09 August 2017
Over in the USA, Bertoia Auctions’ Annual Spring Auction 2017 notched up over US$1m in sales, proving that the market for old toys across the Pond is highly buoyant.
Over in the USA, Bertoia Auctions’ Annual Spring Auction 2017 notched up over US$1m in sales, proving that the market for old toys across the Pond is highly buoyant. So well-known is this auction house that the sale attracted interest from as far afield as Russia, South Africa and Australia. According to Bertoia, the top lot of the sale was the coveted J & E Stevens Germania
Exchange cast-iron mechanical bank, which sold for an astonishing US$51,000, basically twice the initial high estimate. Old banks are highly collectable and this example was one of the most sought-after; several others featured in the sale. A whimsical depiction of a three-dimensional painted lead goat seated atop a beer cask and holding a mug, the bank had actually been discovered in the attic of a Virginia home.
There was also great interest in an 18th-century English painted wood and gesso Queen Anne-style doll made by Lance. With jointed hips and knees, and dressed in brocade period clothing, this 21-inch high doll was estimated at US$2,500-3,500 but it ended its bidding run at a remarkable US$19,200.
Superior-quality European toys found favour with bidders hoping to repatriate them to the continent, but American competition was very strong. A Phillip Vielmetter Clown Artist, whose ingenious design enables the clown figure to draw various pictures according to which interchangeable cam was installed, was bid to US$6,600; while another German-made toy, a boxed Lehmann Masuyama, commanded US$6,000. An elegantly attired Gustav Vichy Monkey Harpist automaton was ready to entertain bidders with a repertoire of two songs and multiple movements that included him realistically strumming the harp strings, blinking his eyes, moving his head and opening and closing his hinged jaw. Formerly in the private collection of automata expert and book author Christian Bailly, it easily surpassed its US$2,000-4,000 estimate, finally selling for US$7,200.
Many prestigious collections contributed to the auction line-up, including a Swiss family’s multi-generational collection of hand-painted German tin toys, the Catherine McKinney teddy bear collection, and several toys with provenance from the legendary Donald Kaufman collection, which was originally auctioned by Bertoia’s back in 2009 and 2010.