Marklin, Japanese tin and cast iron toys continued their marketplace dominance at Bertoia

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VINELAND, N.J. – Bertoia Auctions‘ Annual Fall two-day sale, which took place on November 17 and November 18, provided a case study in the ongoing marketplace strength of specific collecting categories. As has been the case for years, Japanese postwar tin toys, vintage American cast-iron and prewar Marklin toys remain the top sellers above all other collecting areas. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

Japan helped rebuild its war-ravaged economy through exports. Tens of thousands of mom-and-pop operations opened up, providing skilled labor creating subassemblies — molding, building motors, and lithographic printing on tin, to name a few — that would be aggregated by the prime contractor, who then directly marketed the toys to American wholesalers. Louis Marx & Co., the leviathan of American tin toy manufacture, saw the low-cost option of Japanese imports as a win-win, and set up the Linemar brand to represent these toys to American consumers. The top Japanese tin toy lot of the sale was a boxed, like-new friction-drive Space Explorer from the 1950s, marketed in the U.S. as a Linemar (“Best By Far”) toy. It hammered for $25,000 ($31,250 with buyer’s premium), far exceeding Bertoia’s $1,200-$1,800 presale estimate.

Founded in 1859, Marklin is one of the oldest still-operating toy firms in the world. Known today primarily for its model railroading products, the company has produced an amazing range of toys during its tenure, including vehicles, construction sets, operating steam plants, ships, and aircraft — all highly coveted by today’s collectors. Bertoia’s sale delivered a stern reminder of Marklin’s leader status in the form of a 19th-century Brooklyn clockwork paddlewheel steam ship. Measuring 20in long and 16in in height, the ship had some minor replacement parts – common for toys of this vintage – but was in otherwise incredible condition. Bidders agreed, sending the toy to a $36,000 ($45,000 with buyer’s premium) finish, making it the top lot of the sale.

Launched in 1894 and one of the kings of American cast-iron toy manufacturing, Hubley survived until the 1980s and was a toy store staple. Two Hubley items outperformed estimates, the first of which was a Hubley No. 5 Engine House meant to accompany a vintage Hubley pumper. One of only two known examples, it was estimated at $7,000-$10,000 but hammered at $26,000 ($32,500 with buyer’s premium) to a LiveAuctioneers online bidder. The other lot was a cast-iron Hubley giraffe from its extensive line of door stops. Still retaining its original paint, the 13in giraffe sold for $15,000 ($18,750 with buyer’s premium), well above its presale estimate of $6,000-$9,000.
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Linemar Space Explorer toy, which sold for $25,000 ($31,250 with buyer’s premium) at Bertoia.
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Aoshin Tremendous Mike Robot toy, which sold for $14,000 ($17,500 with buyer’s premium) at Bertoia.
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Marklin, Brooklyn clockwork paddlewheel steam ship, which sold for $36,000 ($45,000 with buyer’s premium) at Bertoia.
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Hubley No. 5 Engine House, which sold for $26,000 ($32,500 with buyer’s premium) at Bertoia.
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Hubley giraffe door stop, which sold for $15,000 ($18,750 with buyer’s premium) at Bertoia.
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