Bertoia auction to feature European and American toys and holiday antiques

01 November 2021
On November 18-19, Bertoia Auctions will conclude a record-setting year with the 2021 edition of their annual Fall Sale
Bertoia auction to feature European and American toys and holiday antiques Images

Always a beautiful presentation, the Fall Sale is reserved for genuinely exceptional toys and holiday antiques sourced from many high-quality collections. In the past, the Fall Sale has been described by the media as “a rare opportunity to purchase from the top shelves of dozens of high-end collectors.” 

The selection includes more than 200 European tin toys, 50 Lehmann and Martin windup toys, American tin and clockwork toys, 75+ Schoenhuts and roly polys; figural cast-iron including banks; cast-iron automotive and horse-drawn toys; and pressed-steel trains. Also, the auction boasts a formidable lineup of pressed-steel trucks from the collection of the late Buddy George.

A special highlight of the November auction is the American antique boat collection of Dick Claus, whose Marklin and other European nautical toys took in $3.1 million in Bertoia’s two-part auction series held in 2012.

“What Dick Claus accomplished in building his unique collection was quite a feat,” said Bertoia Auctions’ president, Michael Bertoia. “When he initially consigned his European collection to us, we knew that it was considered the finest antique boat collection in the United States. However, after the two sales concluded and we had the opportunity to speak with many advanced boat collectors in Europe, who were among the buyers, we realized his collection was actually regarded as the world’s best. Some likened it to being the nautical-toy equivalent of the Donald Kaufman collection.”

Dick’s European armada may have set sail for distant shores a decade ago, but now collectors can embark on a new adventure as they navigate their way through his fleet of 50 peerless American boats. All are 19th-century productions, mostly clockwork types but with some steam-propelled and pull toys, as well. The most revered manufacturers of the period are represented: George Brown, Althof Bergmann, Fallows, Ives, and Ives Blakeslee. 

Among the most highly prized boats are two examples of the legendary Monitor – a 14-inch pull toy depicted in the Bergmann catalog and a 14-inch clockwork version made by George Brown. Both are very rare and valuable. Additionally, there are two highly desirable paddle wheelers attributed to George Brown. The smaller of the two, at 20 inches, is finished in the same dark red with black gunwell color scheme as is shown in The George Brown Sketchbook. The larger one, at 33 inches, has a dark red gunwell. Both have yellow decks. 

The collection contains a set of whimsical Tillicum wood boats produced by Milton Bradley. Each boat comes with a specific slotted box to act as its support. Dick Claus explained, “Since the boats were sold to at the seashore to children who immediately put them in the ocean water, not many survived. It’s unusual to find an intact set.”

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Other nautical highlights not to be missed include a 6¼-inch George Brown steamboat “Victory” that comes in a box marked simply “Small Boat,” a series of five Union Manufacturing Co., steam-propeller boats with their original boxes – each to be sold as a separate lot; and a beautiful Bliss boxed set called “Uncle Sam’s Navy.” To Dick’s knowledge, the latter is the only complete set, with all six original boats intact, known to exist. 

A very special cast-iron and tin toy collection comes from Ed and Norma Lotz, who started collecting in 1988. The couple focused on toys with a horse theme since Norma was an accomplished English equestrienne, a dressage instructor and a passionate horse lover. 

The Schoenhuts to be auctioned are from the collection of Chicagoan Norm Bower. Among the many delightful pieces in Norm’s collection are roly polys, horse-drawn wagons (e.g., Bond Bread, Abbotts “A” Milk, Hood’s Dairy), circus tents with accessories, boxed comic strip characters (e.g., Felix the Cat, Happy Hooligan, etc.), a rare Teddy Roosevelt and other “people” figures, and scores of beautiful circus and barnyard animal figures. Of special note is a gorilla with its original circular cage, estimated at $1,000-$1,500.

A wonderful Halloween collection comes from Kelly Verhelle, an active member of both the ATCA and the Golden Glow of Christmas Past club, and host of an unforgettable Ashfield, North Carolina, holiday convention a few years ago. Kelly started collecting jointly with her late father, toy collector Hal Mathers, more than 30 years ago. She remembers searching the shows and shops every weekend with her dad for any sightings of the “orange and black.” Her collection is a visual treat with its witches, black cats and incredible veggie people and pumpkin-head candy containers.

Also active members of both the ATCA and Golden Glow of Christmas Past, Ed and Brenda De Garbolewski are well known for their great taste and discerning ability to recognize quality. Ed and Brenda have consigned select holiday items to the November sale, including an impressive German belsnickle, a rare Santa with white robe on platform, and an amazing clockwork pumpkin man, just to name a few.

The array of endearing holiday items continues with antique Christmas ornaments including a boutique collection of coveted Dresdens in a variety of forms, such as a polo player on horseback with mallet, a champagne bottle in an ice bucket, a finely-detailed jewel-eyed owl, and an especially rare and early bulldog. Wearing a sturdy collar, the canine is chained to a gilt-papered, faux-brick doghouse whose roof lifts off so candy can be accessed.  

Bertoia’s Thursday/Friday, Nov. 18-19, 2021 Fall Sale will take place at the company’s gallery in Vineland, New Jersey. Live attendance is limited and by reservation only, with masks and social distancing mandatory. In-gallery previews are by appointment only. Bid absentee, by phone, or live online through Bertoia Live or LiveAuctioneers. For additional information email [email protected] or visit Bertoia’s online: