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June Toy Soldier Auction Brings in over $600,000

Henry L. Kurtz | June 21st, 2013

Britains Exploding Trench with flag, non-cataloged item without set number, originally sold at Hamleys Toy Store, with original box and in excellent condition, sold for $6720. The label is a reproduction copy.

Britains factory sample card with musicians from the very rare Band of the Royal Marine Light Infantry set, issued only from 1938 to 1939, sold for $4320. B numbers on the figures are the internal factory reference number. There were 29 items. This is illustrated in The Great Book of Britains (1993) by James Opie (p. 367). The lot had been sold at Phillips in October 1996 from the Ed Ruby collection.

The well-known French toy soldier firm of C.B.G. Mignot was well represented by a group of superb diorama boxes rarely seen in such pristine condition. High among these was a four-tier diorama of Cook’s Polar Expedition, 51 pieces, which went for $4440, followed close behind by a five-tier boxed depiction of France’s invasion of Morocco in 1831, 94 pieces, that topped out at $3360.

Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA

Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA held its most successful auction since it began operations six years ago, with a June 21-23 sale that registered a total of over $600,000 (includes buyers’ premiums).

Company cofounder and director Ray Haradin expressed great satisfaction with the results, saying, “This was not only our best sale to date, but one which had tremendous bidder interest and participation.” Haradin further observed, “We always get increased involvement when we can build a sale around a single-owner collection.”

In this case, it was the collection of Paul Germain (1938-2011), whose involvement with toy soldiers spanned several decades and included purchases in many of the 128 countries he visited during his lifetime.

Although the Germain collection was the centerpiece of the sale, items from other consignors were included. This was the case with some of the highest-priced lots. Top lot of the day was a Britains, Ltd. extremely rare Exploding Trench, issued briefly but never in the company’s catalog. It sold for $6720, far above its presale estimate of $2500/4500.

Among other rare Britains lots was a factory sample card, a unique item with painted figures used as models by the female painters who worked either in the factory or as home workers. This card had musicians from the very rare Band of the Royal Marine Light Infantry set, issued only 1938-39. It was hammered down at $4320. A similar card with a mix of mounted and foot soldiers fetched $2040.

Other rare Britains sets included a prewar Coldstream Guards Drum and Fife Band set in original box, which doubled its presale estimate of $800/1200, going for $2400, while an extremely rare prewar boxed Royal Horse Artillery set at the halt in khaki service dress was bought for $1680.

German toy soldier firms were represented by makers not often seen in the United States. A boxed set of Frederick the Great’s grenadiers by Spenkuch was bought for $2040. A set of Gebruder Heinrich British guardsmen in its original 19th-century wooden box with sliding lid came in at $960, the low end of the estimate; while a rare Haffner set of U.S. Cavalry in 19th-century dress uniforms settled at $1440, double its presale estimate of $400/600. Top price for a single figure was achieved by the more familiar firm of Heyde when a 100 mm U.S. Army Artillery officer, circa 1890, produced only for the U.S. market, sold for $2280 (est. $700/900).

Lest it be thought that only high-end items were in the sale, many excellent prewar and postwar sets by Britains and other makers as well as new toy soldier sets were to be had for more modest prices. As a result the June sale was an almost total sellout, with only 14 lots out of 1674 failing to sell.

Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA will hold its next sale November 22-24. For further information or to obtain a catalog, contact the firm at (800) 349-8009, e-mail , or see the Web site (

A small group of Britains prewar aviation sets commanded considerable attention and flew off the auction block propelled by high bidder interest. Leading the squadron was this Royal Air Force biplane in an original box that converts into a hangar (set #1521), which went for $5280, more than double its presale high estimate of $2500.

Very rare Britains autogiros—early versions of helicopters—also soared skyward. This civilian Cierva C-30 model in an original hangar box (set #1392) sold for $3480, and an Army Co-Operation Autogiro (set #1431), shown below, also with original box, was bid to $2760.

The medieval knights produced by Richard Courtenay, the English master modeller who was noted for his fine sculpting and meticulous painting of heraldic detail, have a devoted following. This sale featured a nice selection of Courtenay fighting knights and tournament knights. Two of the latter commanded high dollars. Both were in their original boxes as issued by Charles Morrell, who had a retail shop in London’s Burlington Arcade. This Captal de Buch figure (top) went for $2520, while a tournament knight of the Earl of Wiltshire fetched $2160.

This boxed set of Frederick the Great’s grenadiers by Spenkuch (set #1090), with two black drummers, on original tie card, 23 pieces, was bought for $2040.

U. S. Army Artillery nodding officer by Heyde, 100 mm, circa 1890, produced only for the U.S. market, sold for $2280 (est. $700/900).

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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