Published: September 22, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy RSL Auction Co
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – Billed as a Cavalcade of Toys And Banks, RSL Auction Co’s September 12-13 sale saw all but 11 of the 1,057 lots sell for a $1,339,000 total and a 99 percent sell through rate.
The auction pulled in consignments from 14 collections and auctioneer Leon Weiss related that it felt similar in aura and energy to the firm’s April auction, which totaled $1.5 million. “By and large the prices were quite strong,” Weiss said. “There were pockets where we were setting records, one after the other.”
The auction was held via the internet with total online registrants numbering over 600 with 54 absentee bidders and 43 phone bidders.
On value, the auction was led by a live-steam Marklin La Plata four funnel ocean liner measuring 39 inches long that sold for $39,000. Made in Germany circa 1905, the auction house related that the piece was between 80 and 90 percent professionally restored, but all parts appeared to be original. It was a good opportunity, they said, to add a mantel piece to any collection as the example in all original condition had sold around $250,000 in the past.
Transportation did overall well, Weiss said, with many of those pieces offered on day one of the sale. Other boats with notable results included a gun boat by French maker Radiguet, circa 1880 and 22 inches long, that brought $14,400. This toy was made about eight years after the company was founded in 1872. Maison Radiguet sold “scientific” toys by mail order catalog, including live steam engines, trains and boats. The example sold at RSL was all original and in very fine condition. Another live steam launch boat from the same company featured two wooden masts and a horizontal boiler, 16 inches long, and it sold for $3,120.
Leading the trains was a Georges Carette O gauge locomotive, tender and coach that sold for $14,400. The German maker made this piece in 1915 for the American market and it was in near pristine condition. From Bing came a 1930s engine and tender in an English style for London-Northwest-Railroad, which took $3,900.
Automobiles were led by a Johann Distler #35 racecar, which sold for $9,000. The auction house said it was “without question one of the hardest racing cars to locate and acquire.” It was 20½ inches long and in near pristine condition. Behind at $8,400 was a Vis-A-Vis by Gebruder Bing that represented the early age of automobiles. Circa 1905 and measuring only 7¼ inches long, the car featured a later papier mache driver and the toy was in pristine condition. From five years later was a Bing windup tin touring car with original lamps. At 10 inches long, the piece went out at $7,200 after 21 bids.
A grouping of cottage industry Italian toys would find good interest, led by a “Recadero” messenger boy on a delivery vespa, made of mostly wood and circa 1940-50, that sold for $4,800 on $450 estimate. The very next lot saw a circa 1930 touring car with silent movie stars Laurel and Hardy inside that drove up a price of $2,400 on a $350 estimate.
Leon Weiss noted that the firm offered a larger-than-normal selection of horse-drawn toys. “They did well,” he said, “I think that was a case where offering more items brought more collectors to the table.” The belle of that ball was undeniably a 45-inch-long horse-drawn coach that the firm felt was probably made by Lutz & Company in the 1880s. Selling for $10,200, the tin coach featured collapsible leather canopies on both sides and was pulled by two well-modeled horses. By the same company was a 10-inch tin sleigh pulled by a singular brown horse that took $4,500. If bidders preferred iron, options were available there, too. Selling for $5,100 was an American Back-To-Back Trap horse-drawn carriage by Dent. Circa 1910, the 14-inch example had provenance to the collections of Colville and Gertrude Hegarty as well as Richard and Lenore Weiss.
“Any mechanical bank that was colorful or in good condition did well,” Weiss said, and prices confirmed the statement. The category was led with a $33,000 result for J&E Stevens’ Lion Hunter, which the auction house said was among the finest examples known. The near mint model was made in 1911 and had provenance to the Larry Feld collection. Two banks came in at $22,800: a Calamity Bank in pristine condition with provenance to Donal Markey and an equally pristine Chronometer bank, circa 1880, that the firm said may be the finest example known.
Taking $20,400 was a French version of J&E Stevens’ Bowing Man in Cupola bank, produced in a lead-based alloy and circa 1890. Weiss said he had never seen another. “There’s only around four of the original Stevens iron versions known,” he said. “But one must have made its way over to France, and a few other banks made in a similar manner have been found there.” Whoever the maker was, they felt they could do better than J&E Stevens, as they greatly embellished the mold with spiraling columns, extravagant spires, a beaded border around the base and ball feet. Painted details on the American version were etched into the French version, including the lettering and windowpanes. The example originally surfaced at the 1989 Toymania Toy Fair.
At $13,200 was a Ferris Wheel bank by the Prendergast Bros., Philadelphia, circa the 1930s. The lot had three absentee bids on it and was underbid by the internet. Prendergast Bros used original Hubley Ferris Wheels atop a base that they fashioned for this bank. “When I was a young collector,” Weiss said, “I thought it was a made-up bank that someone had put together in the 30s. It was something in someone’s collection and they made the base and put the Ferris wheel on it. But about 25 years ago, a bank showed up in California that we could tell was much finer detailed, the end panels were different and it featured a patent date on it, which these Prendergast Bros examples do not have. That was the first original Ferris Wheel bank that was found and we’ve found another since, so there are two. Prendergast must have had an image of the Ferris Wheel bank when he produced these in the 1930s.”
From one collection came a run of 25 German spelter banks that found a solid reception. Selling for $1,440 was the comical Slumbering Glutton, who appears to have dozed off in full clothes on the sidewalk. At the same price was the Officer’s Hat, a tin bank in pristine condition that the firm had never seen before.
“A German tin hat bank will typically sell between $150/250, but this was larger,” Weiss said. “It had a key lock under the coin trap. That had six different left bids and four people on the phone.”
Plenty of figural animals were sold in the group, including dogs, cats, chicks, a parrot, horse and donkey. Bidders were drawn to a seated rabbit, $840; a daschund with Tyrolean hat, $1,080; a chick by a chest and tools, $1,080; and a stacking of animals in the Brementown Musicians on Trunk, $1,080.
A few folk art lots were offered and they both found good interest. A three-toned open air trolley dated to 1905 and had the auction house saying, “This is without question one of the finest folk art trolleys that we have ever seen.” Of hand painted wood with metal elements, the piece sold for $1,440. Coming in at $600 was a folk art house bank, which the firm said was European and from the 1880s. The sheet tin and wood example was 15 inches tall and had three coin slots.
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium. For information, www.rslauctionco.com or 908-823-4049.
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