Märklin paddle steamer toy boat, $200,000 (£159,000) at Pook & Pook.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Despite being offered in an Americana auction at the Chicago saleroom, it was not a US product: depicting a paddle wheel river boat named New York, this was a clockwork toy made in Germany by the renowned manufacturer Märklin.

The vessel took $200,000 (£159,000) against an estimate of $30,000-50,000.

Back in 2012, fellow US auction house Bertoia of Vineland, New Jersey, offered the Richard T Claus collection - widely acknowledged as the best toy boat collection in the US at the time and thought to be the best in the world.

Steaming in to a $215,000 (£143,350) result back then was a 2ft 2in (65cm) riverboat titled Providence to the side paddle and (like many of the boats in the Bertoia sale) dressed with the Stars and Stripes for the American market.

Alongside the Märklin paddle steamer Chicago* (featured on the dust jacket of Claus’ book, The Allure of Toy Ships, 2006), it was among the best-known toys in the collection. It had been last on the market in 2007 when sold by Noel Barrett for $90,000.

Apart from the obvious name difference, the c.1902 Providence boat sold at Bertoia was virtually identical to the New York offered by Pook & Pook.

Pook & Pook, based in Downtown, Pennsylvania, said: “In the weeks prior to the auction, the New York garnered much attention. In exceptional condition, it had been in institutional storage for a considerable time.”

The toy was catalogued as ‘currently working’. The small iron wheels below the hull are concealed by a painted wave cradle.

It was consigned as part of a New Jersey educational institution’s collection where it had been for half a century.

Sought after

Märklin passenger ships display a superb attention to detail and are very much sought after, especially the largest and earliest models - which would have been eye-wateringly expensive when originally sold.

When the Malcolm Forbes collection was sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010, a Märklin model of the Lusitania made $160,000 (£106,670).

Warships by the Göppingen factory often come in at a slightly lower price level.

In November 2017 a particularly well-detailed battleship led a specialist toy sale held by Bertoia, selling for $160,000 (£123,075), or $192,000 including 20% buyer’s premium. The large, 2ft 4in (71cm) multi-deck vessel, the Sankt Georg, dated from 1919-21, was thought to be the only known example in existence.

This side of the Pond, in 2012 Special Auction Services of Newbury sold the Ron McCrindell collection including, as its headline lot, a Märklin spirit-fired, steam-powered battleship HMS Terrible for £76,000.

A year later the same saleroom took £57,000 for Sachsen, a 2ft 1in (62cm) spirit-fired vessel loosely modelled on the Siegfried class of the Imperial German Navy. The toy was contemporary with HMS Terrible, made at the height of Märklin’s creative genius c.1905.

* The Chicago, c.1900-02, made a premium-inclusive $264,500 in the second part of the Claus collection sale in 2012. The buyer had been the underbidder on the Providence boat. The Chicago was very similar to the New York and Providence but had two funnels instead of one.