Published: September 20, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Bertoia Auctions
VINELAND, N.J. – Its cataloging characterized it as “without question one of the most alluring cast iron cycles ever produced, extremely desirable for any advanced collector.” That was all bidders had to know when a Hubley “Say It With Flowers” motorcycle from the antique toy collection of the late Bill and Stevie Weart crossed the podium at Bertoia’s September 8-9 single-owner, no reserve sale. With just some minor chipping to the black paint on its roof, the all original example in overall excellent to pristine condition for such a rare all original toy zipped past its $15/25,000 estimate to finish at $32,400. It sold to a collector in the Midwest. “The sale was a great success,” said Jeanne Bertoia, “proving once again that great condition brings great prices.” The Wearts were a couple whose contributions to the toy hobby were immense and they filled their home in Allentown, Penn., with custom-built showcases to display their toy collection. The Wearts co-authored in 2000 Cast Iron Automotive Toys, still regarded as the go-to reference by cast iron toy collectors.
The sale’s top selling lot, however, was an exceptional example of an early rabbit dressed in baseball uniform, standing as though ready to swing. With a molded baseball cap, he holds an early wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat with decal of Ty Cobb. He stood 22 inches high, and knocked the estimate of $5/7,500 out of the park, realizing $34,800.
Another bunny candy container is one dressed in chauffeur attire with a molded driver’s cap and goggles, rubber tire in hand as if he has just repaired a flat on the roadside. The German piece’s head would be removed for candy retrieval. Standing 21 inches high, he outperformed the $4/6,000 valuation, going out at $15,600.
The sale’s American cast iron category featured selections by Arcade, Dent, Hubley, Kenton, Wilkins and Pratt & Letchworth as well as rarities of unknown manufacture.
Similarly estimated $5/7,500, a pristine Pratt & Letchworth combination fire wagon in red and green, pulled by two white horses, raced to $16,800. Its two removable ladders were original to this toy, which is very uncommon, the most interesting of the P&L fire series, the 18-inch-long toy is a combination of a fire ladder wagon and a fire hose reel with two opening tool compartments.
Also a combination, a scarce Dent wagon, 20 inches long, beat its $3/5,000 expectation to pull in $15,600. Closing at $11,400 was a Harris hose wheel wagon, a colorful fire theme toy by the Toledo, Ohio, company with nice casting effects throughout the toy, one of the strongest paint condition examples, 16 inches long.
Depicted in the Wearts’ book, a 19-inch-long Dent battleship New York achieved its hopes of sailing to a new home, leaving behind a $2/3,000 estimate to dock at $14,400.
Two other toy vessels of note, each bid to $10,200, were a professionally restored Marklin Iowa Jawa, an early battleship by the German maker, that is decorated with cannons, lifeboats, stacks and the proud ram front, 21 inches long, and a Marklin riverboat Priscilla, the epitome of luxury ships, very detailed throughout, 20 inches long and also professionally restored.
A Dent battleship New York, pictured on page 123 of the Wearts’ book was all original and in pristine to near mint condition. At 19 inches, it plied to $7,800, more than twice its high estimate.
An all-original 22-inch-long Hubley horse-drawn Royal Circus Bandwagon displaying bright paint and excellent detail earned $8,400, while also in the Hubley toy menagerie, a reduced-size (11½ inches) Lion circus wagon estimated at $2,5/4,500 did $10,800.
Toy trucks from the collection did their jobs with flair. An Arcade International Harvester, seldom offered in scarce yellow color variation, depicted on page 64 of Cast Iron Automotive Toys, 2000, was 10½ inches long and sold for $9,000 against a $3/5,000 estimate. A 10-inch-long Kenton City Service showroom sample with the same estimate did even better, achieving $10,200. The catalog noted the striking condition of a scarce example that is seldom presented for sale, with original string tag still intact.
Rounding out the sale’s top highlights, a 27-inch-long Letchworth & Pratt four-seat brake with two original women figures with some repaint, others replaced, had been professional restored and found a buyer at $7,200, while a hand-built Bugatti by Art Collection Auto with fantastic attention to detail in scale, 18 inches long, motored to $7,200.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as sated by the auction house. For information, www.bertoiaauctions.com or 856-692-1881.
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