Published: June 26, 2018
Review by R. Scudder Smith, Photos Courtesy RSL Auctions
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – Pictures of 29 colorful toys, representing many makers, brightened both the front and back of the auction catalog for “An Exceptional Collection of European and American Toys” at RSL Auctions on June 3. Richard Opfer called the auction, which started at 10 am, and the 171 lots brought in a total of $590,760. The grand total for the weekend’s four sessions was $2,898,192.
Leon Weiss, president of RSL, noted that “substantially, this was a one-owner sale with all Lehmann and American toys, as well as 95 percent of the painted German toys, coming from one collector, while the Schuco and Kobe novelty toys came from other collectors.”
It would be virtually impossible to even imagine the sound that would be made if the first four lots were all set in motion at the same time. Think about it, with Abner’s Dog Patch Band, Howdy Doody Band and Ham and Sam Minstrel Team joining up with Marx Merry Makers. Better to focus on condition and age of the lots, with Abner dating late 1940s, pristine with box, that brought $390, within estimate; Howdy Doody, near mint and boxed, same age and selling for $840, below estimate; pristine and boxed were Ham and Sam, circa mid-1920s, for $450, just under estimate; and also pristine and boxed were the Marx Merry Makers at $1,080.
German lithographed tin toys included The Clown Artist by Vielmetter, circa 1890s, pristine-plus with the rare original box, at $4,800, within estimate, and the black and red limousine, Gehrueder, late 1920s, excellent-plus, going for $1,080, just over estimate.
Bidding in the room, on the phone, left bids and on the web picked up when lot 526, Walking Down Broadway, known as the Lehmann family, was offered. This lot, pictured left, was the first of the Lehmann toys offered. Among the popular toys was the Oriental themed Nu-Nu, Chinaman with Tea Chest, pristine condition and with a rare, original box. It sold for $6,000, twice the high estimate.
Man Da Rin, the rare blue tunics and pants version, production run 1905-40, was in near mint condition with a quality original box. This toy represents the early version of the toy where the shafts are on the outside of the sedan chair. With a high estimate of $4,500, it sold for $6,600. A bid of $9,000 doubled the high estimate and bought Doll in Swing, production run 1894-99, in pristine-plus condition and with the original bisque doll. Lehmann only produced this toy for a few short years, making it difficult for collectors to acquire a superlative specimen like this one. Several lots later, Primus, the Roller Skater, in pristine and bright condition, sold over the high estimate for $8,400. Primus is one of Lehmann’s most fascinating toys. Its straight-forward motion is created by the repeated spreading and closing of the figure’s legs.
A popular lot was Skirolf, The Alpine Skier, mint and bright with a very rare box, which went over the $9,500 estimate, selling for $12,000. The spring drive is operated with the movement of the arms that jerk up and then drop down, allowing the ski poles to push forward. This toy was expensive from the start and had a relatively short production run.
Five articulated figures filled one page, including Mutt and Jeff by Bucherer Doll Company, Switzerland, circa 1920, mint with box, that brought $1,080. The provenance listed Donal Markey, and these dolls were marketed under the SABA dolls name. A rare Charlie Chaplin doll, same maker and in pristine-plus condition, sold for $540.
Fourteen colorful early American toys included a Two-Horse Mechanical Gig by George Brown, Forestville, Conn., circa 1875, pristine and boxed. It went for $9,000, above estimate, and was followed by a large Two-Horse Mechanical Gig, also by Brown, circa 1875, pristine, for $9,000. This toy was originally in the collection of renowned pioneer collector Louis Hertz.
The Kobe Novelty Toys, a line that was made for the tourist trade, included a Classic Sake Drinker, Japanese, circa 1940, mint and boxed, for $570, over estimate, and shown with the Schuco Toys was Teddy Bear on Scooter, circa mid-1930s, near mint, for $780, just shy of the high estimate.
German painted novelty toys brought up the end of the auction, with 42 colorful examples offered, and bidding got going with a swirling pair of Tango Dancers by Sigmund Gunthermann, circa 1910, pristine and boxed, that sold to the internet for $1,560.
Boy Riding on his Brother’s Back, a rare toy also by Gunthermann, late 1890s and in excellent condition, brought $4,500, better than twice the high estimate, and The Street Musicians, a super rare and important toy, also by Gunthermann, circa 1890s and in excellent condition, sold for $12,000, twice the high estimate. The catalog notes that “to our knowledge, this is the first time that this toy has showed up for sale at an auction.”
Selling for $13,200, over the $8,000 high estimate, was Mother Pushing Her Children in the Pram, another Gunthermann toy in pristine-plus condition. At this time there are no other known examples of this toy. The same maker was responsible for the Fantasy Carnival Ride with Canoes and Whale-Shaped Gondolas, 13 inches tall, pristine and bright, that went for $11,400. The very existence of this large, fragile toy is nothing short of amazing.
More of the collections of Dr Z, including mechanical banks, 200-250 still banks, and perhaps about 100 toys, will be sold at RSL on October 27.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 908-823-4049 or www.rslauctionco.com.
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