Published: July 15, 2003
– As we drove past 60 Bridge Street in Lambertville to the spring Noel Barrett toy auction, we passed the former home of James Wilson Marshall, the prospector who discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in California — the catalyst of the 1849 Gold Rush.
It was fitting that Barrett’s toy auction was held in the hometown of Marshall, since “gold” was discovered May 30, 31 and June 1 in a sale that grossed $1.2 million (including buyer’s premium).
The 530 registered bidders were joined by online (eBay Live Auctions) participants aggressively competing for 1,585 lots. At the conclusion of the sale, we learned that there were 150 successful eBay bidders and worldwide interest, as toys were shipped to Japan, England, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.
Each of the three auction sessions had a distinct focus. Friday evening’s event featured the Campanelli collection of Halloween rdf_Descriptions. On Saturday the John Harling collection of trains and steam toys took center stage, and the weekend concluded on Sunday with Ferdinand Zegel’s automotive toy collection. Rounding out the sale were rdf_Descriptions from other consignors, including some fresh-to-the-market attic finds from the original owners or their heirs.
Capturing first place as the top sale of the weekend was a Marklin 1 gauge donkey car with steam crane. Showcased as an extremely early and very scarce hand enameled tin Marklin car live steam operated crane, it measured 101/2 inches in length. It was sold with boiler, gears, drive rods, piston chamber caps all made of brass and what appeared to be its original burner.
A label on the boiler stated, “W. Gamage Ltd. – Holburn – London – Made in Germany.” A hand crank rotated the entire structure. The base of the steam plant was cast-iron along with the painted and nickel plated flywheel. Bidding opened at $10,000 and quickly heated up to its selling price of $30,800. Acquiring this gem was a toy collector who made the trip from Cologne, Germany.
An extremely desirable, eight-inch-tall Marklin restaurant whet the appetite of the gallery as it crossed the block. A scarce accessory building to acquire, it was designed with cast-lead flourishes surrounding two open windows and an elaborate scrollwork pediment above a sliding glass center window. The copper-toned roof was outlined with gilded pressed tin fretwork broken by the transfer painted sign “Restauration.” The outside was hand enameled with a pink and red stripe and interior detailing that included an ornamental bracket supported shelving with gallery rails, a triptych mirror and a counter finished with a faux marble top. It served up the right fare at $28,600. Bon appetite!
In the same genre, a Marklin 2 gauge onion dome station also caught the attention of buyers. Made for the German market, this 141/2-inch-tall example was designed with two roof sections that remove to display completely outfitted interiors of a restaurant and telegraph office. Details include its original frosted glass windows, two faux marble painted tables, four scroll back chairs and ten doors that open to the interior. It exchanged hands at $18,700.
Bringing the same money was a very early and extremely scarce American-made Howard four-piece freight set with a 4-4-0 electrically powered engine. A Carette 3 gauge train set with its original box sold for $11,000. A circa 1880 painted tin clockwork 1 gauge train set, perhaps made by Rock & Graner, that consisted of a tender, baggage car, and first and second class passenger coaches, raced away at $9,350 to a phone bidder. A very scarce Hubley elevated railway clockwork toy that was offered with two engines, a tender, two passenger coaches and a spare metal track exchanged hands at $8,800. With interest from the phones as well as the floor, a Howard NYC & HRR locomotive and gondola sold for $7,150.
The lot comprised ten lithographed paper-on-wood cutout figures of Mickey Dugan (each with a different saying related to bowling along with a simulated signature of his creator) and two of the original wooden balls. Helping add to its value was the wonderful color retention of both the figures and the box cover. With all the phone lines seeing action, bidding started at $5,000. But one by one the phones dropped out much like bowling pins knocked down in a lane, until the sole pin standing — a floor bidder — secured the winning bid of $26,400.
Strike up the band! A rare, fresh-to-the-market Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty circus bandwagon also garnered attention from the crowd. An impressive 42 inches long, it was designed with four jointed wooden horses on two wheeled platforms that pull an elaborate circus parade-style wagon. Seated inside the wagon were seven fully jointed bandsman outfitted with carved wood helmets and instruments. With an opening bid of $10,000, it harmoniously played its way to a high note of $26,400.
