas. Bertoia Auctions is located at 2141 DeMarco Dr., Vineland, NJ 08360. For information or to order catalogs, call 856-692-1881 or e-mail Toys@BertoiaAuctions.com. Visit Bertoia’s online at www.BertoiaAuctions.com.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE