PITTSBURGH – On Oct. 14, collectors of antique and vintage toy soldiers will be setting their sights on Pittsburgh as Old Toy Soldier Auctions (OTSA) presents two consecutive auction events whose contents boast outstanding quality, provenance and rarity. The auction will start at 10 a.m. Eastern time with the distinguished Ib Melchior estate collection of antique military miniatures. A brief intermission will follow the Melchior session, then OTSA will introduce its 2017 Investment Rarities sale featuring Part II of the Bill Jackey collection. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
“The Melchior family is very famous in their homeland of Denmark,” said OTSA owner Ray Haradin. “Ib Melchior was a screenwriter and director, his father, Lauritz Melchior, was an acclaimed Wagnerian tenor; and his grandfather, Jorgen Melchior, was headmaster of Melchior’s School in Copenhagen. Jorgen started the family collection of toy soldiers in 1860, and both Lauritz and Ib continued the tradition. For more than 150 years, the collection has remained in the Melchior family, so it’s a very special honor for us now to be auctioning it on their behalf.”
The Melchior collection comprises 170 auction lots of primarily 30mm Nuremberg-style flat figures – the oldest type of military figures ever to be offered in an OTSA sale. It encompasses another fabled collection – that of a Dutch army general named Snyders – which Lauritz purchased in 1896. The 2,500 figures acquired from Gen. Snyders were made between 1820 and 1890. The auction includes the actual ledger from the Snyders purchase, as well as a Melchior family scrapbook containing photos, newspaper clippings and other fascinating documentation. “It’s highly unusual for a toy soldier collection to come with provenance like this. You just never see it outside of collections owned by royal families, and those collections are never sold.”
Nuremberg flat figures represent the very earliest period of commercial toy manufacture and seldom appear in the marketplace. Most that have survived are found only in museums in Germany and Austria. Within the Melchior collection there are very early figures by Allgeyer (active 1843-1890), Heinrichsen (multiple generations, 1843-1945), Gerhardt Lezius (active 1862-1880) and Christoph Ammon (mid-19th century).
Among the highlights is Lot 128, a rare Allgeyer figure that was among 20 made in 1850 with a backward signature in the mold. According to archival records, the senior Mr. Allgeyer “signed the mold, but absentmindedly reversed the signature so that when the castings came out all the signatures were backwards – in mirror writing.” In the world of toy soldiers, Haradin commented, “an error like this one would be akin to a misstruck coin.” Only four such figures are known to have survived, and one is in the Melchior collection.
Many of the military miniatures are presented in beautiful shadowboxes that were created by Ib’s wife, artist and decorator Cleo Baldon. The backgrounds were hand-colored engravings of the period, or original watercolors painted by Ms. Baldon. One such shadowbox, titled “Place de la Concorde,” held one of the reverse-signed figures. Together with 11 other Napoleonic Cavalry figures, the reverse-signed example is offered in the auction as Lot 1128 with a group-lot estimate of $1,350-$1,500.
The Melchior collection also includes many figures from the Napoleonic Wars as well as Lot 132, an 1850 post-Napoleonic set depicting an army camp at Treves. It contains 65 figures made by Heinrichsen and Allgeyer.
Other highly desirable sets include Lot 124, Edinburgh Castle shadowbox (22 pieces, circa 1840), est. $500-$600; Palace Gardens shadowbox (circa 1845), Napoleon’s Farewell to His Troops (circa 1860), Review of French Troops (circa 1765-1785), and Napoleon’s Retreat from Waterloo (circa 1860).
Figures in the Melchior sale will be offered primarily in group lots of 20-40 pieces, with opening bids as low as $20. “Every collector will have a chance to own something rare and early with great provenance,” Haradin said.
Following an intermission, OTSA will introduce its second event of the day – its third annual Investment Rarities Auction, featuring Part II of the exceptional Bill Jackey collection. Comprehensive in scope, the Jackey collection covers Britains production from its inception in 1893. There are first-version, pre-war and super-rare 1948-1950 post-war sets; B-size, civilian and large display sets; Paris office productions, and four desirable commissioned sets made expressly for the London department store Gamages (1878-1972). Additionally, there are steel-helmeted horse-drawn sets, motorized vehicles, aircraft, a Parade Series set, half-sets and picture packs.
A top highlight is Lot 2102, a Britains Set #88 Seaforth Highlanders with plug hands. This exceedingly rare two-row, first-version set made circa 1898 comes with provenance from the Lenoir Josey collection. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000.
Lot 2151, Set #1458 Middlesex Band of the Line, was a special-order item that appeared in Gamages’ 1938 catalog. It comes to auction with a $6,000-$8,000 estimate. Another Gamages set, Britains #1826 Special Toy Soldiers, is a wonderful two-tier set with impeccable provenance. Estimate: $5,000-$7,000.
A pristine example of the Historical Series Infantry Set #1886 is entered as Lot 2155 and is expected to reach $3,000-$5,000; while Lot 2121, Blackwatch Parade Series set #449, is estimated at $2,000-$3,000. The very rare, circa-1932 production comes in a beautiful stand-up presentation box in which the figures stand upright.
OTSA has never before had the pleasure of auctioning a Set #85 British Army in B-size display box. Its 22-piece selection of smaller-scale soldiers includes members of the 5th Dragoons, Scots Greys, Scots Guards, and Northumberland Fusiliers. Cataloged as Lot 2066, the circa-1898 set is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Lot 2087, an extremely rare set of Matelots produced at Britains’ Paris office, could reach $3,000-$5,000. “Britains soldiers became so popular after the turn of the 20th century that the company decided to set up a second manufacturing and distribution plant, located outside Paris,” Haradin explained. “It operated from 1906 to 1916, and the soldiers and sets that came from that location are highly sought after by today’s collectors.”
Britains’ circa-1939 Salvation Army Band is a popular civilian set. Collectors will find three set variations in this auction: men, women, and band in red tunics, each of which will cross the auction block with estimates of $1,200-$2,500.
Lot 2123, Britains’ Set #1331 Steel-Helmeted Limbered Wagon, had a very limited production run during 1940-41 only. Strong competition is expected for this lot, which is estimated at $3,000-$4,000.
The only known production example of Britains’ Beaufighter airplane will be offered as Lot 2128. The type of plane that William Britains flew during World War II – known as the Bristol Beaufighter – was the inspiration behind the toy airplane’s manufacture. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. Another favorite with many collectors, Set #3/115, a Britains countertop picture pack display, is estimated at $3,000-$4,000.
For additional information, call Ray Haradin at 412-343-8733 (tollfree: 800-349-8009) or email email@example.com.