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"Christmas Wishes" Auction Exceeds Expectations

Dick Friz | November 8th, 2013


Märklin 2nd Series Cincinnati battleship, 1912-15, enameled, electric-driven, 34" long, $77,880.


Märklin George Washington ocean liner, 1909-15, enameled, clockwork mechanism, 37" long, $77,880.


Possibly unique C.K. (Japan) lithographed tin key-wind Santa open roadster with lively festive graphics and internal bellows, late 1930’s, 7" long, $37,760.


Tipp & Co. (Germany) Minnie and Mickey Mouse riding motorcycle, circa 1930, lithographed tin wind-up with working clockwork mechanism, 9¼" long, $56,050.


Vindex motorcycle and side car, cast iron, styled after the 1930’s Henderson, the fastest cycle made and a favorite with police patrols and sport riders, factory sample, 8½" long, $25,960.


Asahi (Japan) 1962 Chrysler Imperial with box, tinplate, friction drive, 15" long, $26,550.


Boucher (U.S.) locomotive and passenger set, “2500” 4-6-2 locomotive with tender, three Pullman cars, and one observation car (each car 10½" long), $25,960.


Howard (U.S.) passenger freight set, #10 tinplate and brass 4-4-0 locomotive and “N.Y.C. & H.R.R.R.” tender (24" long), two passenger cars, and one mail and baggage car, $17,700.


Whimsical puppy cast-iron doorstop, A.M. Greenblatt Studios, 1929, 9" high, ex-Jeanne Bertoia, $15,340.


Lehmann “Lo & Li” clown accordionist and top-hatted tap dancer, 1924-38, 8¼" high, $15,340.


Lehmann Boxer Rebellion clockwork “toss the Chinese” toy, 1900-18, 5 1/8" x 5 1/8", $14,160.


The peak price for rolling stock was for a Märklin I-gauge lithographed tin Schlitz beer car, 10" long—a lot of suds for $30,680.


Gunthermann (Germany) landaulette, lithographed tin, early 1900’s, 10½" long, $23,600.

The sale’s alpha Santa: a compos- ition belsnickel (Germany) with glass eyes, glass icicle beard, and purple robe, 19" high, $20,060.

Bertoia Auctions, Vineland, New Jersey

Photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions

Sales went through the roof at the Bertoia Auctions “Christmas Wishes” auction in Vineland, New Jersey, held November 8-10, 2013. It was never ho-ho-hum, as 2266 lots sold at a galvanic pace, and the final tally of $2.76 million marked Bertoia’s highest since the storied Don Kaufman collection sales about three years ago.

In addition to the Friday and Saturday bell ringers, 100 uncataloged box lots were sold on Sunday to attendees only. Prior to the year-end sale, Michael Bertoia told us that the firm had received an unprecedented flurry of phone calls and e-mails from all over the globe asking about items all across the spectrum.

Bertoia approached its Friday and Saturday sessions from more angles than a cubistic painting, interspersing seldom-seen cast-iron transportation toys, mechanical and still banks, comic windups, and doorstops with occupational shaving mugs, one of the finest Lehmann offerings in recent years, and masterfully detailed ships, trolleys, and train sets—from tried and true Märklins to more obscure but also highly esteemed U.S. makers, including Voltamp, Carlisle & Finch, and Howard. Imbuing the holiday spirit on Sunday were Santas, St. Nicks, belsnickels, and pelznikels (the latter two being variants of Nicholas, a rather grim-looking fellow wearing furs) in every guise and travel mode, plus Dresden ornaments and witches, goblins, and gobblers.

On-line participation in the auction played an integral role. The three-day day average of winning bids through Live Auctioneers was 27.6%, with a heavy play of 32% at Sunday’s holiday toy segment.

Emboldened, perhaps, by the recent tidal wave of bidding activity at Bertoia’s Dick Claus nautical toy auctions, parts one and two, armchair admirals attended in force. A number of exceptional naval vessels surfaced at the November outing and handily anchored the top-tier prices of the sale. A Märklin George Washington ocean liner and a Märklin 2nd Series Cincinnati battleship surged to $77,880 each (includes buyer’s premium). Remarkably, despite extensive crazing to its hull, a 14" long Märklin Priscilla yacht, 1907-12, caught a breeze at $40,120, sailing over three times its estimate.

Another entry preordained to rouse the crowd, the Tipp & Co. Mickey and Minnie Mouse motorcycle, left skid marks at $56,050, despite moderate wear and tear. Rated the ultimate Disney toy and originally intended for the British market, it nearly doubled its estimates.

Ernst Paul Lehmann’s toys (Nuremberg) rank up with Märklin’s as the most coveted among today’s German purveyors, and both firms are still active after well over a century. Bertoia Auctions unveiled part two of an unidentified consignor’s collection—one of the most impressive Lehmann showings in years, with over 65 entries, almost half of which were seldom-seen toys, trucks, and motorcycles.

