The Vineland, New Jersey, sale offered 143 lots of German tin toys from the Lorette family of Switzerland. Pressed steel toys from the collection of Jay Schoedinger and teddies from Catherine McKinney all helped to swell the numbers in this two-day sale of 1400 lots overall, which raised a premium-inclusive total of just over $1m with an impressive 99% sold by volume.
Interest in this event came not just from the US but all over the world: bidders from Russia and the rest of Europe, South Africa and Australia featured. Around 40% of the lots sold came from commission and room bidders, 36% from online and 24% from phone bidders.
The top lot came from a particularly American class of collectable: a cast-iron mechanical bank. This was an 1880s model by the firm of Stevens and Co, promoting the Germania Exchange.
It featured a painted lead goat on the top – when a coin is deposited on the animal’s tail and the tap turned at the front, the animal flips to present the depositor with a stein of beer from the barrel. The bank had been discovered in an attic in Virginia and was in largely original unrestored condition. These features helped it to a double-estimate hammer price of $42,500 (£33,200).
Keen demand emerged for the choicest European toys and strong competition developed between bidders hoping to repatriate them and American enthusiasts.
A version of a desirable automaton toy made by the German firm of Phillip Vielmetter of Berlin in 1885, which featured a clown artist who draws different designs on an easel by means of a selection of four interchangeable cams, was pursued to $5500 (£4300).
A Lehmann lithographed tinplate clockwork rickshaw with driver and passenger, known as Masuyama, in near-mint condition with the original box, made an upper-estimate $5000 (£3905). Both these toys came from the Lorette collection.
The sale did not just include pieces with sought-after primary provenance. Some lots came originally from the prestigious collection of Donald Kaufman, the largest privately owned assemblage of automotive toys, which was sold by Bertoia in 2009-10.
A stylish late 1920s, battery powered, 9½in (23cm) long Hubley cast-iron racing car with electric lights and white rubber tyres that retained its original box realised $6000 (£4690). This was a substantial increase on the $4500 that it made in the Kaufman auction.
Probably the oldest lots were to be found at the end of the auction in the doll section, where the auctioneers were offering several English dolls from the late 18th century. They were all characteristically constructed playthings of the period featuring painted gesso covered wooden heads and carved jointed wooden limbs and dressed as fashionable ladies.
One that stood out was a 21in (53cm) high version retaining the remains of her original hair wig in a wine coloured brocade gown. Prices for these early dolls reached a zenith several decades ago which they have yet to re-attain, and this was reflected in Bertoia’s $2500-3500 estimate.
However, the bidding this time halted only when it reached $16,000 (£12,500) – the second-highest price of the auction.
$1 = £1.28