Published: November 13, 2001
Buddy ‘L’ Motor Coach Outdistances the Competition in $1.7 Million Inman Auction
By Catherine Saunders-Watson
ALLENTOWN, PENN. – Randy Inman’s October 12-14 auction at the Allentown Days Inn Conference Center was a powerful farewell to one of America’s all-time great toy collections: the Buddy ‘L’ Toy Company Archive.
Although the sale’s inventory contained fewer lots from the famous archive than the $2.5 million Inman sale of last March, it still attracted a full house of eager bidders, intent on buying from the prestigious factory cache. In all, $1.7 million (inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium) was spent during the three-day event, with a superb 1920s Buddy ‘L’ motor coach taking top lot honors at $44,000.
The opening session held on Friday evening, October 12, featured 499 lots of top quality Nineteenth Century/early Twentieth Century coin ops, antique advertising, figural doorstops and soda fountain rdf_Descriptions. A very rare oak-paneled Mills Double-Dewey slot machine with two separate playing sides was a stellar entry, finishing at $20,900, but there were many other desirable lots more suited to mainstream pocketbooks, e.g., the Mills Jockey five-reel penny in the slot machine, which sold for $4,510.
Advertising signs proved their continuing popularity. A circa 1910 embossed Hires root beer sign featuring an ethereal beauty of that era and described as “previously unknown to the collecting field” brought $6,820, exceeding its upper estimate. A particularly well-detailed Hasterlik Bros. Wine & Liquor Merchants sign with Western motif made $7,150, while a very rare 1913 soft drink ad jointly promoting Coca-Cola and Goldelle Ginger Ale took in $7,700, a fine result for a paper roll-down sign.
Of the 54 cast iron doorstops offered — all from a private collection — the most avidly pursued was a nicely patinated handpainted giraffe, which more than doubled its lower estimate at $3,190.
Days two and three of the 1815-lot auction drew a completely different crowd than that of the opening session, with one buyer flying in all the way from Switzerland just to attend the sale. Toys took center stage, with the Buddy ‘L’ powerhouse pieces — hidden in a warehouse for more than a quarter-century — poised for auction room combat. A boxed 1930s International series Railway Express truck with Wrigley’s chewing gum ads on the side panels rolled over its $3500/4500 estimate to deliver the goods at $17,600. Likewise, a 1938 sit-n-ride Shell tanker truck decorated in trademark yellow and red colors and accompanied by its original box demolished an $8/12,000 estimate to cross the finish line at $22,000.
One after another, the premium-quality Buddy ‘L’ construction, fire and delivery vehicles exceeded even the most ambitious expectations. A boxed Curtiss Candies advertising truck earned $13,200, while a boxed 1938 Pure Ice sit-n-ride truck, complete with canvas cover and ice tongs, dazzled at $23,200. But the undeniable top dog of all the Buddy ‘L’ lots was a pristine 1920s green motor coach with nickel plated headlights and bumper, opening doors, side-mounted spare tires and still-attached factory tag. Bidders in the room, on the phones and via the absentee route chased it vigorously to a $44,000 conclusion, making it top lot of the day.
Many other categories of toys were offered, each classification boasting its own highlights. Of the robot group, a Masudaya Machine Man sold within estimate at $27,500; and a boxed Musical Drummer Robot in excellent to near-mint condition beat its predicted selling price at $16,500. Also drawing considerable interest was a very rare Bandai Super Cycle Space Patrol with seldom-seen original box, selling for $9,900 after a heated bidding battle over the phones.
In the pedal car section, a 1937 Skippy Chrysler Air-Flo impressed at $15,400 against an $8/12,000 estimate, while a Gendron “Columbia 6” with factory decal brought $23,100. A fine 70-inch American National Packard electric roadster advertising Sills Bros. Bakery dominated the group at $39,600.
A few other noteworthy prices from the many that were achieved in the sale included $14,300 for a Turner Toys 27-inch Lincoln sedan in scarce red coloration, $17,050 for a 26-inch Sturditoy ambulance, $4,180 for a Chein tinplate Popeye Heavy Hitter wind-up, $3,300 for a boxed Yonezawa 1964 friction Cadillac, and $6,270 for a Cor Cor maroon Graham salesman’s model automobile. Even the Hoenes Viking dump truck that was consigned too late to make the catalogue hammered down a healthy $16,500.
In all, it was a sensational weekend of buying, which overflowed into the conference center’s parking lot where an impromptu swap meet took place. Conducting business from the backs of trucks or on portable tables has developed into a tradition at Inman’s toy auctions, one that Randy Inman thinks is just fine. “If you can’t have fun at a toy auction, then where?” he remarked.
Although the wonderful Buddy ‘L’ Archive will always stand out as the most exciting part of Inman’s October 12-14 sale, there was one additional highlight that those who attended are not likely to ever forget: One hour into the Saturday session, a selection of firefighting toys and vintage firemen’s hats was auctioned off to benefit the New York 9-1-1 Disaster Relief Fund.
All rdf_Descriptions had been generously donated by collectors, many of whom were present at the auction, and when proceeds from the sale of the 15 lots were added to the cash contributions dropped into the collection box at the auction, the final tally came to more than $12,000, a wonderful result to stand alongside the $1.7 million auction total.
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