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Sunday when nearly 700 holiday entries decked the halls with gift list jolly. A 27" long early 1900’s pull-toy Father Christmas on a sled pulled by four reindeer sold for $17,700, the composition Santa in a purple robe and the four reindeer with lead antlers and glass eyes.

A woman in a horse-drawn sleigh, a 5½" long exquisite example of Dresden craftsmanship, excelled at $3835. Also much admired, a 4½" long pierced-pattern silver Dresden horse-drawn golden coach tree ornament with coachman and footman trotted off at $1534.

Halloween cats, ghouls, pumpkin heads, and witches abounded. A 17" high standing witch candy container with a felt cape, a broom for takeoff, and glass doll-like eyes swooped to $4130. Pure whimsy, a 3" long Viscoloid celluloid witch pulling a black cat in a pumpkin-shaped baby buggy, marked U.S.A, was a charmer at $443. A rather grumpy German composition Krampus (a bad Christmas spirit) lantern with black horns and green face with tongue sticking out, 3½" high, lit up at $2655.

Professor Frank Loveland’s trains, 150 strong, posted some of the headiest prices since Noel Barrett’s epic Ward Kimball collection sales in 2004 and 2005. Certainly there is a lesson here; toy trains are not just about Lionel and Märklin, judging by the results, many in five figures, that were achieved by more obscure, low-profile, and often short-lived purveyors of trains and rolling stock. On that want list would be Knapp, Karl Bub, Boucher, Howard, Issmayer, Carlisle & Finch, Voltamp, and Elektoy; all merit closer scrutiny.

The biggest stunner was the $30,680 paid for a 10" long Märklin I-gauge Schlitz beer car, No. 8236, that nearly doubled its estimates.

Jeanne Bertoia’s array of some 150 cast-iron doorstops, many of them reference book examples, was highlighted with such gems as a whimsical pup at $15,340 and the never-before-seen Colonial soldier at arms, which mustered up $3835. More up our alley, a 10 5/8" high Harlequin figural in costume with pompom buttons, holding a duck and peeking at an owl, copyright Mayfair Inc., was a hoot at $2242.

A 6½" high J. & E. Stevens cast-iron bank of General Benjamin Butler, the 1884 Greenback Party candidate caricatured as a frog’s body, rang up $10,030, making it the sale’s leading still bank. Another political still bank, a double-sided bas-relief of the 1908 Republican slate in bronze by J.M. Harper, “Peaceful Bill” (William H. Taft, president) and “Smiling Jim” (James Sherman, Taft’s vice president)—won favor at $1770. A Victorian-era Girl Skipping Rope mechanical bank by J. & E. Stevens, patented 1890, had been repainted, thus accounting for its bargain price of $7670.

Bertoia Auctions recently initiated a “Showcasing the Consignors” preface in its catalog. The bios for the November outing reflect a wide cross section of careers and intense collecting diversity.

Tom Fox (d. 2003) of New York City was a prominent interior designer whose work has been widely published. His splendid array of holiday rarities, including Dresden ornaments and Santas of every incarnation, reflected “a keen eye for quality and beauty,” as attested by fellow collector Bob Merck of Connecticut.

Frank Loveland, who has a doctorate in anthropology, is a professor emeritus at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. His consignment of electrical and clockwork trains reflected years of selectivity and diligent research; he’s gone so far as to establish contacts with relatives of some of the founding members of Carlisle & Finch and other makers. Loveland’s keen eye and avid interest in trains also extends to early lithographed paper-on-wood and tinplate, and a number of exquisite examples were featured in the sale.

Judge Glenn McDonald (1935-2011) and his wife, Alice, of Louisville, Kentucky, shared a lifetime fascination for cast-iron transportation toys, with a heavy emphasis on automobiles. As confirmed in the November auction, condition played an important role in what the McDonalds decided to keep on the shelf. Judge McDonald loved to expound on his favorite acquisitions and was said to make his guests feel as though they were the topic of his new book.

Two consignors needed no introduction. November marked part two of the late Bill Bertoia’s collection of occupational shaving mugs, a category known for incredible artistry and a vivid record of a bygone era. Bill, whose collecting pursuit began with antique glass bottles and later graduated to mechanical and still banks, became an Antiques Roadshow expert. He also was immersed in American tin and anything else that caught his fancy.

The November sale also marked, if memory serves me correctly, the first real glimpse of Jeanne Bertoia’s (Bill’s wife) vast array of cast-iron doorstops. She is the author of several definitive books on the subject, and a number of the auction owner’s signature pieces were showcased at the 23rd Street Armory Antiques Show in Philadelphia last April.

For more information, contact Bertoia Auctions at (856) 692-1881; Web site (www.bertoiaauctions.com).


Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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