VINELAND, NJ.- There were smiles on many bidders faces as they departed Bertoia Auctions Spring Toy Break Auction on May 9th and 10th. It was a terrific sale, and there was a great camaraderie throughout, said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. As they headed out the door with their purchases, everybody was chattering about the toys and the prices they had sold for. They were saying, You have to have another sale like that.
It would be easier said than done to re-create a lineup rivaling Frank Lovelands trains and trolleys; horse-drawn and bell toys from the late Harvey Funderwhites collection, and the numerous high-end European, automotive and early American toys from other consignors that bolstered the $1.95 million sale (all prices quoted include 18% buyers premium).
Some of the prices were eye-opening approaching what some would call investment level, Bertoia said. The gross for the sale surpassed the total high estimate by 25 percent, which is remarkable.
The train category roared, with a circa 1904-1908 Carlisle & Finch No. 45 locomotive with tender and passenger cars set claiming top-lot status at $46,020. A boxed freight set by the same revered American manufacturer achieved $23,600. Fans of European trains joined the fray, competing with conviction over Marklin advertising boxcars, like the Heinz 57 Varieties Tomato Ketchup car, $17,700; and a beautiful 1 gauge Budweiser Beer car, $23,600. A Central Train Station was bid to $23,600; and the magical Marklin name even pushed the bidding on a small group of trackside accessories to $8,850. A Smith & White 2-inch-gauge Electric Trolley from the Loveland collection required a hefty fare of $7,080.
I was not surprised about the trains strong performance because we had had so many phone calls prior to the sale, said Bertoia. The 2-inch trains were the earliest ones made in America, and in that realm, demand definitely exceeds supply. There were many brass rings in the Loveland collection, and there were people bidding on those trains who werent even train collectors; they were people who like to own rare things.
The Harvey Funderwhite horse-drawn cast-iron toy collection was the source of many superior examples entered in the sale, including a very rare Kyser & Rex Circus Wagon with articulated animals, $6,490; and a Wilkens Fire Chief Wagon, $5,605. A Gong Bell Tramp bell toy rolled off to a new owner for $2,142.
A very scarce early American horse-drawn tin toy attributed to Althof Bergman had a revolving action and two figures that walked around an American Flag. It more than doubled its high estimate to sell for $8,850.
The perennial appeal of motorcycle toys was evidenced by the M & K (Germany) tinplate cycle with well-dressed lady passenger in its sidecar, which sped across the auction block to a $10,620 finish. Far more diminutive, but no less charming, a 3½-inch penny toy motorcycle with a rider in a long, hooded coat commanded $2,242 against an estimate of $300-$400.
The largest parade set manufactured by Heyde, dating to around 1890-1900, was presented in its original box with three trays. In exceptional condition and missing only two pieces, the United States Army Set No. 1003 included 66 mounted horses, 29 parade figures, 42 soldiers, two caissons and cannons drawn by four horse teams. It rose to the occasion and exceeded its high estimate with a winning bid of $10,620.
Notable among the paper litho on wood toys, a German flat-bottom Noahs Ark with River Belle ferry boat, Horace locomotive and several carved animals combined to achieve $4,130 more than five times the lots high estimate.
American automotive toys were led by a Buddy L pressed-steel Trencher on treads, $6,490; an Arcade cast-iron Yellow Cab panel van, $7,080; and a Seven Brothers delivery truck, $2,655. A boxed Louis Marx G-Man Pursuit Car in bright primary colors put the pedal to the metal and didnt skid to a halt till it had reached $2,006.
A fine selection of cast-iron mechanical banks included three popular J. & E. Stevens productions: a Speaking Dog (red dress version), $4,130; a Darktown Battery, $5,310; and a Bad Accident, $7,080. A Wheel of Fortune still bank, cast iron with a japanned finish, was a fresh find that enticed bidders to a $2,655 finish.
Other auction highlights included a dated 1865 presentation fire trumpet given to the Perseverance Hose Co. No. 5, $3,245 against an estimate of $500-$700; a Bradley & Hubbard Three Kittens on Books cast-iron figural doorstop, $1,888; and a 1920 Rices Seeds advertising poster measuring 20 by 30 inches, $3,245.
While Bertoias had been keeping it a secret, somehow the word got out about the premier Max Berry collection of mechanical banks, penny toys, horse-drawn and bell toys that the company will be auctioning in November.
We had recently started to receive phone calls from people asking if the rumors were true and congratulating us on winning the right to sell the greatest toy collection to come to the marketplace since the Donald Kaufman collection, said Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions. We realized it was no longer a secret and decided just to acknowledge it with pride. Its a magnificent collection and one that collectors are sure to be talking about all summer long.