VINELAND, N.J. – How does an auction house match a sale like the one Bertoia’s held last September, with its blockbuster lineup of pristine early American clockwork toys, rare French Martin toys and still banks from long-held collections? The answer is, by offering more of the same. On March 9-10, Bertoia Auctions will present its 700-lot Spring Signature Sale showcasing Part II of Frank Mohr’s incomparable 60-year collection of Fernand Martin and early American tin and clockwork toys; as well as Part II of the superb 40-year still bank collection of Douglas Jackman. In addition, the auction lineup features the revered multi-generation estate collection of Sam Downey Jr., and approximately 100 rare and exceptional penny toys from the Michael Bertoia collection. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
“We think this is going to be one of those auctions that collectors will remember for a long time,” said Bertoia Auctions’ owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “Toy collectors never forget where their favorite pieces came from, and each one usually comes with a story. Years from now, collectors will look at their toys with provenance from the great collections in this sale and remember every detail about when and how they acquired them.”
The Bertoia family is honored to bring to the toy community the collection of Sam Downey, a beloved lifelong student and collector of fine toys who passed away last November. Sam followed in the footsteps of his father, Samuel Downey Sr., whose own collection focused on live steam. “Much of Sam Sr.’s collection was passed down to Sam Jr. Both collections have the same style and feel, so they blended together seamlessly,” said Bertoia Auctions president and auctioneer Michael Bertoia.
“Sam’s father was a true collector,” Michael continued. “He liked the go-alongs. For example, in addition to trains and boats, he had wall art, cigarette lighters from ships’ bars and train cars; a New York Central lantern, a themed collection of cigar clippers, and other interesting accessory items.”
The Downey Jr. collection shows significant diversity, but at its core is turn-of-the-century tin. “Sam had an affinity for toys representing speed,” Michael said, noting the large number of automotive and motorcycle toys, including several Gordon Bennett racers and a Gunthermann Gordon Bennett-type racing motorcycle.
There are Marklin aeronautical toys, zeppelins, airplanes and steam toys, including a large Doll et Cie. Ferris wheel (below) and roller coaster. A sizable grouping of submergible tin divers suitable for play in a pond or bathtub is joined by an Ernst Plank clockwork torpedo boat that Michael says he has only ever seen in a book written by Dick Claus.
The Downey flotilla consisted primarily of military boats – approximately 50 percent live steam and 50 percent clockwork – by such coveted makers as Marklin, Bing and Radiguet. A standout in the marine category, as well as in the sale overall, is a 46-inch battery-powered ocean liner August Victoria made by Marklin around 1910 (below). Its provenance includes the venerable Malcolm Forbes collection.
The Downey collection contains a treasure trove of wonderful American and European trains and accessories. Highlights from the American section include examples of 2-inch-gauge Carlisle & Finch trains (some of which came from Sam Sr.’s collection) and Voltamp productions, such as an Interurban Trolley.
“While packing up, we kept finding one treasure after another, and many rare original boxes,” Michael said. “Sam had an extensive European collection of Marklin 0, 1 and 2 gauge; live steam, clockwork, European and American outline trains. Within the Marklin train cars there are American Eagle cars in 1, 2 and 0 gauge. When a collector has a set of these cars in any gauge, it’s considered quite an accomplishment, and he had them all. There are also obscure trains by Ernst Plank and Schoenner, in 3 and 4 gauge.”
A large, near-mint Doll et Cie., steam plant is one of many European steam engines in the collection, which also includes Marklin, Bing and Schoenner productions. Additionally, Michael said, the sale includes “more 19th-century hot air engines than Bertoia’s has ever handled at one time.” All are premier brands, e.g., Marklin and Bing.
Train enthusiasts love their accessories, and they’re going to find that Sam Downey Jr., owned some of the most coveted of all lampposts and stations, including a Marklin Café station. The extensive specialty sub-collection of steam accessories is distinguished by its near-mint Bing brewery and distillery examples.
The second marquee collection in the sale is that of Douglas Jackman, the respected New England dealer who co-owns Douglas Jackman Antiques in Rockingham, Vermont, Jackman vigilantly scoured high-end Americana and general antiques shows for rare banks throughout his 40-year collecting odyssey.
More than 100 banks from Jackman’s collection were chosen for the March 9-10 auction, with condition and rarity as the guidelines. Worthy of special note are the God Is Love (or “Cross”) bank, the Chancellor bank, and the Lilliput bank, which is an uncommon variation of the better-known Lilliput mechanical bank.
The 60-year Frank Mohr collection, which Jeanne Bertoia described as “one of the all-time greats,” is focused on toys that are mechanical or have some sort of movement. In particular, Frank enjoys the whimsy of antique French toys by Fernand Martin, and because he has collected for so long, he has managed to acquire some of the finest, most elusive characters from the Martin range. The March sale includes five Martin soldiers, including a boxed South African, boxed Chinese Warrior (below), and a Bulgarian troop. The list continues with a boxed woman in a fancy winter outfit, a Roller Skater, a boxed Jockey carrying the “Mona Lisa” under his arm, and from the rubber-band-driven first series, Les Pompiers (two men at a water pump) with original box, and Sword Fight.
Frank Mohr also amassed an exceptional collection of antique automata. The auction selection includes Vichy productions, including a schoolgirl, and a lady playing the piano; plus Leopold Lambert’s elegantly dressed smoker with a Jumeau head.
The second half of Mohr’s early American tin and clockwork toy collection features several Ives platform toys, including the rare Boxers, and a boy on horsehead velocipede; as well as an exceptional Althof Bergmann Santa Claus sleigh, which is one of only about a half dozen known to exist. Also in the mix are George Brown and Althof Bergman toys of various types, horse-drawn fire pumpers to a Mary and Two Lambs platform toy.
The much-anticipated debut of the Michael Bertoia lifetime collection of penny toys will roll out approximately 100 delightful mini toys from many popular categories. Themes include aeronautical, motorcycles, candy containers and articulated novelties. Three of Michael’s favorites are the elf riding on an egg with an emerging bunny, a little boy in rocking chair holding a bunny, and a clown with dancing poodle. Among the super-rare penny toy money boxes are two circus cages, one housing tigers; the other, lions.
One of the candy container penny toys is very special and rare, Michael said. Designed to replicate a vending machine, it is colorfully lithographed on the tower with images of gnomes. When a lever is pushed, a sweet is dispensed.
“I refined my collection over many years and can truthfully say that the buyers of my penny toys will never have to upgrade. I’m very proud to put my name behind each toy and hope they’ll bring as much pleasure to their new owners as they brought to me,” Michael said.
For additional information on any item in the sale, call 856-692-1881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.