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Toys Main Attraction of Third Lambert Auction

March 23rd, 2013

An early 18th-century cherry Bible box in its original dry surface with a carved pinwheel in the center of the lid and carved star in each corner stole the show when it went from an opening bid of $1000 to close at $11,000. Collector Cliff Stanton, phoning from Florida, bought it.

A painted red windup tin fire engine ladder truck with a driver and three other firemen on board, in its original finish, circa 1920, fetched the highest price for a toy in the auction, $2090.

A late 19th-century cast-iron horse-drawn sulky with driver in its original black, red, and silver paint, 7¾" x 5" x 2¼", earned $247.50.

A large double-handled maple burl bowl, possibly Iroquois, circa 1850, 22½" x 17½" x 9", with bottom repair, sold for $3850.

A 13½" x 23½" watercolor on paper of the steamer Dauntless, circa 1900, signed “P. Caronneau,” ex-collection Pierre Laplante, sold  for $3575.

A cherry one-drawer lamp table with an inlaid rosette in the center, string inlay on the sides of the top, and banding inlay on the edge of the top and on the tapered legs, circa 1825, sold for $2420.

A walnut slant-top desk with dovetailed case, York County, Ontario, circa 1825, found a new home at $2475.

A pottery King Charles Spaniel in an allover white with brown highlights, Brownscombe pottery, 9½" x 7" x 3½", that Lambert purchased in the 1940’s, brought $1540.

Tim Potter Auction Services, Napanee, Ontario

All prices in Canadian funds

On the February 25 episode of PBS’s Market Warriors, Kevin Bruneau, John Bruno, Miller Gaffney, and Bene Raia, two male and two female “warriors” respectively, were each required to buy an antique toy at a 400-dealer outdoor show to resell at auction and make a profit.

 “Condition is important,” Kevin Bruneau cautioned, and added that the toy market, popular as it is, runs hot and cold. Market Warrior host Mark Walberg also warned that older toys, such as a Shirley Temple doll, don’t necessarily appeal to a contemporary buyer who can’t relate to them. (Who was Shirley Temple?)

Raia talked a dealer down to $85 for a tin litho windup tractor, which she sold at auction for $120. Gaffney bought a rare child’s pinball machine for $60 but earned only a $10 profit at auction.

Unfortunately, Bruneau and Bruno fared poorly. The latter bought a lineman truck for $125, to see it fetch only $80 at auction, while the former bought a Jet Roller Coaster from the 1950’s, also for $125, to see it plummet to $90 at auction.

Three toys graced the front cover, and one was on the back cover of the third Rob and Vi Lambert auction catalog. The sale was held March 23 in Napanee, Ontario. A Toonerville Trolley, 1922, by Fontaine Fox, made by H. Fischer and sold under the Nifty brand, in original red,
yellow-, and black-painted finish, rolled to $247.50 (with buyer’s premium). A painted windup tin fire engine ladder truck, circa 1920, with a driver and three other firemen on board, also in its original red-, yellow-, and black-painted finish with tires marked “Dunlop Cord,” clanged to $2090, selling to the son of Quebec dealer Gerard Bourguet, who sells Canadiana furniture in original paint and early folk art. A late 19th-century cast-iron horse-drawn sulky with driver, in its original black-, red-, and silver-painted finish, raced to $247.50. A late 19th-century well-handled pull toy horse of carved wood with a horsehair tail, a yellow and gray mottled beauty with red bridle and reins mounted on a base with pressed tin wheels, pranced to $220.

These four toys were some of the approximately 54 toys in the 374-lot sale, plus addenda, not to count the many marbles that could be included in the toy category.

Why toys? What was Rob Lambert’s fascination with antique toys?

Vi Lambert was not present to answer that, but keen toy collector Gary McKay of Bob’s Lake, Ontario, was. In addition to liking old tools, he owns approximately 75 toys, most dating from the 1950’s and a couple from the late 1800’s. “Toys take me back to my youth,” he said. “I like the graphics. I am also interested in the improvements in how they were made and in how they operate.”

McKay, easy to spot in his red  shirt, sat next to his wife in the front row close to auctioneer Tim Potter. McKay was not the only avid toy collector or dealer there. Bidding was at times heated for certain toy-related lots. For example, some bidders coveted Lambert’s marbles. Among them was 2012 Bowmanville show dealer Wafford Warner of Peterborough, Ontario, who sells sports memorabilia and decoys. He sat with his mother, June. He and other collectors near him waited patiently for marble lots, in groups of four, to appear throughout the auction. Early into the sale, lots 41 to 44, marbles in singles and groups, brought $55, $77, $22, and $55 respectively. These low prices prompted Potter to proclaim, “I may collect marbles at those prices!”

What did he know that most of the non-marble collectors and dealers in the audience didn’t?

When the next group came up, a 1¼" antique glass ribbon marble with yellow and gold lutz bands, circa 1890, sold for $1100 to a phone bidder.

“Throw out your plants, and check the marbles in the bottom,” Potter said. “This should have given you a whole new appreciation for marbles.”

The next seven lots brought only $55, $44, $77, $165, $55, $44, and $25 respectively. Addenda included lot 68a, a clear sulphide marble, circa 1890, with Lambert’s favorite animal, a dog, in the center, 1½" diameter, that sold for $143, and lot 68b, a mid-19th-century storage box with locking drawer in original crackle varnish finish that sold for $137.50 to a phone bidder. “Rob kept his marbles in it,” Potter said, and he demonstrated how.

Yes, toys may have graced the front and back covers of the catalog, and Potter may have threaded them throughout the sale for variety, but far more collectors and dealers of other interests jammed the Lions Club Hall that day. They included a coterie of veteran Bowmanville show dealers intent on nabbing early Canadiana pine furniture in original paint preferably—formal furniture in maple, cherry, mahogany, and walnut, etc. was also in the sale—and accessories such as early folk art.

Rob Lambert did not disappoint them, nor did the Toronto collector whose consignments were mixed with Lambert’s lots. (The Toronto collector wished to remain anonymous.)

A Quebec pine clock shelf in its original yellow and green paint, circa 1850, 20" x 7½" x 8", sold for $1980 (Potter does not give estimates). A cherry one-drawer lamp table, with an inlaid rosette in the center, string inlay on the sides of the top, banding inlay on the edge of the top and on the tapered legs, 21¾" x    21½" x 27", circa 1825, sold for $2420. A set of four mahogany dining chairs, circa 1825, with an inlaid crest rail with reeded top, reeded supports, and a rope-turned back splat, mounted on turned front legs, circa 1820, went home for $1210.

Minor lots of Native American art also attracted bidders. A beaded wrist bracelet with geometric beads on doe hide, handsewn, circa 1925, 9" x 2¾", sold for $110. A pair of round bands in doe skin with a hand-worked floral decoration on each, circa 1850, “possibly napkin rings,” went home for $77. And four arrowheads in both obsidian and flint, found at a dig near Peterborough, Ontario, along with two shards, scraped by at $55.

“It was great to see a large number of serious buyers at the sale,” said Pottter, “which proves that the rare and quality items in the Canadian market are still fetching top prices.”

For further information, contact Tim Potter at ( or phone (613) 386-3635.

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

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