Morphy's Mar. 10-11 auction boasts fine toys, exquisite automata, comic character rarities

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Morphy's Mar. 10-11 auction boasts fine toys, exquisite automata, comic character rarities
J & E Stevens ‘The Race Course’ or ‘Horse Race’ cast-iron mechanical bank, straight-base variation. Original NM example with original box. Estimate $20,000-$40,000.

DENVER, PA.- Pristine toys from some of the world’s finest collections will cross the auction block at Morphy’s on March 10-11. More than 1,260 lots will be offered, including 150+ American tin toys, 100+ still and mechanical banks, a fleet of more than 150 cast-iron cars, trains, and hundreds of coveted character and Disney toys. The lineup continues with more than 1,000 fine German tin toys, as well as robots, a sensational array of antique European automata, and a broad selection of horse-drawn cast-iron, Japanese, and pressed steel toys.

Two exceptional, long-held toy collections are featured: the Dr Jeff Landes collection and the Gordon B. Lankton collection.

Jeff Landes began collecting toys in 1975 during his surgical residency in Philadelphia. His first acquisition – an “impulse buy” made while on vacation – was a Chein Handstand Clown. That purchase launched a 30-year quest for comic character toys at shows, auctions, and antique markets. Throughout his collecting odyssey, Jeff set his sights on locating the finest available examples – preferably with their original boxes – and upgrading whenever possible. Now retired, Jeff has decided to downsize and share parts of his fantastic collection with his fellow enthusiasts.

Gordon Lankton is a distinguished mechanical engineer, US Army veteran, and chairman emeritus of the plastics manufacturing company Nypro Inc. Fascinated by antiques and collectibles since childhood, Gordon stepped into the toy-collecting world with the purchase of an Arcade Model ‘T’ Ford with a rumble seat, a replica of his actual first car. With an appreciation of all sorts of toys, from vehicles to wind-ups to bell-ringers, Gordon eventually amassed a collection of well over 1,000 pieces, which will now be enjoyed by new owners bidding at Morphy’s.

Any top-notch collection of early comic character toys starts with the magical name of “Disney.” At Morphy’s March toy event, collectors can expect to encounter wall-to-wall mice – the upscale type that no one would shoo out of their kitchen. An extremely rare tin wind-up five-finger Mickey Mouse made in Germany for the English market stands an impressive 9 inches tall and has moving pie-eyes and an opening mouth. Extraordinarily rare, this irresistible treasure from the Landes collection is estimated at $20,000-$40,000.

A Disney favorite that most collectors might only dream of due to its rarity, a Lionel Mickey Mouse Circus train set in its original box includes a composition Mickey Mouse “barker” figure, key-wound Lionel Lines engine, tender with Mickey Mouse “stoker,” and cars emblazoned with numerous Disney characters. Unbelievably clean and original, its cardboard segments and tickets are unpunched, and all accessories are present. One of few unpunched sets in existence, it is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.

Where mice play, can cats be far away? Not in a comic character collection, because it wouldn’t be complete without Felix and friends. Leading the cat-and-mouse parade in the Landes collection is a large (14in long x 11in high), very rare J. Chein “Felix Frolic” toy comprised of a wheeled platform with a central Felix figure, two smaller Felix figures, and two snouty red mice completing the entourage. It is one of only four known examples, all likely to have been made in 1926. Estimate: $20,000-$40,000

A tremendous selection of 86 mechanical banks includes many rarities in beautiful condition. A J & E Stevens “The Race Course” or “Horse Race” cast-iron mechanical bank, straight-base variation, is in all-original, near-mint condition. Its original wood factory box retains a crisp, clean illustrated label. The likely selling price is $20,000-$40,000. Another gem amongst the cast-iron mechanicals is the Kyser & Rex Roller Skating bank. In excellent condition, this ingeniously designed classic could reach $20,000-$35,000.

Five wonderful blinking-eye case clocks will be offered, including a Reclining Lion, Reclining Dog, and Gambrinus King of Beers. The highest-estimated timekeepers in the group are the Samurai Warrior marked “Paris,” and an American Bradley & Hubbard Santa. Each was made in the 1860s-’70s and carries a $5,000-$8,000 estimate.

More than 60 cast-iron horse-drawn toys will trot across the auction block, led by a hard-to-find Pratt & Letchworth cast-iron four-seat brake pulled by a four-horse team. With its driver and six passenger figures, this prized piece from the Gordon Lankton collection comes to auction with a $10,000-$16,000 estimate.

The spotlight will also be shining on the European doll and automata section, starting with an extraordinary 17½-inch Bru bebe with extra clothes, many lovely accessories and an antique round-top trunk. The lot is estimated at $10,000-$12,000. The premier selection of automata includes creations by French makers Leopold Lambert, Gustav Vichy and Jean Roullet, and an unidentified, possibly German-made organ grinder marked 1885 Philadelphia. Two of the sale’s highest-estimated lots are a Roullet “Snake Charmer” automaton depicting an exotic dancer with a serpent; and an elegantly dressed Vichy “End of the Century” Man in the Moon (ref. Pg. 68, Automata – The Golden Age by Christian Bailly). Each is estimated at $30,000-$60,000.

Some of the most elusive robots in the toy universe have passed through Morphy’s gallery doors in the past. Yet another great rarity – a Japanese wind-up Mighty Robot with original box – will soon be landing in central Pennsylvania with a pre-sale estimate of $50,000-$75,000. All but unheard of amongst collectors, the tinplate android with splashy blue, red and yellow graphics has oxygen tanks on its back and a sparking action visible through its plastic chest plate. On top of it all, it has its gorgeous original box emblazoned with a realistic depiction of the robot in full color.

Both sessions of Morphy’s March 10-11, 2020 Toy, Doll & Figural Cast Iron Auction will start at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live.

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