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$1.5 Million Toy Auction

Dick Friz | May 3rd, 2013

Märklin, Germany, Pabst beer railroad car, gauge 1, early 1900’s, 10½" long, $21,240, the same price achieved by another elusive Märklin beer advertising car (not shown), Schlitz of Milwaukee, 10" long.

The truly memorable Märklin, Germany, U.S.S. Maine battleship, first series, 1902, 30" long, crested as Bertoia’s two-day topper at $64,900.

Voltamp Boucher body gauge 2 locomotive, 4-6-2, 27½" overall length, $10,620.

Lehmann, Germany, Primus roller skater, circa 1915, 9" high, $14,160.

Carlisle & Finch 1920’s cast-iron railroad suspension bridge, 37" long, $11,210.

Top pick among Tom Palumbo’s pressed steel trucks and autos was this Sturditoy Oil Co. tanker, 1930, ex-Don Kaufman, 37" long, $15,340. Four years ago it brought $16,100 at Bertoia.

Vindex cement mixer, 1929, cast iron, 8" long, $11,210.

You would need to scour the world to discover a finer example of this framed Gold Dust Twins and Theodore Roosevelt African safari poster version of a huge advertising billboard for ­Fairbank’s Gold Dust Washing Powder, circa 1910. It far exceeded estimates and sold for  $1770.

This Moritz Gottschalk, Germany, blue roof Victorian doll house, 40" high x 30½" wide, found new owners at $10,620.

Bertoia Auctions, Vineland, New Jersey

Photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions

ealers and collectors had virtually limitless opportunities to pick and choose in Bertoia’s top-shelf, variety-packed 1500-lot spring fling weekend in Vineland, New Jersey, on May 3 and 4. It was obvious from the $1.5 million final tab that the crowd was smitten with affluenza, the latest buzzword describing a compulsive focus on material acquisitions.

After an extended run over numerous Bertoia outings came the last hurrah, another 100 doorstops, of the extensive doorstop collection of Chuck and Barbara Cook of St. Louis, Missouri. The sale also had part one of an occupational and fraternal shaving mug collection, amassed over 15 years by Bill Bertoia; an impressive pressed steel vehicle collection, primarily Sturditoy, consigned by Tom Palumbo of Newbury, Massachusetts; and an arresting array of 200 German and French clockwork toys, including 60 of the most sought-after Lehmanns, many of them boxed, from a longtime Bertoia patron.

The Märklin family’s pride of craft was resoundingly reaffirmed as a 1902 first series clockwork tinplate U.S.S. Maine battleship, spanning 30", breezed by as Bertoia’s top seller at $64,900 (includes buyer’s premium). Cited as being in “unplayed with” condition and with a classic ram bow, 6" and 10" guns on all sides, plus the highest name recognition of any naval vessel in our nation’s history, the U.S.S. Maine couldn’t miss.

A hundred lots later, a 40" first series Märklin U.S.S. Maine entry, though equally resplendent at first glance, had restoration issues and finished a distant second at $32,450. The original Maine, only the second battleship commissioned by the U.S., exploded and sank in Havana harbor in 1898, which precipitated the Spanish-American War.

Part of the allure of Lehmann toys is that they’re a faithful mirror image of our culture. Scarcely an invention, world exhibition, exploration, or newsworthy event occurred that wasn’t soon commemorated as a toy. The Primus roller skater, one of Lehmann’s most ingenious and heatedly contested entries, led the bidding among 50 examples at $14,160. It is intriguing that the Brandenburg maker did not patent Primus until 1913, four years after the roller-skating mania had swept through European cities; the fad by then was in a fast fade. But Primus, whose intricate mechanism enables it to move forward with natural leg motions on skate-like roller plates, enjoyed a boffo production run through 1941.

Ski Rolf, another intricate sports toy from the early 1930’s, 7" long, had a clockwork drive that operated through the arms attached to the ski poles, which realistically thrust the skier forward. Named after Rolf, a noted Thüringen ski maker, it schussed to $2655.

The Bertoia drive-by, highlighted by over 20 Lehmann autos, cycles, buses, trucks, and vans, accorded rarefied status among European luxury vehicles. Invariably drawing auction-goers’ attention, the Lehmann Halloh motorcycle, 8½" long, produced 1914-41, lived up to its hoopla at $3245. Another in the coveted cycle series, Echo, 1917-35, 8½" long, quickly bypassed estimates to $2655. A clever feature of this series is a gyroscope stabilizer that keeps the cycles in balance to lean into curves.

Numerous vehicles in great scale commanded four figures, including the Baldur Sedan that made $1416; the Panne tourer with partial box, 6" long, that sold for $1770; an African ostrich-drawn mail cart, 1889-1930, boxed flywheel version, 7" long, $2655; and a Titania limousine, 10" long, circa 1915, $3540.

Not to be slighted, still more exotic travel modes loomed large. A Masuyama rickshaw excelled at $6490, and a Man Da Rin sedan chair borne by Chinese men sold for $7080. While in only fair condition, an Uhu, a 9" long amphibian auto (1907-38) with propeller blade wheels, made a few ripples at $590.

Live steam and clockwork European and U.S. locomotives, rolling stock, and rail side accessories also took center stage. Along with the pictured Car-lisle & Finch suspension bridge and passenger cars, an electric trolley by the Cincinnati maker, 13" long, made $4720. Carlisle & Finch pioneered the first successful electric toy train in the U.S. in 1897.

