Published: May 23, 2023
Review by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Bertoia
VINELAND, N.J. — Bertoia Auctions’ sale May 11 included a printed catalog, while the sale on May 12 was online only; the company refers to this format as a “hybrid.” Both days offered live bidding in the gallery, along with internet, phone and absentee bidding. The sale achieved a cumulative total of about $600,000. It was built around two single-owner collections; one was automotive cast iron and the other was that of doorstops. Both collections had been built and refined over a 40-year period, with condition important to both collectors. There was also a large selection of mechanical banks as well as advertising and country store items, much of it automotive related. The second day included a wide selection of sets of European lead soldiers and figures. In addition, there were two carousel figures. Bertoia’s catalog listings provide detailed statements of condition.
Two of the top five items in the sale were trade signs; one was automotive and the other was probably intended for a country store or a soda-fountain. A new-old stock 53-inch tin Dr Pepper sign in near mint condition earned $13,200 and was the highest priced item in the sale. Bidders drove a 42-inch double-sided porcelain sign for a Buick service shop to $7,200.
The automotive cast iron toys sold were the second part of a large collection that Bertoia is dispersing. Topping the selection, earning $9,000, was a 15-inch Arcade gasoline truck with a white shovel nose, cataloged as being in excellent condition. It was the first item in the sale, and, finishing well above the estimate, got the day off to a good start. It was followed by other examples, with those made by Arcade doing particularly well. A white Bekins moving van, more than 13 inches long, went out at $7,200. It had been in the Donald Kaufman collection, which is still regarded as perhaps one of the finest ever assembled. Bertoia dispersed that collection in a series of five sales more than a decade ago, beginning in 2009. The hardcover catalogs produced for those sales are pricey reference books today.
Four Arcade taxi cabs were sold one after another, each still banks: a flat-top yellow cab with rubber tires and stenciled lettering ($3,900), a brown and white cab ($1,140), a Lincoln yellow cab ($960) and a flat-top green cab ($840). Examples by several other makers of cast iron toys were included with a Hubley Packard straight-eight sedan achieving $7,800 and a 10-inch Dent wrecker truck bringing $7,200. There were many others to choose from.
The selection of cast iron toys was extensive and included numerous pieces of horse-drawn fire equipment and wagons, but it was a “tally-ho” coach drawn by four horses that collectors liked best. Measuring 30 inches long and made by Carpenter, it had been restored and earned $4,200. A 44-inch hook and ladder truck pulled by four horses, which had also been restored, earned $2,700, while a 24-inch Pratt and Letchworth ladder truck that was drawn by two horses earned $1,800. A restored Hubley Royal Circus giraffe cage, with its giraffe and pulled by two horses earned $1,080, outpacing the $720 realized for a Royal Circus calliope wagon, also with two horses.
Banks included mechanical and still examples. The J&E Stevens “Cat and Mouse” mechanical bank led the way, finishing at $5,400, while a “Boy Scout” mechanical bank, also by J&E Stevens, finished at $4,200. Other mechanical banks included the “Picture Gallery,” the “Butting Buffalo,” the “Bulldog” and the “Lighthouse,” among others. Still banks were led by an Ives “Palace” bank, with a replaced tower that sold for $720 followed closely by “Old Abe,” the seated eagle, which sold for $660. A menagerie of still banks included ducks, elephants and rabbits.
There were about 70 lots of doorstops, many of which were also from a large single-owner collection that Bertoia has been dispersing; there will be more to come. By far the highest price, $6,600, was achieved by one of the rarest, which depicted a football player in full uniform holding a football as he is rushing forward. It presumably represents a Minnesota State University player, as MN is painted on his jersey. The uniform would seem to indicate a date in the 20s. After the sale, Jeanne Bertoia, herself a doorstop collector, noted that only four of these are known to exist. Three, including this one, are painted in the colors of different colleges and lettered appropriately; one is not lettered. Apparently, these were never made to be sold and neither their purpose nor maker is known.
Doorstop collectors had plenty to choose from: floral examples, cats, dogs, parrots, elephants, squirrels and other animals as well as various figures such as pirates, clowns, gnomes and even Popeye. Two black cats each sold for $510, an elephant sold for $600, lavender poppies in a basket sold for $540, a gnome sold for $720 and Popeye sold for $840. Little Red Riding Hood went home with someone for just $240.
In general, automotive advertising was a strong category, with a flanged Thompson Valve sign leading the selection as it realized $7,200. A sign in the form of an automobile battery, advertising Exide batteries realized $1,200. A 5-foot-tall Amalie Motor Oil sign, new-old stock, topped off at $2,700 immediately after a new-old stock Dunlop Tire sign, about the same size, brought $780. A framed Weed Chains poster went out at $4,800 and an Art Nouveau bicycle poster for Globe bicycles rode to a new home for $780. The category of collectible packaging included a single lot of 23 Handy Bulb tins, each lithographed, that sold for $600.
Country store items included a colorful Cherry Smash dispenser that brought $2,400 and two Hires Root Beer dispensers, one of which earned $720. An unusual counter-top unit for dispensing hot nuts — either five or ten cents worth — reached $1,440. There were gumball dispensers, advertising clocks, Coca-Cola and beer advertising trays, salesmen’s samples, scales and even a wall mounted 1940s rotary-dial telephone. The outstanding item in this category was a carved wooden cigar store figure by an anonymous carver, not of a Native American, but a Black man with a cigar in his mouth. It was probably a counter-top display which had later been mounted on a specially carved base, lettered “Uncle Joe Cigars 5 Cents.” With its added base, the figure stands 63 inch tall and realized $6,600.
There were two professionally restored carousel figures. One was an outer row prancing horse, with a parrot on the saddle, made by the Dentzel Company of Germantown, Penn., in 1903. It was originally used at the Willow Grove Amusement Park in Willow Grove, Penn,. In the 1960s, the carousel was dismantled and the horse was stored until the 1990s when it was sold and restored. It realized $8,400. The other was a circa 1910 goat by the Herschell Spillman Co of Towanda, N.Y. It was an outer row jumper used at Coney Island, had also been restored and leaped to $6,600.
The second day included a large selection of military vehicles and boxed sets of soldiers and other figures. The boxed C.B.G. Mignot set, #824, “Napoleon’s Imperial Carriage,” consisting of eight horses and seven figures earned $1,080. An unusual circa 1914 Mignot set featured a three-story dollhouse type of diorama that depicted the barracks of the French Cuirassiers drew a top bid of $660. Its box was shaped like a building and the set included 17 figures, seven horses, cots, tables and chairs. “Soldiers of the British Empire” by Hocker, set #48, “Naval Brigade Siege Artillery,” with the figures still tied on the card insert brought $390.
Prior to the sale, Jeanne Bertoia told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “some of the cast iron toys had been part of the landmark Don Kaufman collection which we sold in a series of sales more than 10 years ago. That gives today’s collector a chance to acquire items from one of the best collections ever assembled. Other items came from two collections that had been built over a long period of time. That’s also a plus for the new collectors just starting to assemble their own collections. They know they’re selecting from material that knowledgeable, long-time collectors had chosen to keep. And we’re seeing many new collectors coming into the toy world. Our sales do not have reserves and the previews allow for hands-on examination of each item and the opportunity to discuss things with other collectors and our staff.” After the sale, she added, “We did about $600,000 and that was about what we expected. In each of the categories, it was interesting to see that once again, condition was of prime importance.”
All prices include the buyers’ premium. For more information, www.bertoiaauctions.com or 856-692-1881.
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