Absentee bidders were anything but absent as Noel Barrett Auctions raked in $1,235,000 at its June 16‱7 antique toy auction.
“We were very pleased with the gross, which was 15 percent above the overall high estimate,” said Noel Barrett. “Overseas and Internet bidders played a big part in the sale’s success. That added about $150,000 to the two-day total.”
Topping the tinplate clockwork toys was a circa 1905 Marklin Providence side-wheeler boat that had been estimated at $40/50,000. The scarce 26-inch craft was in a well-preserved state, with only minor bits of paint loss noted here and there. Condition proved to be the key to its doubling expectations and achieving a $99,000 winning bid.
Another solid performer was the Carette 2350 O-gauge passenger train set that Barrett referred to as “a gem&⁷ith amazing detail.” The scarce clockwork counterpart to a larger, more commonly encountered live-steam version, the set comprised of loco, tender and three passenger cars, caused a bidding frenzy, ultimately selling for $35,750 against an estimate of $10/12,000.
The sale contained a number of clockwork toys and patent models that had come from a local consignor in New Hope. “The patent models flew,” Barrett said. “For years, this category languished †nobody wanted them.”
Offerings included an 1873 painted wood and tin example featuring a clockwork Irishman that, when activated, could “dance” on a stand of recycled cigar boxes. Subsequently, this design was adapted by the distinguished American toymaker Ives Blakeslee & Co. Here, the patent model soared above its $300/400 estimate to achieve $6,600.
While the primarily German-made penny toys in the sale were “all over the field, some high and some low,” Barrett said the market showed no reticence in its demand for early American toys. A Kyser & Rex painted cast iron bell toy known as “Miss Liberty,” complete with a figure of the American icon and an eagle finial on the bell, rang up $29,700, triple its high estimate.
Two desirable Nineteenth Century clockwork toys featuring clothed figures holding props †Ives’ General Grant Smoker and Secor’s African American Banjo Player †earned $18,700 and $22,000, respectively. Both prices were well above estimate.
A well-publicized highlight of the sale was the Paul Neuman collection of Eighteenth, Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century architectural building sets. While there were disappointments at the lower end, Barrett said the better examples “held their own, and the really fine sets that crossed other categories did very well. The total high estimate for the collection had been set at $156,000. With the buyer’s premium included, we easily surpassed that figure.”
Barrett said many of the architectural sets were purchased by bidders located outside the United States.
An Italian collector prevailed on the top lot of the group, an 1850 boxed set ($2,5/3,500), the contents of which construct a scale-model Russian monastery. It sold for $9,350. An absentee bid of $8,250, lodged by a German collector, was enough to take home a Tower Target set. Estimated at $1,8/2,000, the finished set replicates a Sixteenth Century tower that was part of Nuremberg, Germany’s, walled defenses.
There seemed no shortage of interested suitors for the varied selection of cast iron mechanical banks in the sale. Leading the category was an intricately designed J.&E. Stevens cast iron Girl Skipping Rope bank with robust clockwork mechanism. It surpassed expectations to realize $16,500. Barrett noted that there had been “big Internet support” for the banks, and that they had performed well, even with a small crowd present for that particular segment of the sale.
An entry that attracted widespread interest was the J.&E. Stevens sample book with hand colored illustrations of the company’s toys. In the catalog description, Barrett elaborated on its striking similarities to the famed George Brown Sketchbook. Estimated at $3/5,000, the sample book was pushed to $27,500.
A bit of provenance could be found in the Stevens sample book’s flyleaf, a notation reading: “If this book should be lost The Finder will please return it by Express to J.&E. Stevens of Cromwell, Middlesex Co., Conn. who will pay all expenses and reward them for so doing.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Noel Barrett Auctions will not be holding a fall sale, as is its usual custom. Instead, Barrett said, his team is concentrating on an April sale of toys and trains that already has attracted a number of fine consignments. Barrett’s will also conduct an October 2008 auction event. For information, 215-297-5109 or www.noelbarrett.com .