Märklin standouts included among others, a No. 1941 Central Bahnhof train station, early pre-World War I, in enameled tinplate, 16" high x 14" long, for $4130. A gauge 1 live steam locomotive and tender in brass, 19" long, sold at $4425; and an imposing gauge 1 suspension bridge, restored, 16" high x 82" long, finished just under estimate at $8850.

Notably from the Swiss firm Fulgurex, an Aster Hobby Co. gauge 1 live steam engine and tender, 26½" long, doubled estimates at $5605 followed by an Aster Nord No. 142 gauge 1 locomotive and tender, #439, 1988, 29" long, that far surpassed expectations at $7670.

Even minimalists cannot minimize the quality of the sale’s 100 exquisite high-quality dolls, dollhouses, and accessories. Particularly enticing, an Austrian bronze piano with music box, a mere 3 1/8" high x 5¼" wide, hit a $1003 high note.

Admiring glances fixated on a Boulle, Germany, parlor set of 11 upholstered chairs and a sofa in maroon and gold velvet, each 4¾" high, for $2242. A sofa, key cabinet, and sideboard, also Boulle, made $3540, over four times the estimate. A circa 1920 salesman sample miniature serpentine slant-front desk in mahogany, ex-Beverly Darling, 8" x 8", took off to $4130. Five early 19th-century peg wood eggs and dressed dolls, 1 1/8" to 3½", proved irresistible and made $3245. In addition to an $1888 ormolu gramophone, a pair of gleaming gold chandeliers by the French maker, hanging 4½" from the ceiling, lit up at $1298.

Over 150 advertising and country store entries yielded a number of surprises. A Weather Bird Shoes neon clock, 18½" high, had plenty to crow about at $3835. A Snow King Baking Powder lithographed tin bag holder, 16½" high, added $1534. Everyone on the floor seemed to have eyes for Uncle Sam’s Coffee tin rolltop store bin, 20¼" x 21" x 12½", that perked away at $2006.

What really grabbed auction-goers’ attention were over 20 glass display cases. Intense crossover collector interest stirred startlingly steep prices. A “Mother’s Bread” etched glass display case, double-shelved, 35" x 28½" x 23", rose to $1062; a 25" high five-shelf rear entry case in oak went at nearly six times the estimate at $1888. Hard to resist, a Frisbie’s Pies etched glass case with wire shelves and two pie tins tallied $2655. The price again stiffened at $1652 for an Arrow Collars oak counter display with red-etched glass, early 1900’s, and full of collars arrayed in nine tiers of 27 starched samples.

Over 100 cast-iron figural doorstops in floral, building, people, and animal themes were offered. Many of them are listed as book examples, referring to John and Nancy Smith’s The Doorstop Book, which pictures over 1000 stops.

Categories from the Cooks’ collection ranged from the sublime—Girl with Umbrella, marked “Solo,” 10¼" high, $8850—to the oddball—a bright green lizard promoting Sherwin Williams paints, 8" long, that slithered to $1062 and a Hubley number 359 full-figure blowfish, 7¼" high x 8" wide, that lurked at $1888. No doorstop event is complete without the iconic 1920’s Hubley series of Art Deco figurals created by British designer Anne Fish. All seven Fish entries reached four figures. The intertwined Charleston Dancers, 8¾" high, kicked up their heels at $5015.

For more information, contact Bertoia Auctions ( or call (856) 692-1881.

Limoges, France, stockbroker occupational shaving mug, ex-Bill Bertoia, 3 5/8" high, $15,340.

T. & V. Limoges, France, 3¾" high occupational shaving mug with man and pit bull, a favorite of Bill Bertoia, $8260.

Occupational Mugs—A Personal Perspective on the Art of Shaving

Ten years after the untimely passing of auction founder Bill Bertoia in 2003, part one, 50 in number, of his collection of hand-painted and usually personalized ceramic occupational and fraternal shaving mugs and glass barber lotion dispensers arrived center stage.

Vetted by Keith Estep, a recognized authority on mugs, the museum-quality offerings were amassed over 15 years with a meticulous attention to detail and aesthetic appeal. Bill’s treasures were proudly displayed through the years in his Vineland home.

Occupational mugs were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century and recall the good old days when a shave and a haircut cost six bits. As a public expression of the owner’s profession, mugs were prominently displayed in salons and barbershops on oak or mahogany racks, ready to use for a customer’s tonsorial visit.

Jeanne Bertoia recalled that her husband had treasured these mugs as “one of the greatest forms of Americana.” Jeanne added that Bill was most excited about a rare example he picked up at a South Jersey auction, a T.V. Limoges, France, mug depicting a distinguished gentleman wearing a derby hat with two fighting pit bull dogs. Only 3¾" high, and marked “J.Rose” in gilt and “1917” at the base, it lived up to its pedigree to sell for $8260.

Another Bertoia favorite and the sale’s top seller at $15,340 was a T. & V. Limoges 3 5/8" mug showing a stockbroker reading a ticker tape with “W.A. O’Boyle” lettered beneath the rim. A lunch wagon mug with a menu board posted on its side, 3 5/8" high, rolled to $7080. A 3¾" high mug decorated with a stake truck with beer kegs and incised “Germany” added $1652.

Bill Bertoia was also fascinated by milk or cranberry glass barber dispensers of bay rum and other tonics. Especially appealing was a 10" high blue milk glass bottle lettered “Toilet Water,” with a reverse glass label of a scantily clad Gay Nineties beauty, which brought $885. A milk glass “Tonic” occupational bottle attributed to Whitall Tatum, Millville, New Jersey, pictured a hand-painted trolley with attendants at the platforms and the evocative name “J. Foody.” Measuring 9½" high, it rang up to $649.

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest.

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