VINELAND, N.J. – Bertoia Auctions is a deeply rooted, family-run operation that was founded in 1986 by the late William S. “Bill” Bertoia and his wife and business partner, Jeanne Bertoia. Since Bill’s passing in 2003, the company has been owned and managed by Jeanne, whose savvy marketing campaigns have led Bertoia’s to one world auction record after another. Right alongside her has been Bill’s brother Rich, whose expert cataloging and auction-coordination skills have been key to the smooth operation of each Bertoia’s sale.
The family connection was strengthened in January 2008 when Bill and Jeanne’s then-22-year-old son Michael became part of Bertoia’s team, bringing with him the energy and technological know-how of today’s youth. Newly graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in business administration, Michael began in an associate’s role, focusing mainly on photography, catalog production and Internet strategies. Four years later, he began an apprenticeship under the watchful tutelage of principal auctioneer Tim Luke, which culminated in his becoming Bertoia’s in-residence auctioneer.
Now Michael’s sister, Lauren Bertoia Costanza, has joined the family business as office administrator and customer service manager. A graduate of the University of Delaware with a B.S. in leadership and consumer economics, 33-year-old Lauren comes to Bertoia’s following a successful work history in wholesale pharmaceuticals. She was a sales representative in the New York area prior to relocating to southern New Jersey to be closer to her family.
“Lauren is ideally suited to handle customer service for Bertoia’s,” said her uncle, Rich Bertoia. “She has a wealth of experience in dealing with a diverse corporate clientele, and she always maintains a positive outlook.”
Eventually, travel will also be part of Lauren’s role at Bertoia’s. “I’m wearing many different ‘hats’ at the moment,” Lauren said. “I’m working closely with my mother, learning about many areas of the business. In the future I expect to travel on behalf of the company and work alongside my brother Michael.”
Lauren has always had a close bond with her younger brother. The siblings grew up in a gracious home that had been artfully decorated with the rare antique toys, banks and other antiques their parents collected and displayed.
“At two years old, my parents started me collecting small figural cast-iron doorstops, paperweights and bookends. My mother collected doorstops, so we called my miniatures ‘baby doorstops.’ My parents took me to the Brimfield shows with my grandparents, and I would find pieces for my collection. I didn’t realize at the time that my parents had already purchased those pieces and set it up with other dealers so I could ‘discover’ them myself,” Lauren said with a chuckle.
Since her junior high school days, Lauren has worked at Bertoia’s auction previews, coordinating phone-line requests and managing phone bids during the actual sales.
“Even during my college years, and to this day still, I have never missed an auction,” Lauren said. Before planning any special activities or events, Lauren would always check the auction schedule for the upcoming year. “I even did that when planning my wedding date, which took place during the Donald Kaufman auction years,” she said.
Lauren is married to Joseph Costanza, an airline pilot for Spirit Airlines who also serves as Bertoia Auctions’ photographer. Lauren and Joe have a one-year-old daughter, Gianna, who is their pride and joy.
A career in the auction business may already be on the far horizon for the youngest Bertoia family member. “I’m sure we will have a position available for Gianna as soon as she is old enough,” Lauren said.
Also joining Bertoia’s team of professionals is Mike Caffarella, a well-known Lancaster, Pa.-based antique toy collector and dealer with 40 years’ experience in his chosen specialty. In his role as a part-time consultant, Caffarella will secure consignments and appraise and grade the newly consigned toys after they’ve arrived at Bertoia’s gallery.
Originally from Philadelphia, Caffarella’s interest in toys began in the 1970s. Over the past four decades he has developed an expertise in cast-iron toys of all types, as well as 19th- and 20th-century American tin toys.
“In addition to toys, mechanical and still banks have always been favorites of mine,” Caffarella said. “Bringing all of these fields of interest together has given me a fortunate, well-rounded share of toy knowledge,” he said.
Caffarella has always enjoyed a close association with Bertoia Auctions and said his long friendship with Bill and Jeanne Bertoia dates back to his earliest days in the toy hobby. “In fact, it was the late Bill Bertoia who first got me interested in toys. I started buying toys and banks from Bill when he, himself, was just getting started. We were close friends and traveled around Europe together, hunting for toys,” Caffarella said.
Married to antique dollhouse and miniatures expert Ann Meehan, Mike Caffarella collects cast-iron banks, horse-drawn toys, sleds, holiday antiques, dollhouses and papier-mache dolls. “I have a bit of everything, but I’m mainly known for early American toys,” he said.
Although he has worked with other auction houses in the past and retains close ties and a mutual respect with his former auction associates, Caffarella said that when presented with an offer to join the Bertoia team, he did not hesitate to accept. “I felt it was a perfect fit, working with a family I have known my entire toy career. Now as I begin a fresh journey at Bertoia Auctions, I hope my long list of toy friends will give me a warm welcome of friendship and approval.”
# # #
Contact Lauren Bertoia by calling 856-692-1881. E-mail: email@example.com.
Contact Mike Caffarella by calling 717-207-0788. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Bertoia Auctions online at www.bertoiaauctions.com.