Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy RSL Auction Company
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – A collection of 1,230 lots of antique toys, including about 950 lots from a Roman collector, crossed the block at RSL Auction Company on April 4-5. The auction was hailed by the firm as one of the finest toy collections they have handled in recent years. The sale was scheduled to be a live auction in the firm’s gallery, though restrictions forced it to be reworked into an online-only, phone/absentee bidding format. The sale passed only two lots, for a 99.8 percent sell through. It grossed $1,556,000.
“The sale did exceedingly well,” auction partner Leon Weiss said. “It did 12 to 15 percent better than we expected before the outbreak. There were a couple of little pockets that might have been weak, but that was overcompensated by things that were so strong.
“Overall, I think auctioneers can do this, we can run with online-only, absentee/phone bids, it can be done. We only had five people including ourselves in the gallery the first day and four people the second day. Ray and Bri were in Pittsburgh and the person that ran the platform was at his house. It can be done, but I’d like to hope it doesn’t have to be done that way forever.”
Many collectors like to inspect toys for evidence of injury, repairs and paint restoration – they were made to be played with, after all – but given the remote nature of the sale amid the outbreak, RSL did away with the age-old auction policy of buyer beware for their clients. They wrote, “We realize that many of you want to preview these toys before bidding on them, however, our writeups and condition appraisals are the most detailed and accurate in the industry. We stand behind everything we sell. However, if we have significantly misevaluated the condition of the object we are selling, then we will take it back for a full refund if notified within ten business days of receiving that object.”
In an auction of 1,230 items, Weiss says that they might miss something on one to three lots. Given the inability to preview, he said that the auction house answered about three times more inquiries than normal.
Bidding was strong, Weiss said. One of his clients left bids at or above the high estimate on 90 lots in the sale and came away with 56 of them.
Topping the sale and setting an auction record was a Bowling Alley bank in blue paint, noted as the finest example known of this design from Kyser & Rex, which sold for $87,000. It had provenance to the Gertrude Hegarty, Al Davidson and Frank Kidd collections. In all original condition, Weiss said he has only ever seen one other example that can be considered all original, and this is the only blue painted example he knows of.
Other cast iron mechanical banks that did well include a multicolor Palace bank, Ives, Blakeslee & Co., circa 1890, in green paint that brought $20,400. A Bulldog Savings bank, pristine condition, in a possibly unique green background with gold detailing, sold above estimate for $11,400. RSL called the Initiating Bank – 2nd Degree example in its sale one of the finest known, in pristine-plus condition with a fabulous multicolored frog painted in green, red, yellow, white and black, and it took $10,800. An unpainted Pig In Highchair bank by J&E Stevens in near mint condition with its rare original box sold for $9,600.
Two Hispania automobiles led the tin toy offerings, including a circa 1908 limousine that RSL said “is one of the finest, rarest and most beautiful limousines ever produced” and “the finest toy automobile that we have ever sold.” The firm believes there are only one or two other examples similar to it known. At 15½ inches, the toy went out at $26,400. The lot prior saw a Hispania oversize Laudelette, 21 inches long, reach $24,000.
More than doubling the $9,500 estimate was a Japanese TM motorcycle with mounted machine gun on sidecar, circa the 1930s, that brought $21,600. It was in near mint condition. A Spanish Paya motorcycle, circa the 1920s, also did quite well over its $1,500 estimate, fetching $9,000.
Among the German makers, a Gunthermann two-seat open touring car in white with gold trim, circa 1908, and 16 inches long, went out between estimate at $18,000. RSL said the example is among the largest and most impressive automobiles that Gunthermann ever produced. From producer Carette came a circa 1908 hand enameled limousine in pristine condition that RSL called “the apex of Carette Limousine toys.” The firm said the toy was quite expensive when it was made, which has lent to its scarcity in the market today. It is still worth a good amount at $14,400.
European bidders made up about a third of those vying for lots. The sale saw 54 phone bidders, 60 absentee bidders, 105 on RSL’s platform and another 500 on LiveAuctioneers.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.rslauctionco.com or 908-823-4049.