WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – Over the weekend of June 2-3, 2018, RSL Auction Co. will offer the collections of two legendary pioneers of the antique toy and bank hobby: Tom Sage Sr., and Dr. Gregory Zemenick – widely known in the trade as “Dr. Z.”
The Saturday session will begin at 10 a.m. with 175 cast-iron mechanical banks from the Sage collection. Then, following a short intermission, the spotlight will shine on Dr. Z’s 300-lot assemblage of mechanical, clockwork and early American tin toys; plus antique tobacciana and cast-iron novelties. Sunday’s session will open with 130 lots of highly important German hand-painted tin toys and Lehmann windups – many of them boxed – from a fine private collection. After an intermission, Dr. Z’s wonderful cast-iron still banks will be auctioned. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available for the entire event through LiveAuctioneers.
“We were tremendously honored to have been chosen to sell the prestigious collections in this sale,” said Ray Haradin, co-owner of RSL Auction Co. “Leon Weiss [the “L” in the RSL partnership] has known Tom Sage for years. In the end, it came down to a couple of auction houses, and Tom decided we would do the best job of representing his collection and marketing it to the right buyers. Greg Zemenick, who is an orthopedic surgeon, is also highly respected in the business and, like Tom, started collecting more than forty years ago. They were way ahead of their time, and the exquisite conditions in both their collections are a testament to the time and effort that went into tracking down rare pieces and continually upgrading.”
Tom Sage, a ubiquitous figure who seems never to miss an important auction or show, started his business in Allentown, Pa., with $20 of seed money. In the mid-1970s he delved into banks in earnest with the purchase of a Kyser & Rex Merry-Go-Round purchased at a small estate auction in New Jersey. Sage retained the bank in his private collection, always considering it a favorite. Its next owner will be determined at the auction, where it will be offered with an $80,000-$100,000 estimate.
Sage’s Mikado bank, estimated at $120,000-$160,000, was acquired in the early 1990s at the storied John D. Meyers sale. “Mr. and Mrs. Meyers were old-time, first-generation bank collectors from Chicago. Their Mikado – which would become another of Tom’s prized possessions – is one of fewer than 10 known to exist,” Haradin said.
Other great rarities in the Sage collection include a circa-1907 J. & E. Stevens Clown, Harlequin & Columbine bank in all original condition, estimate $90,000-$120,000; five color variations of the Mammy bank in pristine-plus condition; a superb Squirrel on Stump mechanical, a near-mint Two Frogs bank, and a pristine-plus Confederate-version Artillery Bank.
“Tom has always been selective. He would cherry-pick the finest things he could find in his extensive travels,” Haradin noted. “He’s the hardest-working man I know and has been involved one way or another in most major toy and bank deals that have taken place in the past three decades. To have the chance to buy a bank from his collection is a very special opportunity.”
Dr. Gregory Zemenick of Birmingham, Michigan, is a respected past president of the Mechanical Bank Collectors of America. He has always been an enthusiastic buyer, collector and supporter of the toy hobby and specializes in early American productions. While his fabulous mechanical banks are slated for an Oct. 27 RSL auction, his antique toys will be the focus of attention on June 2.
Dr. Z’s American tin toys include two iconic George Brown productions: a non-clockwork Monitor, $15,000-$20,000; and a beautiful 11-inch hoop toy, $4,000-$6,000. An oversize Ives double-clockwork gig with cloth-dressed driver could reach the $9,000-$12,000 range. Additional clockwork highlights include a Secor Banjo Player and an Ives “McGinty” skeleton dancer.
The toys will be followed by Dr. Z’s collection of cast-iron match safes, bootscrapes, cigar cutters, figural padlocks, doorknockers, doorstops and lawn sprinklers; plus a top-notch selection of turn-of-the-20th-century American folk art.
Sunday’s session will start off with a Lehmann toy collection amassed in the 1980s/’90s and described by Haradin as containing “absolutely the finest examples of their type that I have ever seen.” Of the 67 German-made Lehmanns set to cross the auction block, 50 retain their original boxes, something that surely will not go unnoticed by collectors on both sides of the Atlantic. Mint/boxed treasures include a coveted Boxer Rebellion, $18,000-$25,000; a Lo & Li, $7,500-$9,500; and a Ski Rolf, $6,000-$8,000. Also boxed are a Mr. and Mrs. Lehmann walking their dog, $7,500-$9,500; Li-La, Duo, Uhu, Deutsche Reichspost Mailvan with Nazi insignia, Ballerina, Heavy Swell, Ajax weightlifter, and a Baker & Chimney Sweep. There is also a desirable Primus Roller Skater (unboxed), $6,000-$8,000.
More than 50 early hand-painted German tin toys, primarily by Gunthermann, will cross the auction block during the Sunday session. An extraordinary articulated Little Red Riding Hood and Wolf is expected to make $7,500-$9,500; while an equally flawless example of The Maypole Dancers – the only one RSL Auction’s owners have ever seen – could capture a winning bid of $7,000-$9,000. A toy with a horseracing theme that depicts a black female figure pushing two sons in a vis-à-vis cart, each wearing a jockey’s cap and holding a crop, is of unknown manufacture. Its estimate is $6,000-$8,000. A whole host of other unusual and surprising toys rounds out the selection.
There is already great anticipation over the 300-lot grouping of rare, premium-condition still banks from the Dr. Z collection. A Circuit Rider – only the second known example to appear in the auction marketplace – is entered with an $18,000-$25,000 estimate. “We sold the only other one known to exist around three years ago, for $39,600,” said Haradin. A white Battleship Maine still bank in stunning near-mint condition has a $7,000-$9,000 estimate, while a Possum with Taters is cataloged at $4,000-$6,000.
The auction preview will be held on Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1 from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m., as well as from 8-10 a.m. prior to each session, or by appointment. All who attend the Friday, June 1 gallery preview are cordially invited to the nearby home of hosts Leon and Angela Weiss for a gourmet barbecue and raw bar dinner. On both auction days, guests may enjoy catered lunches and beverages with compliments of RSL’s co-owners Ray Haradin, Leon Weiss and Steven Weiss.
The RSL Auction gallery is located at 295 U.S. Hwy. 22 East, Suite 204 West, Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889. Watch for the “One Salem Square” sign. Gallery telephone: 908-823-4049.
For additional information on any item in sale call Ray Haradin at 412-343-8733, Steven Weiss at 212-729-0011, or Leon Weiss at 917-991-7352. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.