European, Japanese and American vintage toys share the stage at Milestone Jan. 13

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – An amazing selection of pre- and postwar toys from around the world is on tap with Milestone Auctions New Year’s Antique Toy Extravaganza on Saturday, January 13. The catalog is now available for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The 732-lot sale includes some of the most sought-after European, American and Japanese playthings from the golden era through the postwar production years. Highlights include a super-rare boxed Linemar Mechanical Popeye & Olive Oyl tank, a stellar Diamond Planet Robot, and a Marx Big Loo robot prototype with impeccable documentation and provenance from its original designer.

“We feel very fortunate to have so many incredible toys from advanced collections in one sale. Many are high-end, museum-quality pieces. Also, there are some unusual buying opportunities in the mix, like the rare variations and prototypes, which toy buyers always respond to very favorably,” Milestone’s co-owner Miles King said.

The toy hobby is still buzzing about the boxed Popeye & Olive Oyl tank that set a world auction record on April 9, 2022 when Milestone sold it for $105,000. One of perhaps a half-dozen examples known to exist, the toy had emerged from Australia, a fact that became widely known after the sale. Contrary to the old adage, lightning did strike twice in the same spot. Worldwide postsale coverage led to the discovery of yet another boxed Popeye tank in Australia from a different, completely unrelated source.

John Elsbury of Western Australia received the tank in 1957 as a seventh-birthday gift from his parents. He clearly remembers being instructed by his mother to sit outside Randall & Edwards jewelry store in downtown Kalgoorlie while the secretive purchase was being made. Sixty-five years later, after stumbling across an online article about the $105,000 price paid for a similar-looking tank, Elsbury starting digging and eventually located his toy, still in its original Linemar packaging with a two-shilling price tag. Elsbury contacted Milestone, and arrangements were made for the tank’s shipment to Ohio. It has an estimate of $40,000-$60,000.

Yonezawa’s Batman tank, all-original and complete with its vinyl Batman driver, is one of the scarcest of all Batman toys. The bright red tin-friction vehicle is emblazoned with Japanese writing, bat logos and images of both Batman and Robin. It carries a $15,000-$25,000 estimate.

Variations are the stuff of collectors’ dreams. A fantastic Yonezawa Diamond Planet Robot is an especially uncommon variation, with a silvery-blue body and red arms and ears. “Any Diamond Planet Robot is like a Fabergé egg to robot collectors. It was made in two color variations – red body with blue arms and ears, and the even rarer blue body with red arms and ears, like the one in our auction. They simply do not turn up for sale anywhere,” said Miles King. “Only a few have ever come to market, so it’s sure to attract strong competition.” The Diamond Planet Robot is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.

The word “prototype” is music to any toy collector’s ears. The sale includes the actual preproduction sample for Marx’s Big Loo Giant Moon Robot. Standing 38in tall, the unpainted silver Big Loo was acquired directly from the toy’s designer, Harry Evanoff, in 1963. It has production numbers on its back and retains a Marx sample tag that says ‘7650, Big Loo, Erie, Return to Harry E.’ The lot also includes archival letters from Louis Marx about production issues and returns, and other unique documents such as a test-sample letter and a timesheet showing hours spent on development. The godfather of all Big Loo robots has been assigned a $15,000-$25,000 estimate.

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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Star Wars and sports cards land in the winners circle at Morphy’s smash $3.1M auction

Unopened 1952 Topps baseball brick of eight factory-sealed 5-cent wax packs, with each pack containing five cards. Extraordinarily rare and most likely from Topps’ first series. Authenticated by Steve Hart, owner of Baseball Card Exchange. Sold above high estimate for $873,300 to a private collector

DENVER, Pa.- Star Wars fans and diehard sports buffs called the shots at Morphy Auctions’ February 1-3, 2023 auction, which attracted head-spinning prices and closed the books at nearly $3.1 million. The sale featured both a phenomenal single-owner collection of early Star Wars action figures and a vintage sports card selection that included one of the most sought-after treasures of the “unopened” realm: an intact 1952 Topps baseball wax-pack “brick” that sold for a staggering $873,300. Absentee and Internet live bidding was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.

