Published: November 21, 2017
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
ALLENTOWN, PENN. – There is a convergence of philosophies when it comes to dealers setting up at the Allentown Antique Toy Show and Sale, which took up its annual throne at the Allentown Fairgrounds November 3-4. Dealers, let in to the open-air building at 9 am, are greeted with a room that you can see 150 feet clear across to the other side, only the structural posts hardly obstructing the view of the far wall. There are no booth walls. Wooden tables are laid out into their organized rows and each dealer knows which space is theirs to begin set up – and this is where it gets interesting – or not.
The Allentown Antique Toy Show and Sale, managed by David Bausch, is considered by many toy collectors and dealers to be a can’t-miss calendar event. As many dealers opined, it is the best antique toy show in the United States.
As I walked into the building 20 minutes past 10 am, the early buyers had already been let in to join the dealers. The place was buzzing. People were walking hurriedly down the aisles, 15-person mobs were forming in 8-foot-wide booths and people were wheeling and dealing in hushed voices. The energy was real.
By now, many of the dealers had their prize piece, or pieces, for sale on their tables, but you would be hard pressed to find them in their booths. Some dealers – the ones more concentrated on selling – could be found next to their inventory, displayed and presented in an organized manner, but it seemed as if they were in the true minority. Friday, the early buying day, is a crescendo period where buyers know that the rarest items get snatched up quick, and it was clearly evident that this was a serious affair between connoisseurs, historians, dealers and collectors. When one of the best toy buying fields presents itself to a knowledgeable buyer, selling can sometimes become an afterthought.
Jim Yeager’s booth was lit up with 12 people inside when I approached. The dealer made a few sales early on in the morning already and was excited to offer an early Hull & Stafford locomotive, circa 1860, with all original blue, yellow, red and black paint, the original bell and the name “Samson” emblazoned across the side.
Rich Garthoeffner, Lititz, Penn., brought a mix of toys, including a double Humpty Dumpty cap shooter, saying, “It’s one of the top five hardest cap shooters to find. It cost twice as much as the single Humpty Dumpty cap shooter then, and more than twice as much now.” The dealer also brought a Bing Works tin steam plant workshop, with litho and hand paint and a live steam engine inside. The child would fire up the steam engine by placing a lit flame inside and then play with all the accessories as it came alive, which included a drill press, grinder, lathe and hammering machine.
An exceptional pre-1900 German horse-drawn pumper with papier mache horses and composition drivers was in the booth of first-time exhibitor to the show Keith Yingling of Gettysburg, Penn. Yingling said, “It’s one of the nicest forms of a fire-related horse-drawn pumper that’s out there. It would have dispensed water, too.” He also had a 35-inch Marklin Battleship Milwaukee with a clockwork mechanism. “A couple of the cannons have a firing mechanism, but the majority are for display,” he said.
Mike Harrington took over the reins from his father, Russ Harrington, who passed away this September. The dealer brought along a selection of cast iron toys, pointing out some of the nicer examples in a horse-drawn P&L pumper, circa 1883, and a Hubley circus bandwagon.
Getting a good start to the show was Mike Cafarella, who displayed an Ives clockwork seesaw from the 1880s with a boy and girl on each side over a stenciled floral decoration fulcrum. He also had a horse head perambulator, a pair of Ives double dancers, a scarce Issmayer car and a Nineteenth Century dollhouse with all original wallpaper that had provenance to the Atlanta Toy Museum.
Leon and Steven Weiss from Gemini Antiques Ltd, Oldwick, N.J., were enthusiastically present. The dealers exhibited a rare example of the lake boat Atalanta, a clockwork toy from Ives, circa 1875. The piece was formerly in the collection of Louis Hertz and the dealers know of only three examples extant. They also showed off a tall Bunker Hill monument penny shoot from an unknown maker, which they believed came from a cottage industry in Massachusetts.
Lauren Rethwisch from Wooly Sheep Antiques, Robbinsville, N.J., a holiday antiques dealer, received a formidable crowd in front of her booth, later saying that she had sold well over 40 things in the few hours since opening. The dealer featured plenty of Christmas toys, including a German Santa candy container, circa 1915, made of papier mache with a lantern and pine crop. “This is a great show,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for 16 years. We’re here and it’s a madhouse, I love it. People were walking away with armfuls.”
Among a selection of cast iron mechanical and still banks with impeccable original paint, Don and Betty Jo Heim, Jersey Shore, Penn., were excited about showing their Vindex power shovel digger. The cast iron toy featured a green body with red tracks and gold digging arm. Heim said there are only a half-dozen known. Among his banks, Heim liked his J&E Stevens Darktown Battery example. “It’s got a lot of crossover,” he said. “Baseball, African Americana and bank collectors. It’s more desirable because of that.”
Britains lead soldiers were all that could be found in front of Joe Wallis, Arlington, Va. Wallis has written three books on Britains soldiers, documenting them from 1893 to 1966. Accordingly, he was a fount of knowledge on the subject. “The workmanship, craftsmanship and the history is all there, Wallis said. “Britains tried very hard to be accurate with the figures.”
When asked how things were going, Ray Haradin of Toys of Yesteryear let out a smile and said he had bought more than he had sold so far. He did not seem worried, though. Included on his table was a Lehmann Heavy Swell figure with his checkered coat, cane and key intact. On the other side was a box of Heyde Triumph of Germanicus toy soldiers, including Roman infantry and those on horseback, an elephant, two horse-drawn chariots and bear and hound handlers.
Hundreds of model planes could be found in the booth of Bob Post, Brewster, N.Y., who has been doing the show for the past 20 years. The planes came from a private collection that the dealer bought out and included models in metal, chrome, wood and steel. The collection included a number of topping models made in the 1940s-50s. “There’s a little bit of everything,” Post said. “Experimental planes through ashtray models. The larger models are popular and some airlines do better than others. I have between 500 and 800 models from this collection.”
Jeanne and Michael Bertoia from Bertoia Auctions were promoting their November 11-12 Signature Sale, which grossed $2.6 million in fine and rare toys. Jeanne was quick to point out the 28-inch Marklin Battleship Sankt Georg in the center of her booth, which brought $160,000 in the sale. Pointing to the German Santa figures on display, she said, “The holiday section of the sale has some of the finest quality Santas and Christmas items to come to the market in a long time.” A full review of that sale appears in this issue.
“It’s the only one I’ve ever seen,” said Tom Sage, regarding an Issmayer Brunnen, a tin toy with original paint that featured a woman pumping water. Martin released a similar version at a later date, giving rise to speculation that they copied the earlier Issmayer model, only changing the figure to a man. Sage reported a number of early sales and said that show was going well for him. “You can sell the good stuff if it’s in nice condition,” he said. “The good stuff always sells.”
By 1 pm on Friday, almost all the dealers had settled in and organized their tables. People were relaxed and old friends were catching up with each other outside of business. It comes in waves, I supposed, and the second wave, the Saturday opening to the general public, had not even happened yet.
On my way out the door at 2 pm, a flash mob of 17 people formed around the U-shaped tables of latecomers Hilmar Antiques. The relaxed scene whipped into a circus again. A joyful circus, one where the fun never ended. One where the toys were always being played with.
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