More than 1,000 premium toys in Bertoia auction May 23-24

Bowling Alley cast-iron mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, one of the very few authentic examples in existence. Ex Griffith Collection. Est. $16,000-$24,000. Bertoia Auctions image

VINELAND, N.J. – Winter has finally moved on, and it’s once again time for collectors to gather, socialize and compete for great toys of all types at Bertoia’s Annual Spring Toy Sale. The company’s renowned Signature Sales focus on a select few collections with prestigious name value, and its Basics series presents excellent toys at affordable price points, but Bertoia’s diverse Spring Sale is an open door to fine pieces from literally dozens of collections. This year’s edition, slated for May 23-24, boasts more than 1,000 toys, banks and trains, and has been timed so it doesn’t interfere with the cookouts or other family events traditionally held over Memorial Day weekend. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

The opening session will feature more than 300 still banks from the estate collection of Ohioan Ned Bauer, a past host of the Still Bank Collectors Association convention. The lineup includes both figural architectural and “safe” banks boasting plenty of eye-filling color and paint. Among the highlights are two different sizes of Bay Window banks, an extremely rare Chancellor bank, and a large Statue of Liberty bank (below) whose original paint is so exceptional, it was described by Bertoia Auctions President Michael Bertoia as “dripping wet” – collector jargon for the best you’ll ever see.

Kenton Hardware cast-iron still bank, 9in. high, near mint. Est. $2,000-$3,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Also entered in the Thursday session are approximately 80 cast-iron mechanical banks. Just a few of the standouts include a pristine Boy Scout Camp, a near-mint Multiplying bank, and an ultra-rare Bowling Alley bank.

Collectors of pressed steel will find a selection awaiting them that is as comprehensive as they’ve ever seen in a single auction. There are both large and small vehicles in the mix, as well as a dozen pedal cars. Highlights include beautiful American National Giant Series trucks, an American National pedal car, Buddy ‘L’s, Keystone and Steelcraft pieces, and a broad assortment of Structo toys from the late Tiny Moyer’s collection.

American National pedal car, 52in. long. Est. $5,000-$7,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Nautical toys are led by a large Bing torpedo boat in superb condition, accompanied by its original box. Also part of the proud flotilla is a large grouping of working craft speedboats, battleships and other vessels from the Moyer collection.

Althof Bergmann ‘Columbia’ ferry boat, 13in. long, hand-painted tin with stenciling and floral pattern on sides. Est. $20,000-$30,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Cast-iron automotive toys are well represented by a large Vindex steam shovel, several cast-iron fire trucks and Hubley race cars. Additionally, there are cast-iron horse-drawn toys, speedboats and several airplanes, including a desirable Friendship seaplane.

An auction entry that conjures deja-vu at Bertoia’s is a cast-iron tricycle with painted wooden wheels and a metal seat whose cut-out design creates the words “Tom Thumb.” The late-19th-century production was purchased 30 years ago by Bertoia Auctions co-founder and antique toy dealer the late Bill Bertoia. However, before Bill resold the antique trike, it was kept at the family home, where Bill and Jeanne’s children, Michael and Lauren, happily posed with it for Christmas and Easter photos. One of those photos was actually featured in a cover story about Michael’s penny toys (Antique Toy World, March 2019 issue). Now the tricycle has come full circle to Bertoia’s, consigned by the person who bought the toy from Bill three decades ago.

Timeless European windup toys – especially Lehmanns and Martins – seem to gain new fans with each successive Bertoia sale. The May 23-24 event includes such prized examples as a boxed Lehmann Zig-Zag, a Martin Carpenter, a near-mint Distler “Man Changing Faces,” several hand-painted Gunthermann plink-plink musical toys, and a French “exploding” crash car, likely made by Pinard.