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Morphy’s Feb. 1-3 auction: toys, banks, unopened Topps baseball ‘brick’ valued at $400K-$800

Unopened 1952 Topps baseball brick of eight factory-sealed 5-cent wax packs, with each pack containing five cards. Extraordinarily rare and most likely from Topps’ first series. As fresh as the day they were produced. Authenticated by Steve Hart, owner of Baseball Card Exchange. Estimate $400,000-$800,000

DENVER, Pa. – If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Morphy’s February 1 auction of “The Morphy Find,” an incredibly rare trove of 1970s/’80s action figures discovered in their original Kenner shipping boxes. The headline-grabbing Star Wars session creates more than enough excitement on its own, but it’s also going to usher in a high-energy three-day event that will wow collectors of all types of toys, banks, marbles and top-grade sports cards. The Pennsylvania auction house is expecting a capacity crowd and strong competition online through LiveAuctioneers. Bidding will start at 9 am sharp on all three days, February 1-3.

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Diamond Planet Robot performed like a gem at Milestone

Original Yonezawa (Japan) 10in tin windup Diamond Planet Robot, rare variation with blue body and red arms, 100% original, with high-quality repro box. Sold within estimate for $33,210. Image courtesy of Milestone Auctions
Original Yonezawa (Japan) 10in tin windup Diamond Planet Robot, rare variation with blue body and red arms, 100% original, with high-quality repro box. Sold within estimate for $33,210. Image courtesy of Milestone Auctions
Original Yonezawa (Japan) 10in tin windup Diamond Planet Robot, rare variation with blue body and red arms, 100% original, with high-quality repro box. Sold within estimate for $33,210. Courtesy Milestone Auctions

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Nearly 880 lots of high-quality antique and vintage toys crossed the auction block at Milestone’s December 10 Winter Toy Extravaganza, chalking up $750,000 and making many collectors’ Christmas dreams come true.

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Milestone beats Santa to the punch with Dec. 10 antique toy auction

Original Yonezawa (Japan) tin windup Diamond Planet Robot, rare variation with blue body and red arms. At 10in high, Diamond Planet is the largest windup robot ever produced. 100% original robot comes with high-quality repro box. Estimate $30,000-$50,000

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Every antique toy collector dreams of finding something rare and exotic under the Christmas tree, and sometimes those dreams come true. But there is an alternative that offers much better odds. Those who don’t want to risk receiving a clip-on tie or box of stale chocolates can find and bid on hundreds of rare and beautiful toys in Milestone Auctions’ December 10 Winter Toy Extravaganza. The suburban Cleveland company may be known for selling every type of high-end collectible from antique firearms to vintage petroliana, but toys are special to the Milestone crew. It’s one of the categories upon which their brand was founded, and its following amongst collectors is rock solid.

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Popeye And Olive Oyl Tank rolls to world-record $105K at Milestone toy auction

Linemar Japan battery-operated Popeye and Olive Oyl Tank, 11 inches, with extremely rare original box. Very clean and bright, by far the finest example known. Excellent/Near Mint. Sold for a world record auction price of $105,000 against its pre-sale estimate of $30,000-$40,000

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Popeye toys haven’t seen an appreciable downturn in the collector marketplace at any point in the past 25 years. In keeping with that trend, vintage toys depicting the punchy sailor were “strong to the finich” at Milestone Auctions’ April 9 Antique Toy Spectacular, which grossed $650,000. Powering its way to the top of prices realized, a Linemar Popeye And Olive Oyl Tank with its original pictorial box sold for an astonishing $105,000, a new world auction record for a Popeye toy.

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Milestone’s April 9 auction features prized collection of rare Popeye toys

Linemar Japan battery-operated Popeye and Olive Oyl Tank, 11 inches, with extremely rare original box. Very clean and bright, by far the finest example known. Excellent/Near Mint. Estimate $30,000-$40,000

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – That swaggering, wisecracking cartoon sailor Popeye has been depicted on countless toys and memorabilia since first appearing in the Thimble Theatre comic strip in 1929. With his spinach-powered superhuman strength, he was an immediate hit with readers of all ages, gaining an even higher level of visibility in his own cartoon series that launched in 1933. Ever since his debut, Popeye – with his girlfriend Olive Oyl and their motley crew of sidekicks in tow – has been an entertaining figure in the public’s consciousness, and vintage toys designed with Popeye’s image have only continued to rise in popularity and price.

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European antique toys ruled the playing field at Milestone’s June 26 auction

Late-19th-century German tin clockwork ‘Woman Blowing Bubbles,’ in working order, sold for $9,900 against an estimate of $1,000-$1,500

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Even the best-connected toy buyers in Europe surely would have been surprised by the contents of the Margaret and Joel Weissman antique toy collection, which was offered by Milestone Auctions on June 26. The couple’s beautiful assemblage of German, French and English toys included examples of clockwork and hand-painted toys; automobiles, boats, airplanes, go-rounds and penny toys that are seldom seen on either side of the Atlantic. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

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