Published: April 22, 2016
Review by Andrea Valluzzo
Photos Courtesy Bertoia Auctions
VINELAND, N.J. — Collected over decades, Jerry and Nina Greene’s collection of toy trains and accessories featured many rarities that buyers have not seen available in quite a while, and the market reacted accordingly, driving Bertoia Auctions’ single-owner sale of the collection April 10 well over estimate to nearly $1.2 million.
“That’s the success of a great auction: a happy consignor, happy buyers and strong prices,” said Jeanne Bertoia, describing the sale as “just a stellar, stellar sale. We set new world records and there were lots of highs and also there were some great buys. People were very happy getting a sleeper here and there, there was something for everyone.” Jerry and Nina Greene, along their children, Melissa and Michael, attended the auction, sitting in the back of the room, and were very pleased with the results, Jeanne said.
Numbers do not tell the whole story, but in this case they paint a fairly solid picture of a solid market for this collecting field. Forty percent of the lots sold above high estimate, while 20 percent went for more than triple estimate. And it was not just the expected standouts that performed well, but many lots across the board, whether European or American.
The bulk of the higher-priced lots went to floor bidders, but bidding was spread fairly even across platforms, with 35 percent of lots going to the house, 14 percent to absentee bids, another 14 percent to the phone and 37 percent to the Internet.
The advent of online bidding has dampened crowds at many auctions today but specialty sales such as this still routinely draw crowds. The in-house attendance was good, with one gentleman flying in from Switzerland to attend and bidders from Belgium and Germany also. “We had a very nice crowd — one of the largest crowds in years,” Bertoia said. “We also had a full array of phone banks and lots of phone activity. We were calling a lot of Europeans throughout the sale as well as people in the United States.”
It was not a surprise that renowned toy maker Marklin dominated the sale, with Marklin trains, stations and accessories bringing some of the highest prices of the day, but what was interesting to note was that most of the Marklin highlights are staying right in the United States postsale, and not going back to Germany.
The top lot of the sale, for example, a beautifully made Marklin tunnel with castle tower in terrific condition, brought $84,000, well over its $18/22,000 estimate, selling to an American collector. A Bing Jupiter gauge III passenger set also went to a US buyer, fetching $48,000 to outperform its $25/30,000 estimate. Both were auction record prices. Jerry Greene bought the Bing at the Ward Kimball sale.
“The pieces with the most rarity and best condition, like in all antiques, were the stars of the show,” Bertoia said.
Other Marklin standouts were a rare station with walk-up steps on three sides, two chimneys and ornate side gables that went for $42,000, a rare tunnel with a cannon battery that outdid its $5/7,000 estimate to attain $27,000 and a three-arm lamp ($6/8,000) in painted cast iron with a swan neck that took $19,200.
While most of the items on offer were by European makers, a nice selection of American examples crossed the block, led by a pair of Lionel power and trailer trolleys, No. 4400, in yellow paint, leaving its $3/4,000 estimate in the dust to fetch $20,400, while a Voltamp 2219 trolley in light blue sped past its $2,5/3,000 estimate to realize $11,400.
Other American trains outperforming their estimates were a scarce Carlisle & Finch No. 19 summer trolley painted yellow and orange that made $5,700; an Ives 3243 set with locomotive and three coaches more than doubling high estimate to earn $4,800 and an Ives flat bed circus car, circa 1928, with wagons, making $7,800.
“Even if it’s not a record price but just a strong price, it shows a strong market for the high quality pieces and it shows a strong market in general for collectors at all levels,” Bertoia said.
Rounding out the auction, which was called by Tim Luke and Michael Bertoia, was an AEG electric locomotive with an unusual die-cast body that quadrupled its estimate to bring $2,700.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.bertoiaauctions.com or 856-692-1881.
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