Distler (German) Man with Three Faces, 9in. tall, lithographed tin. Est. $2,500-$3,500. Bertoia Auctions image

Super-clean and ready to display with pride, the comic character toys in the sale are dominated by boxed favorites, such as the perennially popular Superman Tank and several Popeye toys. A wide range of Mickey Mouse and other Disney toys completes the amusing array.

Boxed Linemar Superman Fighting Tank, battery-operated, pristine condition. Est. $3,500-$5,500. Bertoia Auctions image

Both American and European toys will be pulling into the gallery to learn what their next destinations might be. Leading the way will be a Marklin 1 gauge blue locomotive pulling three refrigerator cars, fresh from a Wisconsin estate and graded a solid 10 out of 10. “It’s unusual to see a refrigerator car set as complete as this one. We think it could make $20,000 to $25,000 at auction, maybe more,” Michael said.

Circa-1897 Issmayer Pacific Express O gauge train set. Est. $1,400-$1,800. Bertoia Auctions image

The large number of Halloween pieces to be offered is actually Part II of the same Pennsylvania private collection Bertoia’s debuted last November amid great excitement. Collectors who were overjoyed with the rarities offered in Part I can expect to see yet another sensational selection of die-cuts, lanterns, veggie people, noisemakers, witches and cats.

Rare life-size witch head jack-o’-lantern, German, pressed composition with internal candleholder. Est. $2,000-$3,000. Bertoia Auctions image

Figural cast-iron doorstops will be ready to impress, with some of the coveted forms including a full-figure standing Frog, a rare Hubley Bugle Boy, a Witch on Broomstick, and a few Bradley & Hubbard designs. Sharing the spotlight with the doorstops is a truly exceptional single-owner collection of figural string holders. They include an Ice Skater, Fairy Godmother, Dandy, and full-figure Black Cat Head.

“Cast-iron collectors have a great appreciation for string holders because, in a very clever way, they incorporate beautiful design with a functional purpose,” said Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions and an expert on figural doorstops and other cast-iron novelties.

Martha Chase ‘George Washington’ doll, 26in. tall, molded and painted oilcloth with sateen-covered body, original clothing. Est. $1,500-$2,500. Bertoia Auctions image

A small grouping of dolls, including a milliner’s doll and an Izannah Walker painted oilcloth doll will be in friendly company alongside a grouping of antique and vintage teddy bears of assorted sizes. Many were created by the premier German soft toy manufacturer Steiff.

Early dark gold mohair teddy bear, appears to be pre-WWI, comes with photo inscribed ‘1907’ that depicts boy holding bear. Est. $1,000-$1,400. Bertoia Auctions image

Quite often, toy collectors also acquire antique advertising and country store memorabilia, which will be in abundant supply in the May auction. There are cathedral candy jars, wooden boxes for Sweet Lotus and other tobacco companies, approximately a dozen music boxes, and more than six slot machines. A wonderful display case etched on its glass portion with the name “Sauer’s Flavoring Extracts” is filled with a variety of Sauer’s products acquired over time. Likewise, another prized display case advertises “Balsam Myrrh” and houses antiseptic dressings, liniments and other medical supplies.

Stand-up figural advertising pieces include an outstanding example in the shape of a baker from the British company Macfarlane Lang. Antique biscuit (cookie) tins, including automotive forms, come with provenance from renowned collector Byron Fink of Philadelphia. One of the finest pieces in the collection is a 4-by-5-foot, five-tier tabletop advertising display for Huntley & Palmers Biscuits. Its lithography depicts the famed British company’s impressive range of biscuits and crackers. “The display is hinged and foldable, and is double-sided. It was most likely intended to be used by sales personnel at trade shows,” Michael said. “This was one of the premier pieces in Byron Fink’s collection, and it’s very rare. We don’t know of another one.”

The Bertoia family encourages collectors to attend the live auction on May 23-24, but for those who cannot do so, bidding will also be available by phone, absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers. To contact Bertoia Auctions, call 856-692-1881 or email toys@bertoiaauctions.com.