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European and American toys and trains, and comic characters lead Bertoia's Fall Festival Auction
Carette steam-powered automobile, 10in long, est. $7,000-$9,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

VINELAND, NJ.- No one likes for summer to end, but there’s a silver lining for toy collectors when the sunny season turns a corner and heads into fall. It means that soon it will be time for Bertoia’s Annual Fall Festival Auction. This year the popular, widely diverse sale of antique and vintage toys, trains and holiday items will take place on September 19 and 20 at Bertoia’s spacious auction gallery in Vineland, New Jersey.

Nearly 1,400 lots are being prepared for the colorful event, with an exciting list of categories that includes cast-iron and tin, penny toys, lead boats, European trains and stations, paper-over-wood and Fisher-Price toys. Almost 300 lots are dedicated to holiday collectibles, primarily for Christmas, with another 80 uncataloged box lots reserved as an auction epilogue solely for bidders who are in attendance.

“This is an entertaining, A-to-Z toy sale that won’t disappoint,” Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia said. “There’s a lot to see and bid on over the two-day period. We’ll be starting at 10 a.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday.”

Friday’s session begins with a featured collection of 19th-century miniature lead boats by Issmayer, Heyde and others. “I’ve never seen this many in one group, because they’re very hard to find. The consignor is an American who bought primarily in Europe. Many are of the same type seen in some of David Pressland’s books,” said Bertoia.”

There will also be many larger boats docked at Bertoia’s, including an elusive 23-inch Uebelacker riverboat, and a very special craft by Rock & Graner, an example of which is also depicted in a Pressland reference. “When I asked David about it, he confirmed that it’s a tremendous find. If David says that, I’ll certainly take his word for it,” Bertoia said.

American cast-iron vehicles include autos, trucks, ’cycles, farm vehicles and fire engines. Featured highlights are an Arcade panel van, Kilgore Stutz-styled auto and a very rare Hubley 3-ton stake truck.

Coveted Marklin productions lead the train section. Among the highlights from Germany’s premier toy brand are: a lithographed-tin Heinz Tomato Ketchup car, several 1 gauge Pennsylvania Railroad passenger sets, and very nice 1 gauge “windcutter.” Four Marklin stations are entered in the sale, including an especially nice Central Station. A globe-on-arc lamp and a few choice canopy accessories are included, as well.

For collectors of German toys who’d like to visit a very exclusive day spa, Bertoia’s invites them to dip their toe into a Marklin swimming pool similar to those seen at Europe’s luxury hotels of a century ago. The pool is completely railed, with simulated brickwork, and has a diving board and platform. While it is estimated at $6,000-$8,000, Bertoia believes it could well exceed that price range.

Highlights in the automotive section include a connoisseur’s piece: a very early (circa 1900-1902) Carette steam-driven open car with a curious, primitive design; plus several Carette taxis and limos. Also in the lineup are two Alfa Romeo P2 racers – one in red and the other in an even scarcer blue color – as well as a couple of Bluebird racers, including a very desirable lithographed-tin 13-inch version with driver by SY Japan.

Many other European toys will be up for bid, among them an outstanding boxed Ski Rolf by Lehmann, estimated at $8,000-$10,000. “It’s all original and is the nicest one we’ve ever seen. It’s like new/old store stock,” Bertoia said. Also in the mix are more than 50 penny toys, including some colorful autos, an early airplane and a few articulated types.

A comprehensive array of comic character toys – many of them boxed and of Japanese manufacture – runs the gamut of radio, TV and newspaper comic strip characters. Ten Popeye variations, numerous character bands, an army of Marx toys, and many Mickey Mouse and other Disney toys – including celluloid – will be ready to perform and amuse.

Saturday’s session will start with more than 100 pressed-steel vehicles. The centerpiece is a fine fleet of trucks and pedal cars, and although they are from a prestigious collection, all will be sold without reserve. All of the top brands are represented, including Buddy L, Keystone and Sturditoy. A few are old store stock and retain their original boxes. The pedal car selection includes both early, all-original examples and other vehicles that have been restored to perfection. “All levels of buyer will be satisfied,” Rich Bertoia assured.

Next up will be die-cast toys, mostly by Smith-Miller. Some genuine rarities have been spotted in the grouping, including a red-painted wood prototype truck made right after World War II. It is an extremely well designed item with a futuristic look. Even though an artist’s rendering of the finished toy appeared in Smith-Miller’s sales catalog, the toy never actually saw production, making the company-documented prototype even more desirable to collectors.

The last of the wonderful paper-on-wood toys consigned to Bertoia’s by the late Dr. Frank Loveland will be auctioned on day two of the sale. This section is replete with wood trains and Noah’s Ark lots from the Loveland collection and others. Of special note is an ark from Dr. Loveland’s collection that is a “transitional” toy. Intact, it is an ark, but when the top is removed, it takes on the form of a train – two toys for the price of one.

Other toy highlights include a collection of Erzgebirge toys, both of hand-painted wood and paper on wood; a General Grant clockwork “smoker” toy, and approximately 50 Fisher-Price toys, including some of the company’s earliest designs.

One look at the outstanding collection of early Atlantic City tourist souvenirs and there’s no question as to where the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” drew its inspiration. In addition to picture postcards and photos, the collection includes ceramic dishes, etched ruby glass, cups, saltwater taffy boxes, and even a spittoon from an old hotel. “This is a great regional collection,” Bertoia noted. “It’s from a time when the Steel Pier amusement park was billed as the ‘Showplace of the Nation.’ It was the biggest thing on the East Coast.”

As is the tradition at Bertoia’s, the Annual Fall Festival Auction will reserve its final 3-4 hours to Christmas and other holiday antiques. A glittering assortment of glass ornaments, including early hand-painted ones, will be auctioned alongside a fabulous assortment of Dresdens, to serve as the grand finale of the late Tom Fox’s collection. Being a renowned interior designer, Fox had an impeccable eye for form and color, and this is reflected in the ornaments he chose for inclusion in his lifetime collection. The final 80 lots of the sale will be uncataloged holiday box lots, each brimming with vintage Christmas goodies hand-selected by Bertoia’s staff.

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