Published: December 6, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Bertoia Auctions
VINELAND, N.J. – A week before Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday, on November 17-18, Bertoia Auctions conducted its annual Fall Auction, tempting bidders with nearly 1,600 lots of toys and games of every vintage, medium and form, from the collections of such esteemed collectors as Bob Brady, Jack White, Michael Yolles, as well as the Christmas collection of Curtis and Linda Smith. By the time the gavel fell on the last lot, the firm had amassed a total of nearly $2.7 million, with a sell-through rate of more than 95 percent. The majority of the top lots were purchased from the United States, either on the phone or in the room.
“The sale was incredible and we had more participants because of the variety. We were blown away by some of the categories and toys,” Jeanne Bertoia said after the sale. “Toys have been consistent throughout the pandemic. We had such great quality and collections; Linda and Curtis Smith collected the best. The Christmas market is particularly hot, and those collectors were eagerly anticipating [what we offered]. It showed in the prices.”
The top lots in each section represented most of the best names in the collecting category: Marklin, Masudaya, Tippco, Hubley, Yonezawa and Althof Bermann, to name just a few. Marklin placed highest of all, claiming a few of the top prices on the first day of sales. At $84,000, a rare complete Marklin Fidelitas clown train in exceptional condition brought the highest price and sold to a buyer on the phone. The train had come from a seller in the United Kingdom, who received it as a child for their circus-themed bedroom but who disliked how it looked on their shelf and sent it to storage in their parents’ basement. Decades later, the toy, which the catalog described as “museum quality,” is finally seeing the light of day.
In March, Bertoia’s set a record for a Tippco Mickey and Minnie Mouse motorcycle from the Monique Knowlton collection; while the Tippco pieces in this sale were not quite that valuable, they nevertheless held their own, with 25 lots sold over both days. Driving into a second place finish at $60,000 was a Tippco Santa Claus driving auto in remarkably bright and original condition, which had provenance to the Curtis and Linda Smith Collection. After the sale, Jeanne Bertoia said the result was a new world record for the form.
Christmas-themed toys were a prominent category throughout both days of sale. A 37-inch-long Belsnickle and reindeer-drawn sleigh pull-toy, on a platform, which had been discovered in the attic of a Victorian estate in Rochester, Minn., earned the highest price in the second day of sales, making $50,400. It was accompanied by a matching wooden crate that contributed to its condition grade of “pristine.”
Robot toys have been perennial favorites since the mid-Twentieth Century, with several of the most highly sought-after by Japanese makers. Masudaya’s “Machine Man” robot is considered the rarest of the “Gang of Five;” one that had been acquired from the F.H. Griffith Collection was in pristine to near mint condition and one of three lots by Masudaya but it made the most, launching to $60,000 from an estimate of $50/70,000.
An exceptional result – and another new record for the form – was achieved for a boxed “museum grade” Yonezawa Atom Jet Racer, in “pristine” condition, which was accompanied, most unusually, by its original cardboard box. Bidders raced it to $40,800, well ahead of presale expectations.
Not to be overlooked was a “near mint condition” Hubley “Hill Climber” motorcycle, large at 9 inches long, which the catalog said was “considered the nicest example known,” with olive green paint and nickel wheels, original pull cord and figure, and an original 1929 Hicks Farm Hill Climb cardboard tag from the Waverly Motorcycle Club. Previously owned by Andy Huffer and Bob Brady, it found a new home for $48,000.
In reporting auction results, it is always a good idea to look beyond just the highest prices as there are always superlative results, even at a more modest level. An instance of that would be the $36,000 realized for an Althof Bergmann Mary and her Lambs, a museum-grade example that was in all-original condition, the toy had the additional benefit of provenance to Max Berry.
Bertoia’s next sale will take place in the spring, dates TBA.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, 856-692-1881 or www.bertoiaauctions.com.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
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