Near the conclusion of the sale a Keystone coast-to-coast, 31-inch-long bus, with its original box, crossed the block. This painted pressed steel toy, with its original decals, was purchased from Gimbel’s Department Store and given to the consignor in 1931 when she was just 3 years old. It brought $24,200 from a floor bidder who, as it turned out, was seated only several seats away from the consignor. As one auction patron mused, “If Gimbel’s had had the foresight to store these toys away in their company vault, they would be back in business today.”
No, it was not Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. It was more like “Of Mice and Machine Man” for a Steiff doll and a Modern Toys robot. The Steiff Mickey Mouse doll had everything going for it: super-size (18 inches from bottom of booties to tip of mouse ears), chest and ear tags, button, foot stamp, and, the pièce de résistance, blue color pants — the rarest color in Mickey’s wardrobe. Mighty Mickey went to a phone bidder for $13,750.
A 12-inch Steiff Mickey Mouse with a chest tag, button and ear tag that were all in perfect condition found a new home for $4,720. Among the “Gang of Five,” the hardest-to-find Modern Toys Machine Man robot went to a phone bidder for $14,300.
There was certainly nothing soft and fluffy about the price realized for a Bing cotton mill steam accessory. Made for the American market, this extremely scarce painted tin and wire toy featured a yarn winder, loom and washing device that were all operated from a central drive shaft. It sold for $13,750.
Other notable lots included a nine-inch Schoenhut Teddy Roosevelt that was attired in a safari outfit. With its original helmet and rifle, it became the new owner’s trophy for $3,080. An extremely scarce Old South Church bank sold for $3,960. It took $4,400 in savings to secure the winning bid for a Stevens Darktown battery mechanical bank, while a Stevens Indian and bear was captured for $2,860. For $5,390 you could have left the gallery with a rare size (151/2 length) early French painted tin motorized coach. A floor bidder successfully acquired a clockwork Bing Boston lithographed tin store van for $3,410.
Bringing the same money was a Kico boy on motorcycle. A Marklin Central Bahnhof left its station for $4,180. A circa 1905 Marklin passenger shed was purchased for $3,520. An extremely scarce Bing 1 gauge gantry crane hoisted a winning bid of $4,180. Bringing $4,950 was a Knapp powered gondola car set. A cast aluminum AC Williams twin coach made it to $3,520.
Speeding out of the gallery at $3,080 was a Hubley traffic car motorcycle. A Smith Miller Blue Diamond cement mixer went to winning bidder for $2,860. A fashionable Steelcraft Bloomingdale’s delivery van could set a new trend by selling for $2,970. Exchanging hands at $3,740 was a Buddy L junior air mail truck. A Sturditoy side dump coal truck was unloaded at $3,422 and a Hubley four-seat brake did not stop until the hammer dropped at 5,720.
Several other steam driven toys also volatilized bidders. Made with remarkable attention to detail a Weeden live steam fire pumper that featured a double oscillating cylinder engine and brass boiler with simulated rivets sold for $5,500, while a Buckman live steam engine fire pumper left the gallery for $3,850. A Schoenner 3.5 gauge 4-2-0 live steam set consisting of a European profile stork leg engine and tender along with a passenger coach was hammered down at $5,720. Selling for $4,400 was an English profile Bing 1 gauge 4-4-0 live steam engine and tender. A Bing live steam yard crane brought $5,500.
Maritime toy collectors were ready on deck as several Bing ships were about to set sail for new ports. All three lots were enameled tin with a clockwork mechanism. A circa 1914 Bing Leviathan (next to the largest liner from the Third Series era of Bing boat production) was finalized at $4,620. Purchased for $3,750 was a circa 1912 Bing 4 stack ocean liner (next to the largest liner from the Second Series era of Bing boats). No one was frightened when a circa 1902-1905 Bing cruiser Terror brought $3,080.
Some sweet sales also occurred during the Friday evening sale session when the Halloween rdf_Descriptions crossed the block. A sitting pretty black cat candy container sold for $1,210. For $990 you could have been the new owner of a crouching black cat candy container. A glass witch candy container sold for $1,062. An early German witch squeak toy made its way to $1,265.
Prices quoted include a ten percent buyer’s premium.
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