VINELAND, N.J. – Year round, Bertoia Auctions brings an incredible selection of antique and vintage toys to the collector marketplace, but the pinnacle of their annual roster is the twice-yearly Signature Auction, which places the spotlight on a single prestigious collection worthy of VIP status. The next Signature Auction, slated for Friday, Oct. 11, features “The Gentleman’s Collection,” the lifetime antique toy, Marklin train and Christmas collection of former Antique Toy Collectors of America president, and former chairman of the board of the Golden Glow of Christmas Past, Tony Annese. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
A commercial real estate developer, Tony Annese started collecting toys in the early 1970s. He made a proactive effort to meet the high-profile collectors of that decade and developed relationships that led to his acquisition of many first-rate toys over the years that followed. He educated himself by reading reference books and original toy company catalogs, as well as chatting with sellers who set up at Brimfield and the few antique toys shows that existed at that time.
“My collecting was always driven by aesthetics,” Annese said. “I liked 19th-century paper-litho toys because the artwork added depth and dimension, and I found game box covers fascinating because they were so visual.” Then one day Annese saw a Marklin train with its beautiful original box and decided then and there that he would build a European train collection. He did just that, amassing a superb collection of Marklin rarities.
As bidders will see for themselves when they attend the preview and auction at Bertoia’s, the Annese collection is comprised of six main categories:
“Christmas is such a strong part of American culture. Every manufacturer, no matter what they produced, had some sort of Christmas items. You might say it’s the ultimate crossover,” Annese said. Among his favorite items are large clockwork Santa nodders with glass eyes and rosy-cheeked faces, along with Christmas store displays, early lighting and ornaments.
One of the greatest trains in Annese’s Marklin collection is the American Eagle set. The locomotive’s design is very early, probably pre-dating its actual production date. It has a dramatic look, with a big cowcatcher and smokestack. Other highlights include a Marklin Congressional Limited set and CLR O gauge steeple cab engine.
Early Marklin Accessories
“Marklin paid great attention to detail, and that’s why collectors consider them the best of the best.,” Annese said. “With their stations, you can peer through windows and see typical train station waiting room furnishings inside. Their stations can be dressed up with all sorts of accessories, like street lamps and roadside signs. You can create an entire European village around a Marklin train station.”
Railway and Civilian Figures
The figures Annese favored show people in activities one would see at a typical European train station, e.g., someone walking with a newspaper under their arm or carrying flowers, a mother holding a child, or a person running to catch a train. The collector’s favorites are the ones made by Heyde, both as boxed sets and individual figures. A very rare 1914 set of large-scale figures made by Pfeiffer depicts an exquisitely “dressed” family of four, with father in a top hat and frock coat, mother in a floor-length dress and “feathered” hat, and two children in period attire.
Cast-Iron Transportation Toys
At the center of this grouping are American fire toys from the 1880s and 1890s – Pratt & Letchworth hook and ladders and hose reels. “They have such a feeling of movement to them, with their galloping horses and firemen holding onto ladders for dear life,” Annese said. His collection also includes construction toys of the 1920s and ’30s, and lighter cast-iron vehicles. A top piece from this category is a 1920s Kenton Overland Circus animal-cage truck in near-mint condition with original yellow paint.
Lithographed Paper-on-Wood Toys and Games
“For me, the premier brand was always McLoughlin. The colors on their toys had a quality and depth of color that was unmatched,” Annese said “They were special in that they portrayed everyday life.” Examples in the collection include horse-drawn fire wagons, stagecoaches and trolleys; circus cages, battleships, boats, and buildings. Coveted McLoughlin Christmas games include a circa-1899 “Game of Tobogganing at Christmas,” which is a book example. A circa-1878 Lilliputian streetcar made by Reed is also a book example and was formerly in the collection of Philadelphia’s legendary Perelman Toy Museum.
Jeanne Bertoia, of Bertoia Auctions, observed that Tony Annese has always been a collector, but never a dealer. “He didn’t want his hobby to become his business. Occasionally, he would deaccession a piece, but that was rare. He always bought the way a collector would buy, focusing on condition and selecting toys that ‘spoke’ to him. He was patient and would wait for the right toy to come along, in the best possible condition. His methods have certainly paid off. Collectors are going to be thrilled when they see how beautiful his toys are. No upgrades will ever be required because they’re already at the top of the condition ladder.”
Bertoia’s Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 auction featuring The Gentleman’s Collection: The Lifetime Toy, Train and Christmas Collection of Tony Annese, will be held at Bertoia’s gallery, 2141 DeMarco Drive, Vineland, NJ 08360. For additional information, call Bertoia Auctions 856-692-1881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.