Published: October 2, 2018
Review By R. Scudder Smith | Onsite Photos By Sherri Baggett
VINELAND, N.J. – A large pedal car in a shining blue and white paint finish was just inside the front entrance to Bertoia Auctions, and the main showroom had a traffic jam of more pedal cars about the room. The showcases were filled with dolls, toys and mechanical banks, while open shelves were crowded with pressed steel vehicles and other trucks and buses.
The important cases of the day housed a variety of toys, including many French products, lots of Marklin trains and buildings, and the first showing of a portion of a large still bank collection, all to be sold on Saturday, September 22, at a Bertoia Signature Sale.
Since there were three different collections to be sold, that is the way they are going to be covered. The Benjamin Michel Train Collection, with 145 lots, went for $380,000; the Frank Mohr Mechanical Toy Collection, 150 lots, brought $782,000, and the Douglas Jackman Still Bank Collection, 197 lots, sold for $210,000. The entire sale brought $1.375 million, and all figures include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
The phone bidders and the absentee bids totaled 42 percent of the sale, 21 percent went to the internet, and 37 percent of the successful bids came from people in the gallery.
Michael Bertoia, speaking for the auction house, said, “We were very happy with the results and the consignors were satisfied. It was a very focused sale, and we are very pleased with the way it ran and with the outcome.”
The Benjamin P. Michel Train Collection
Benjamin Michel, a retired trial attorney living in Basking Ridge, N.J., has been collecting Marklin trains and stations for some 30 to 40 years and now he has decided to put up the entire collection for sale. Michel has noted in the catalog that his many friends in Paris started hunting for Marklin trains and were instrumental in helping him to build his collection. Michel did not limit his collecting to trains, but started off with French toy soldiers as well as French and Confederate weapons and French military paintings.
Michel adds a paragraph with information that bidders should know. “The collection is being sold in its entirety. I have held nothing back. There’s no point in doing that because at an auction preview, those who know a person’s collection will recognize if anything is missing that should have been included.”
Following is a list of some of the lots, and a number of pieces from his collection are pictured.
A Marklin 4-4-0 cast iron loco with NYC&HR tender clockwork driven, made for the American market, was in excellent condition and sold within estimate for $1,920. It was followed shortly by a Marklin C.P.R.R. Passenger Coach. The hand painted coach, with Canadian Pacific railroad markings in dark blue paint had orange window trim matching the trim on the trucks. The coach, 10½ inches long, in excellent condition, brought $4,500.
Lot 18, Marklin Grand Central Station, hand painted simulated brick work, opening doors with hand painted wood grain, sold for $21,600 to a phone bidder. The base of the station measures 15 by 8 inches. It was followed by a Marklin freight station with platform cranes and sliding yellow doors, and the wonderful colors give character to an otherwise generic building. It sits on a 12-by-6-inch base and sold to an absentee bidder for $2,160.
Selling for $1,140 to an absentee bidder was a hand painted Marklin Overhead Gantry Crane with many moving parts and a working chain drive system that rolls the trolley side to side. It is in very good condition and the hook can be raised to the height of 11 inches. Several lots later, a Marklin Twentieth Century Limited car painted in white with gold accents, red window trim and matching clerestory roof sold for $7,200, just over high estimate. It measures 12½ inches long and is in excellent condition.
A bid of $4,800 took a Marklin hand painted blue P.R.R. coach, a rare passenger car and a desirable paint scheme with Pennsylvania Railroad markings. Measuring 12 inches long, pristine condition, the car sold within estimate for $4,800. Lot 10 was the Marklin Budweiser beer car in a wonderful color scheme with cream colored sides and blue/gray ends that match the cars opening doors. This car has an amazing amount of detail shown in the white letter labeling and the car’s maximum loading capacity of 60,000 pounds. The car in excellent to pristine condition measures 12½ inches and sold for $12,000.
A Marklin hand painted 0-4-2 locomotive and tender, clockwork driven with cowcatcher and single bell, sold just under the low estimate for $3,000. This loco was 12 inches long and in pristine condition.
A Marklin “Garden” station, hand painted for the English market had impressive coloring and detailed embossed roof, tables and chairs mounted to the base and ornate castings on corners of the roof. The base measures 16 by 12 inches and sold within estimate for $3,300. One hour into the auction, lot 70, a Marklin US market standard gauge locomotive complete with cowcatcher and Lionel type coupler on the tender, sold for $1,440 within estimate.
