Published: November 19, 2002
By Nancy Vozar
LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — On a Saturday morning in November, the auction gallery became the peanut gallery with the sale of Howdy Doody at Noel Barrett’s toy auction. Although the Howdy Doody that was sold was not one of the two “original” ones designed for NBC in 1948, it is the nearest thing to what Howdy Doody was like when the popular children’s television series was in its prime.
Appendages were key in helping date this early model. Unlike later marionettes, this one had an early, unhinged, wooden cowboy boots design. Later marionettes had jointed boots for more human-like dancing moves on camera. The hands also had the original brown-gloved look. But what made this such a choice rdf_Description for the Howdy Doody aficionado was that it is probably the earliest example that will ever be offered at auction and it is as near to the original as exists. Free of any restoration, it is in “as used” condition with a rich patina of age. Obviously fans agreed that an unimproved gem was worth bucks because when the gavel feel the selling price was a whopping $23,100.
While Howdy may have been the “stud-of-the-day,” it was clear that he was not the only attraction in town. The two-day auction comprised of 872 lots included everything from Howdy to Halloween, and automaton. It drew worldwide attention with 300 registered bidders in the hall and approximately 200 successful absentee and on-line bidders. For those unable to travel, this multiconsignor sale could be followed on eBay Live Auctions.
Friday evening’s sale of the first 250 lots focused on Schoenhut toys, Halloween and Christmas rdf_Descriptions. Of the Schoenhut selections, a special painted wood bread wagon complete with original horse and driver sold at $4,400. And even though Halloween was over, patrons found two lots quite a treat. The first was a composition and wood, colorfully dressed jack-o’-lantern man walker with a clockwork mechanism. Despite a slight repair and crack, it sold for $3,080. A unique wooden veggie man was truly a harvest bounty. With a pumpkin head, melon body, parsnip arms, carrot nose, cucumber legs and potato feet it went to a lucky bidder for $3,750.
The next day proved to be equally exciting in a number of categories. A one-of-a-kind, large scale, bowling clockwork automaton set the tone for the day. Designed with a complex mechanism, three bisque head dolls actually simulate a game of bowling, which includes an automatic resetting of the pins. Sold with three mechanical drawings and 1907 patent papers that illustrated the device, it realized $17,600.
Collectors of horse-drawn and early automotive toys had a number of lots to hold their attention. In this category, the highlight of the day was a hand enameled, heavy tin Marklin limousine. Outfitted with a sophisticated clockwork mechanism, it retains its original crank, rubber tires, red rubber stamp Marklin logo, and rubber stamp license plate. It sped out of the gallery at $40,700. Also indicative of Marklin craftsmanship was another richly hand enameled open touring car, with original side and head lamp, original steering wheel and crank that was purchased for $26,400. A French motorized omnibus, a charming reminder of a bygone Paris, sold for $11,550.
Several Bing automotives were also popular. An extremely high quality Bing town car taxi with its original nickel plated side and head lamps, maker’s plate and taxi meter mounted on right side cowl sold for $18,150. A Bing rear entry tonneau with a clockwork mechanism that also activated a scarce bellows horn mechanism left the block at $17,600. An extremely scarce version of a Carette runabout in a rare dark blue color (only two to three known to exist), retaining its original Carette decal, sold for $11,550.
Of the miniature race cars offered at the sale, the winner was a Richard Beggs superb B.B. Korn double blower racer. Only one of two to feature twin, circa 1940s Super Cyclone .60 ignition engines, its outstanding workmanship and attention to detail were acknowledged by collectors who helped it pass the checkered flag at $16,500.
Two one-eighth scale, limited edition German car models made by Dr Huber Haderthauer were put on the block. Both were faithful reproductions of their full-size versions in every detail from their complex engines down to their gearbox and built from the same materials as the real cars. The 1929 Bentley 4.5 liter supercharged model, with 4,100 exact replica parts that took three years to develop, was hammered down at $13,200. The 1908 Mercer roundabout model, with more than 2,900 exact replica parts, sold for $8,250.
A standout among the lithographed paper on wood toys was a Reed band wagon. The high price it fetched reflects its colorful, like-new, condition. Complete with 15 band members and a drum major, it marched out the door at $8,470.
Many patrons were able to engineer winning bids for the toy trains they wanted. An extremely rare and highly sought-after Marklin Midland train set, powered by live steam, barreled down the tracks at $20,900. A Marklin rack railway hill climber set, which included a seldom seen and very desirable #20 baggage wagon in original condition, sold for $14,300. A Bing clockwork bridge, a possible prototype since it can not be found in any catalogs, sold along with its original box for $14,300.
Several fresh-to-the-market estate rdf_Descriptions that were in excellent original condition also proved to be strong crowd pleasers. One of the first trains made by Lionel, B&O No. 5 locomotive, was hammered down at $12,100. A painted cast-iron artillery bank by J.&E. Stevens shot up to $14,300 before the gavel dropped down.
Prices include a ten percent buyers premium.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm