Published: July 2, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Greg Smith, Additional Photos Courtesy Pook & Pook Inc.
DOYLESTOWN, PENN. – With 452 lots on offer in Pook & Pook and Noel Barrett’s June 15 toy sale, bidders were treated to a colorful mix of fun-loving collectibles. The sale went 95 percent sold with a total hammer of $303,824. In-house bidders numbered to 39; phone and absentee to 26; and online bidders, all 878 of them between LiveAuctioneers and Bidsquare, came away with 65 percent of the lots.
“I’m not sure any categories jumped away from any others,” Noel Barrett said. “It was such a high-variety sale. The pressed steel held its own, the American tin did everything it was supposed to do. The salesman samples – which is a tough market – I was surprised with some elements of that.”
The sale was led by consignments from the Morton Hirschberg collection. Pook began selling the Hirschberg collection in the firm’s December 2018 sale and continued to move it along here with more than 130 steam toys on offer. Along with being a former president of Antique Toy Collectors of America, Hirschberg wrote the definitive book in its genre, Steam Toys: A Symphony In Motion (Schiffer, 1996).
At the top of the auction were two Hirschberg collection steam engines, the first a live steam traction engine model of a 36 horsepower 1912 Case tractor with wood bunkers and wood-framed tin canopy measuring 43 inches long. It sold for $13,420 above high estimate. It was followed by a live steam traction engine model of a 1913 Burrell & Sons tractor that was purportedly used as a salesman sample. At 22 inches long, the model would go for $10,980 on a $4,000 high estimate. Another live steam traction engine model of a 1928 A.B. Wilson Melvin IA, 37 inches long, was a good buy at $4,636, below estimate.
Collectors were watchful of paint and overall condition on the steam toys that followed; it seemed that lots with higher estimates above $1,000 had trouble reaching them, and lots with lower estimates near $300 would sell comfortably at or above range. Among notables was a Bing cotton mill steam toy accessory with a loom, linen mill and washer on a platform base, which sold at $1,952. With provenance to the Atlanta Toy Museum, a painted tin airship carousel steam toy accessory with a double canopy went out at $1,342. Two Bing models would go out at that same price, including a windmill building and a lithographed mill. A Carette factory steam toy accessory, No. 626/20, included five workers: a grinder, a drill press operator, a filer, a smith at an anvil and a smith at a bellows. The busy toy would sell for $1,098.
From a private collection came the third highest lot in the sale, a European-style butcher shop diorama, which would sell above estimate for $9,150 to dealer Tom Sage Sr. At 21¾ inches high, the diorama featured two butchers, two blocks and dozens of cuts strung from the building’s brick façade. From this same collection came more than 75 tin lithographed penny toys, the highest being a Meier animated Punch & Judy in excellent condition that sold above high estimate for $1,830. In one lot was three sitting children penny toys, two children at school desks by Meier grouped with a child in a convertible high chair, all of which sold for double the high estimate at $1,037. Selling for the same price was a group of two Souvenir Universal Theatres Concession Co hoop penny toys, one with a bicycle and the other with a man carrying a flag. Two lots would finish at $732, including a German-made clown riding a chariot behind a pig and an animated chicken cracking egg.
Thirty-eight lots of love were consigned in the form of teddy bears from the estate of Raymond and Nadine Gravatt, Ravenwood Farm, Cream Ridge, N.J. The collection was led by a Steiff cinnamon mohair teddy bear, circa 1910, with shoe button eyes and elongated limbs and hump. It doubled its estimate to bring $1,952. A patriotic mohair teddy bear, also circa 1910, was a draw for bidders, as it sold for $1,098. The bear was propped up on an embossed tin drum with patriotic shield-form candy containers and five small American flags. It featured a blue prize ribbon around its neck saying it won first place in the 1914 Mendham School Contests.
Two stuffed lots outside of the Gravatt consignment were notable. At $1,830 was a Steiff Record mohair teddy bear on an Irish mail pull toy. It dated to 1915, and Barrett called it a very rare example, which explained the high price, regardless of the losses to the mohair on the bear. Measuring 63 inches high was a Steiff store display mohair camel, which doubled estimate to bring $1,952. A bidder at the auction remarked “you just never see them.”
Salesman’s samples were an area of varied interest in the auction. From a Florida estate came an Adriance Buckeye sickle mower with iron wheels, walnut beam and brass seat, all original paint, that sold for $4,880, within estimate. Barrett said, “its just astounding, the details on it are absolutely amazing.” From the same estate was an Ithaca, N.Y., C.M. Clinton salesman sample horse-drawn hay rake, with nickel plaque on cross beam, painted iron wheels, walnut and wire frame, that sold below estimate for $1,830.
Before the sale got underway, we asked Noel Barrett what he enjoyed within the sale, and he immediately pointed out a salesman sample butcher block, 3½ inches high, that retained the original label for “Wolf, Sayer & Heller – Chicago Butcher Supplies – Handsome Market Fixtures.” Barrett said, “It has everything you want in a sample, the label and everything.” The block, raised on three small legs, went out at $3,172 over a $600 high estimate.
In 1923, Milwaukee candy manufacturer Sperry Candy Co, released their Chicken Dinner candy bar to puzzling success. The name was thankfully a marketing gimmick instead of an ingredients list, and the nut-filled, chocolate-covered bars were successful for nearly three decades until 1962. The company had a fleet of delivery trucks featuring a massive chicken on the back, and Pook’s sale featured an artist mock-up of one of these trucks using a pressed steel Tonka truck, 13 inches long. The truck went on to sell for $397, just short of its low estimate.
Halloween material was led by a German three-section folding die cut screen with an orange background, which rose above the $400-600 estimate to bring $1,342. It featured a witch flying over a Jack-O-Lantern on the central panel and an owl sitting in a tree over a black cat on the two side panels.
Among his other favorites in the sale, Barrett pointed to the Marbelator No. 3, a red-painted tin barn structure that featured a hand-cranked chain elevator that would bring marbles to the top and release them down a series of cascading tracks until they got to the bottom of the barn. It sold for $305.
Ten lots of Little Red Riding Hood material was led by a fesser, an animated painted composition toy featuring the Big Bad Wolf, dressed in grandma’s clothing and bonnet, on a platform while a hand crank repeatedly pops a Little Red Riding Hood figure into the wolf’s mouth. It broke through the $500 high estimate to sell for $1,952. “Curiously, they appear in German toy catalogs as early as the 1860s and they were there for another 50 years,” Barrett said. Following behind was a pull toy featuring Little Red Riding Hood riding a mohair wolf with small tin disc wheels. It sold between estimate at $1,220.
Automobiles from the collection of Bill and Stevie Weart led the toy car category, with top honors going to a French CIJ clockwork Alfa-Romeo race car, which sold for $6,100. Behind at $3,660 was a sky-blue Bugatti hand-built model race car made by master car builder J.P. Fontonelle in 1/8th scale.
“They are considered the first action figure,” Barrett said, looking at the Schoenhut circus on display, which featured a number of lots gathered together under a large circus tent. A Philadelphia company, Schoenhut toys were sold in pieces rather than as a set, so children could buy them incrementally and add to their assembled environments. The circus tent, called the Humpty Dumpty Circus, went out at $976; a lion, poodle and cat sold for $915; a wood circus cage wagon with ladder sold for $793; a circus dude brought $732; and a lot of three animals and circus personnel caught $458.
Two days later on June 17, the firm held its online-only toy sale, which featured an additional 681 lots and totaled $132,450, going 99 percent sold.
Pook & Pook & Noel Barrett’s next Antique Toy Auction is slated for Fall 2019. The firm’s 2019 calendar features Online-Only Decorative Art sales closing July 31 and September 18; Americana & International, October 5; Fine Jewelry, October 25; Online-Only Coins and Jewelry, October 28; Firearms, Militaria & Sporting, November 16. For more information, www.pookandpook.com or 610-269-4040.
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