The odd Lehmann clockwork toy Oh My which took £420 at Wallis & Wallis’s specialist toy sale.

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It was certainly rare - the more so for coming in its original box -- but the rather crude figure of a black male, tap-dancing to a clockwork mechanism would not be acceptable today, other than as a collectable.

"It seemed to come from a different and almost alien era to our own" said the auctioneers delicately of the jointed, gaudily dressed, dancer on a box which measured 4 3/4in (12cm) high overall.

Entitled Oh My, and in very good condition for its age, the toy triggered a three-way bidding battle between a postal tender, a bidder in the room and the eventual winner who bid £420 over the phone.

Other clock tinplate toys included an early 1900s Kienberger billiards player which took £200 and a c.1915 Lehmann Stubborn Donkey at £230.

Moving through the years, a boxed 1940 Imperial Airways Frobisher Class Airliner by Dinky, with the seldom-seen April 1940 date code on the lid, doubled expectations at £220.

Auctioneer Glen Butler made the point of the importance of condition in modern pieces with a handy comparison.

Earlier this year a Corgi James Bond Aston Martin DB5 in metallic gold, with only minor wear, took £180. At the June sale Mr Butler could offer a mint version of the same car in its original display case. Condition was, he said, "as good as it gets" and the car sold at £340.

Another price comparison was offered at the sale at which two Corgi boxed gift sets No. 40, The Avengers, in similar condition sold at £480 and £320.

The difference? John Steed's Bentley in the first lot had all five spoked wheels painted red rather than the normal silver - not a factory error but a way of carrying on production when there's a temporary absence of correct parts, said Mr Butler.