Made for the US market was lot 98, a Marklin hand painted passenger car marked “Pullman” with five large open windows, four opening doors, faux wood paneling and detailed interior with passenger compartments. It is in excellent condition, 13 inches long and sold over estimate for $3,900. A set of three Marklin passenger cars for the British market included a sleeping, dining and corridor coach, measuring 13 inches long. In excellent condition the set sold for $6,600, within estimate.
The sale ended with a group of Marklin track art, one gauge, three rail-crossover switch track and hand painted three-rail turntable. This lot was in original condition and sold for $145.
A small selection of additional pieces from this collection will be sold by Bertoia in November.
The Frank Mohr Mechanical Toy Collection
Frank Mohr, a retired Presbyterian minister living in Naples, Fla, chose a path of collecting that included Fernand Martin, early American clockwork toys and automata.
Here is how the collection began. “I became friends with ATCA members Carl and Jessie Behr, who had a couple of toys I owned as a youngster and wanted very badly. They had a Pullman car that was outfitted and well detailed, with seating areas that were made into berths for sleeping. There were china ‘passengers’ – figures with strung arms and legs. Also, early on I bought a boat that was made just after the American Revolution. That was one of the oldest toys I ever purchased.”
Mohr acquired many Martins from Bob and Marianne Schneider and ended up with 134 Martins collected between 1980 and the present, including some prototypes that never went into production.
Native American Skooku dolls he has also collected, but he maintains that “the last toy I found is always my favorite.”
Following is an impressive list and photos of “favorites”:
Lot 148, a boxed Martin weight lifter, circa 1914, “L’Hercule Popularaire,” when wound, the strongman figure moves his arms as if lifting weights in an incredible feat of strength. Bidding for this pristine to near mint condition toy went over $9,000, selling for $11,400.
At the strike of noon, lot 151, another boxed toy, Martin Diablo Player, circa 1907, sold within estimate for $5,100. A young girl doing tricks with a diablo stick is mounted on a base that is clockwork-activated.
A whimsical clockwork toy “L’Homme toupie,” circa 1920, depicts a clown wearing a colorful costume and spins upside down on his hat when wound up. The figure is 7½ inches tall, pristine condition and sold for just over twice the high estimate at $6,600 to a phone bidder. Two lots later, a Martin Acrobatic Gymnast, circa 1905, sold for $15,600, over estimate to another phone bidder. This rare Martin design, a figure of a gymnast leans back and forth when activated, working his way down the parallel bars. It is 15 inches long and in excellent condition.
Dating circa 1883, the Tireless Blacksmiths by Martin had a high estimate of $3,000 and sold to another phone bidder for $5,400. This toy is an early rubber band-driven toy that has two blacksmiths working tirelessly, moving up and down as if hammering away at an anvil.
Lot 185, a musical, mechanical acrobatic clown, is an excellent example of a nearly impeccable figure with well functioning, balancing acts in almost original condition. When activated, music plays and the clown escalates to a horizontal position by slowly pushing the chairs outwardly until only the forward feet are touching the floor. This toy, 19 inches high, including base, is in pristine condition and sold to a bidder in the gallery for $6,000, the high estimate.
One of the most coveted of automata with incredible complexity and coordination of movements, in fine working order, if not all original, is a seated man, papier mache head, with a heaving chest, lowers right arm down to feed his papier mache pig, constantly tapping his right foot while his head turns side to side. This figure with chair is 31 inches high and is in very good to excellent condition. It fell just short of the estimate, selling for $10,800.
Selling for $12,000, the high estimate, was a musical automaton with a rare Jumeau “211” Leopard Lambert “Crying Child” with an open/close mouth, crying with narrow eye cuts and two glass tears, standing in her original silk costume. In her right hand she holds strings to her damaged Polichinelle who has a broken right leg. As music plays she moves a handkerchief to dry her tears as her head moves side to side to lament the damage that has just occurred. This piece measures 20 inches high, including base, in pristine condition and was ex Gail Cook collection.
Lot 204, a George Brown Clockwork Fire Engine, circa 1870, of heavy gauge tin and white metal, replicates the real Lee and Larnard fire engine manufactured in Philadelphia. It measures 10.8 inches, in very good condition and sold just above the high estimate for $6,600. Another George Brown toy, Girl in Cart, circa 1870, with a single galloping horse and a girl seated in a red cart, excellent condition, sold just under estimate at $1,920.
