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Bertoia's March 23-24 'Made to Be Played' auction features 1,400-lot cavalcade of toys
Hubley cast-iron Popeye on motorcycle. Estimate $10,000-$12,000. Bertoia Auctions image.


VINELAND, NJ.- You never know what will come through the doors of Bertoia Auctions’ spacious, fully showcased New Jersey gallery. Sometimes a toy is brought in that can be slotted into the next appropriate sale without delay. Other times, a consignor is better served by letting the toy wait to be included in a future sale with other toys of a related category. But when enough toys are waiting in the wings for their well-deserved turn at auction, Bertoia’s will organize one of their popular mixed sales, like the one planned for March 23-24, 2012.

“Collectors really enjoy our all-inclusive sales because there’s such an element of surprise. Every imaginable type of toy can be found in these sales,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “Our March event, which we’re calling our ‘Made to Be Played’ auction, contains 1,400 toy lots of great diversity and quality, with a special highlight – the European toy collection of Grover Van Dexter. Grover established one of America’s earliest antique toyshops, Second Childhood in New York’s Greenwich Village. Without a doubt, he knows what’s genuinely rare and special.”

The auction includes a spectacular array of cast-iron automotive toys – autos, busses, trucks and motorcycles – many of them coming from the same collection that was featured in Bertoia’s November sale.

“Collectors are going to love this grouping. Most of the toys are in excellent or better condition, and there are many hard-to-find pieces,” said Bertoia. The top-drawer offering includes a U.S. Co. White van made by Arcade, and several outstanding Vindex toys: a P&H steam shovel, various sedans and coupes with Donald Kaufman provenance, and more. Horse-drawn highlights include a Tally Ho, Shimer fire vehicles, and a one of a kind Kenton four-horse caisson with three seated figures. The weighty Kenton production measures approximately 3ft. long.

Among the approximately 75-80 mechanical banks are many very nice choices for both dealers and collectors, including a Darktown Battery, Lion and Monkey, Calamity, and Eagle and Eaglets. There are also two elusive Mama Katzenjammer banks – one being a first casting; the other, a second casting. The mechanicals will be followed by 80-85 still banks, with standouts being a fine example of Cupola Building with belfry, a desirable Old South Church, and a series of Kenton banks replicating safes.

Another knockout selection of cast-iron doorstops – part II of the Chuck and Barbara Cook collection – fills three display cases at Bertoia’s. Within the more than 100 figural novelties are seven different Art Deco designs by Fish, including Bathing Beauties, Bellhop, Tango Dancers, Footman and Maid. Additionally, there are some fabulous florals, a Lobster, and a Rhumba Dancer. A series of Taylor & Cook doorstops is led by examples of the company’s Monkey, Penguin, Elephant and Parrot.

Any active collector of the past two generations would know about Grover Van Dexter’s legendary Second Childhood, a gem of a shop that, for nearly 40 years, was the most famous antique toy emporium in America. It closed its doors in 2009 and all store stock was sent off to auction. Now Bertoia’s will have the privilege of auctioning Van Dexter’s private collection, which includes scores of rare Lehmann and Martin tin wind-ups.

“Grover was so ahead of his time in collecting European toys that he was able to gather up some of the nicest – and rarest – examples I’ve seen in many years,” said Bertoia. The list of French-made Martins includes a Parisian Woman in exquisite condition, one of a few such toys known in France; a Prussian Soldier with rifle, an obscure flywheel locomotive, boxed White Bear, Safari Hunter, and a superb Organ Grinder.

The sale’s 50 Lehmanns came from both Van Dexter’s and one other private collection. The grouping includes a Ski Rolf, three different motorcycles – a Halloh and two color variations of the Echo – plus a Boxer Rebellion and CoCo Climbing the Palm Tree.

Van Dexter’s collection includes both hand-painted and lithographed European toys. Rarities include a skin diver with a wind-up propeller between its legs [maker unknown], a Topolino in Car, early Gunthermanns, including three clowns on a park bench; and girls playing ring around the rosie. His sub-collection of 20 Charlie Chaplin toys includes Hippodrome Parisien and a ball-toss game – each believed to be the only known survivor.

The revered collection was the source of numerous European walking novelty figures, several tin buses, e.g., Bamberger’s, Strawbridge & Clothier, etc., and many of the 75-80 penny toys to be offered in the March sale. The European tin section also includes Ferris wheels and luxury clockwork tin limos from Van Dexter and other consignors.

Another colorful helping of vintage comic character toys from the Ron and Sandy Rosen lifetime collection will cross the auction block on March 23-24. Many classics are included: Hi-Way Henry, Joe Penner and His Duck, Charlie McCarthy, Dagwood, Pinocchio, the Merry Makers Band, Popeye, and Maggie and Jiggs. A few robots are to be sold, as well.

Listen for the whistle to blow as a small grouping of American standard gauge and European O and 1 gauge trains comes rolling down the track. Top lots include two Marklin trains: an EE 1021 and a PRR [Pennsylvania Railroad] set.

Early American tin, which has never lost its staunch core of followers amongst toy collectors, will be led by two large Fallows fire pumpers and a George Brown clockwork fire engine made to emulate the primitive, real-life Lee & Larnard model.

The auction also features a collection of fine steam toys that belonged to the late Klaus Grutzka, a German-born Pennsylvanian whose history included working as a mechanic on a German undersea “U-boat.” Grutzka was also a gifted artist who taught art at the prestigious Hill School in Pottstown, Pa. “Everyone liked Klaus. He was a real gentleman and extremely knowledgeable,” said Bertoia. “You could ask him any question and get an encyclopedia for an answer. His rare combination of mechanical and artistic talent is reflected in the steam toys he collected.”

The auction mix is rounded out with 50-60 Schoenhut toys, including a rare Wolf and Hyena; mechanical music boxes and vending/slot machines; figural cast-iron amusement park targets, and several salesmen’s samples and patent models.

Not to be overlooked is the antique advertising section, whose highlights include a rare 43-inch-tall cast-iron Baker’s Cocoa sign, a figural cast-iron glove factory sign shaped as a hand, and others.

“We know everyone’s going to have a wonderful time at this auction,” said Bertoia Auctions’ owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “There are so many toy categories represented in the sale, every collector will have a chance to take home something wonderful.”

Start times for Bertoia’s “Made to Be Played” auction are 12 noon on Friday, March 23; and 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 24. Preview the auction weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as from 9 a.m. prior to the Friday session and 8 a.m. prior to the Saturday session.

The fully illustrated hardcover color catalog can be purchased for $45 postpaid ($55 outside the USA). All forms of bidding will be available for the auction, including live via the Internet through www.LiveAuctioneers.com.





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