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Wide Array of "Toys with Character" Take the Spotlight at Bertoia Auctions' Sale on June 10-11
Arcade cast-iron “White” gasoline delivery truck, circa 1931, est. $4,000-$5,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

VINELAND, N.J.- It took weeks to catalog the enormous array of beautiful toys, banks and doorstops chosen for Bertoia Auctions’ June 10-11 Toys with Character sale, and gallery associate Rich Bertoia says it was worth every minute of the effort. “When collectors get this catalog, they’re going to want to take their time,” he said. “There’s literally a surprise on every page. We didn’t plan it that way; it just turned out like that.”

Both auction sessions will open with still banks, including what may be the largest and finest single-owner collection of “safe” banks ever to pass through Bertoia’s doors. Many are pictured in Bob and Shirley Peirce’s Iron Safe Banks book. “We were quite fortunate to get this collection. It’s extraordinary,” Rich said. “Guy and Kim Zani, who built the collection, only went for rarity. They didn’t collect anything common.”

Between the still banks and safes, there will be nearly 400 lots from which to choose, including many rare examples. Standouts among the “stills” include one of only two known Grover Cleveland banks, as well as J.M. Harper’s Lincoln, Indian Family and Peaceful Bill. Rare safes include what may be the only known Uncle Sam bank.

Friday will be devoted primarily to cast iron, including automotive toys; with the addition of a small selection of antique advertising, paintings and primitives from the Tom McCandless collection. “The McCandless collection includes two very unusual stagecoach horns and two important silver-finished firemen’s presentation horns fabulous embossing,” said Bertoia.

Pressed-steel toys to be offered include popular work vehicles, fire trucks and even airplanes by favored manufacturers like Buddy ‘L,’ Keystone and Structo. A Buddy ‘L’ Tugboat is among the top pieces in the grouping.

A sampling of Marx toys will close out the session and serve as a preview for Saturday. “We think the diversity of Friday evening’s selection will hold everyone’s interest. It’s going to be one of those ‘I don’t want to get out of my seat’ sales,” said Bertoia.

Saturday begins with round two of the still and safe banks. Stills that might ignite strong competition include a Betty Boop bank and a Santa bank that Bertoia describes as “one of the better ones I’ve seen. It came in on its own, as a single consignment.”

Bell toy collectors are sure to be raising their paddles for a Mr. Flip, a second Mr. Flip with comic character pal Little Nemo, a Buster Brown, and a Goose waddler.

Mechanical-bank choices span various price points. The assortment includes a superior Picture Gallery and more-familiar banks like Teddy and the Bear, Leap Frog, Peg Leg Beggar, Eagle and Eaglets, Mason, Santa, and Football. Banks with black Americana crossover interest include Darktown Battery and ’Spise a Mule.

After the banks have accepted their last coins from bidders, it will be time for the phenomenal selection of comic character toys, with themes spanning radio, TV and print. Approximately 300 of the toys are from the collection of Ronnie and Sandy Rosen. Originally Lionel train enthusiasts, the Rosens spotted a Li’l Abner Band while at a train show in 1994. “We learned it was one of four or five toys with a similar action – Howdy Doody, Ham and Sam, the MerryMakers Band – and the quest began.”

The Rosens, who are members of both the TCA and the ATCA, became such avid comic character collectors, they had to custom-build a wall unit across their 23-ft.-long living room to accommodate the 1,200 toys they eventually amassed.

The collection grew from character bands to include walkers, Lehmanns, Martins, eccentric cars and Popeye toys – all in beautiful condition. When the decision was made to downsize to a more-manageable home, the Rosens contacted Bertoia’s to consign their collection. The June 11 session includes a wonderful variety of toys, from Pinocchio and Harold Lloyd walkers to an Amos & Andy Fresh Air Taxi and Mickey Mouse Sparkler.

The Rosens’ Lehmann toys tie in nicely with the selection of European limos and cars. Highlights include a large Carette limo, a boxed Gunthermann Silver bullet, and a very rare circa 1915-1920 Carl Brandt clockwork open touring car made of wood. The fleet of autos continues with a boxed Carette rear-entry tonneau and a series of Marklin constructor cars. The section then moves into boxed Mecannos, a few gas-powered Speed King racers and several other motorcars.

Some great Disney toys will be offered, including the perennially popular Minnie pushing Felix in a pram made by Isla (Spain), an early boxed version of the Mickey Mouse celluloid walker, and a Distler Mickey/Minnie Hurdy Gurdy.

Cast-iron automotive collectors will be lining up for the super-rare Arcade “White” oil truck. “I had seen old ads for this truck but had never held one in my hand till now,” said Bertoia. Other top lots in the category include a 12-inch White van in a red and tan color scheme, two different Hubley Static speedboats, and a very rare red and orange Kilgore motorcycle with side-body boxcar.

Possibly unique, an electrified 16- to 18-inch-long aluminum Twin Coach bus has hinges that allow it to open in halves. It’s a striking production in silver with yellow and green trim. “We believe it was presented to the top executive of Twin Coach. You can just picture it in a CEO’s office,” Bertoia said.

Cast-iron doorstop collectors can look forward to seeing a festive array of figural rarities slated for the Saturday session. Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions, has spent years collecting, studying, writing about and selling the very best doorstop examples at auction. She said the June sale contains about 75 doorstops, many of them in outstanding condition.

“There are so many highlights to mention, starting with the Hubley Fish series, which is so Deco,” said Jeanne. “There is a mint-condition Bathing Beauties under Parasol, Charleston Dancers, a Messenger Boy, Parlor Maid and the Double Footmen. All of the Fish series doorstops came from a single owner’s collection. They’re the nicest examples of the Messenger Boy and Bathing Beauties we’ve ever sold. The present consignor bought them in one of our sales several years ago.”

Other desirable doorstops include Bradley & Hubbard’s Turkey, Standing Rabbit and an extra-special floral. Hubley designs include a Grace Drayton Little Red Riding Hood doorstop in “spectacular condition,” a Banjo Player, Mexican Guitar Player, and a Penguin in Top Hat that Jeanne describes as “so mint, it must have been leftover store stock.” Rounding out the group are a mint-condition Fred Everett Quail doorstop and a matching set of Quail bookends in near-mint condition.

All forms of bidding will be available for the auction, including live via the Internet through

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