Towards the end of the sale, the whimsical Boy Riding in Duck Drawn Carriage, very colorful and in pristine to near mint condition, sold for $10,800 to a phone bidder. Wires are connected the duck’s webbed feet, and as the toy is pushed or pulled, the feet move one at a time, front then back. The paint is bright and luminous and the toy measures 15 inches long. The following lot features General Grant seated in a red cast iron chair on a wood box smoking a cigarette. Patented in 1877 by Albert H. Dean, this extremely rare clockwork toy is in working condition. When the general seemingly lifts the cigarette, he moves his head to one side and exhales perfect smoke rings. A fabulous offering in pristine condition. It sold for $18,000, well over the $12,000 high estimate.
More toys from the Mohr collection will be offered in the spring.
The Douglas Jackman Still Bank Collection
How many years does it take to build a still bank collection to a 1,295 count? Ask Douglas Jackman of Rockingham, Vt., and he will tell you close to 40 years. And he can prove it by the stack of 3-by-5 index cards, one per bank, with the name of the bank, where he found it, its measurements and how much he paid. All that in the age of computers.
Jackman bought his first bank in Woodbury from Wayne Pratt, a large lion which he has to this day, and the Alphabet bank, a bank he looked for many years to acquire, came his way from a neighbor who had bought it at the Springfield Antiques Show. Another still bank that Jackman kept his eyes open for was the Bear Standing on a Log. “I vacationed in Florida years ago and spent hours haunting flea markets and group shops,” he said. Then one day “there it was in a group shop and for only $40,” he said.
“Since my collection left for Bertoia, I have bought just one still bank, could not pass it up,” Jackman said. It appears now that banks will play a smaller part in his life and he will increase his attention to collecting Native American artifacts, including beadwork and moccasins. Happy Hunting.
About one hour before lot 297, a large cupola still bank crossed the block, two or three men known to the still bank world came into the gallery after eyeballing the three glass cases that held the first session of the Jackman collection to be auctioned by Bertoia. As time passed, more members of SBCCA, Still Bank Collectors Club of America, came into the gallery, but quickly gravitated to the lunch room, not for a sandwich but to talk banks.
By the time the large cupola in wonderful red (pictured) sold for $2,700, all bidders were in place, most seated in the gallery, but with a couple of bidders still roaming about.
Four lots into the sale brought a Building With Belfry still bank by Kenton, 8 inches tall, that sold below estimate at $1,080, while a Tiered High Rise still bank, Kenton again, 6 inches tall, excellent to pristine condition, sold for $840.
Measuring 8½ inches tall, the largest flat iron building of a series of four by Kenton, sold for $1,200, within estimate and in excellent condition.
Several lots later an Arched Safe bank with finial, 4 inches tall, very strong japanning, mint condition, sold over estimate for $1,080.
Lot 317, Harper’s McKinney safe, one of a series, measuring 6 inches tall, sold for $6,000, above the $2,000 high estimate. Lot 332, the four passenger Auto by A.C. Williams, 6½ inches long, excellent condition, sold for $800.
Page 117 of the catalog showed an interesting collection of small buildings, including lot 341, a small cupola by J&E Stevens, 3½ inches tall, pristine condition, that sold for $1,800, better than twice the high estimate. This bank had a yellow body, red roof with yellow striping and a chimney top and front stairs in green. The next lot, the medium cupola, also by J&E Stevens, 4¼ inches tall, pristine condition, went over the $600 estimate, selling for $1,560. The color scheme for this bank includes cream walls, red and green roof, green front steps and red trim at the corners.
One of the largest banks in the auction was City Bank with an eagle finial, extremely rare with great casting for such a large bank, 12 inches tall, and in excellent condition, which sold for $4,500, its high estimate. A bid of $1,320, above high estimate, bought the Cannon still bank by Hubley, 8 inches long, very good condition, and the Kenton round duck in yellow and red, pristine condition, went over estimate for $780.
The second City Bank with crown, 5½ inches tall, with red and green roofs, blue body and red foundation, went over the $1,400 high estimate, selling for $42,700, while the National Safe Deposit Bank, 6 inches tall and in pristine condition, topped the $200 high estimate bringing $660.
A colorful bank was lot 418, Frog on Lattice, 4¾ inches tall, that sold for $1,440, above the high estimate. This bank was originally in the Edwin Mosler collection and it retains the original blue painted frog with yellow spots and orange lattice bordered by two different shades of green. Selling within estimate was a small Crown Bank on legs by J&E Stevens, bringing $1,200, and in excellent condition. This bank had some unusual coloring with a blue roof.
Near the end of the sale was lot 81, an English Column bank, that sold for $4,200, just over the high estimate. This bank is in pristine near mint condition and is one of only a few known.
A display case in the gallery is now filled with more of the Douglas Jackman collection for inspection and part of the remainder of the banks that will be sold during Bertoia’s early spring sale.
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