Published: October 12, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Milestone Auctions
WILLOUGHBY, OHIO – Auctioneer Miles King of Milestone Auctions looked at the $21,850 twice paid by bidders for prototype tin motorcycle toys by Marx and smelled a record.
He was right. Milestone’s October 2 “Fall Spectacular Antique Toy Auction,” a 713-lot affair, broke the auction record for Marx three times. And King would know – he held the previous record, set at $15,000 for a similar tin motorcycle prototype just 16 months ago.
The sale drew from three American collections, with one of them making up the overwhelming majority of the lots on offer. In total, the auction grossed $768,000.
“I feel we’re the place to sell prototypes; I think I’ve sold more prototypes than anyone,” King said after the sale.
Marx motorcycles seem to hold the highest premium among collectors of the maker.
The two prototype military motorcycles were crafted on the same chassis with the same bike and rider – they proved the fastest of all the vehicles, riding off to the sale’s top lots at $21,850 each. The beds built on the back of the motorcycles are what differed, one carrying a mounted functional cannon, the other a supply vehicle with a camouflaged tin box built up for cargo transportation.
King said the same two buyers were on both, though when the bidding extended upwards, each of the bidders settled on one example.
The sale featured 138 toy motorcycles in all. Asked why the form is so desirable, King said, “I just think there are more motorcycle collectors. A lot of guys like vehicles and they like motorcycles.”
The examples weren’t just from United States makers, the collectors offered motorcycles from Paya (Spain), I.Y. (Japan), Lehmann, Tipp, GeLy and Gunthermann (Germany).
King noted that he had a lot of international interest in the sale, with bidders coming from Japan, Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands and other countries. Add to that a fierce cadre of American bidders and you have yourself an auction.
Many participated in the sale by phone. “We had four phone lines going basically the whole auction,” King said.
Good results were seen for the other bikes on offer. A Lehmann tin windup “Halloh” motorcycle with its instructions and original box was in such great condition that the auction house said it looks like it had never been played with. It brought $6,900. From I.Y. was a Romance Motorcycle in the 12-inch-long large version that sold for $5,700. A Paya windup motorcycle with sidecar featured a racer and his horn-blowing compatriot in the sidecar – it took $4,800.
“Between the different makers, I think all of the motorcycles did fantastic,” King said. “The Japanese makers… some of those prices blew us out of the water. We couldn’t believe what some of the bikes were bringing. When a good collection comes out and it has quality, buyers come to play. It’s not every day there’s a great auction.”
The highest auction record for a Marx car was set with a prototype windup Blondie & Dagwood car that sold for $16,200. The hand painted car measured 14 inches long and was modeled after the American cartoon strip by Chic Young. The cartoon would prove so popular it turned into a film series and a radio program and, of course, a toy.
Highlights from Lehmann included a tin windup Boxer Rebellion toy that sold for $17,400. Featuring four men holding a stetched cloth at its corners and tossing a singular figure at center, the auction house said the toy was inspired by the Boxer Secret Society during the Chinese Rebellion of the 1900s. Two results from the maker finished at $7,500 and they both included their original boxes: a windup Ski Rolf and a windup Mandarin.
Bidders sprung for a German composition cat Skittles set that sold for $16,200 above a $1,500 estimate. The hand painted momma cat features an open back with seven other cats in various formal dress attire. It was 17 inches long and rolled on cast iron wheels.
King had never before seen a Pinched! windup platform set by German manufacturer Distler. A circular track is seen on top a platform as a police motorcycle chases an early automobile through a gas station, a bridge and two overpasses that read “Drive Slowly!” Bidders competed for it all the way to $6,900.
Milestone Auctions will hold its “Premier Antique & Modern Firearms” auction on October 23. All prices reported include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, 440-527-8060 or www.milestoneauctions.com.
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