23 August 2021
Regarded as one of the ‘great old-time collections,’ the Schroeder trove features American and European toys and banks
On September 10 and 11, Bertoia’s will add yet another chapter to the legacy of one of America’s greatest antique toy and bank collections as they auction Part II of the Aaron and Abby Schroeder Collection. In total, 896 lots will be offered.
Considered by many to be in a league of its own, this vast and storied collection contains some of the rarest and most exquisite toys ever to reach the auction marketplace. It was lovingly assembled over several decades by the late songwriter/record producer Aaron Schroeder (1926-2009) and his wife and business partner of 49 years, Abby Schroeder. Together, the Schroeders built a powerful international music-publishing network.
The collection’s holdings include an extraordinary selection of late-19th to early 20th-century American cast iron, including premier mechanical and still banks; ultra-desirable horse-drawn and bell toys, and early American tin and clockwork toys. The latter grouping, crowned by museum-worthy classics made by Ives, is beautifully complemented by a broad array of European tin toys.
Part I of the Schroeder collection, which was auctioned by Bertoia’s on March 5-6 of this year, realized $3.1 million. World-record auction prices were set throughout the two-day event. The sale’s top lot, a pristine to near-mint J & E Stevens Girl Skipping Rope cast-iron mechanical bank shown in Blair Whitton’s 1981 reference Clockwork Toys, sold for a record $156,000 against an estimate of $70,000-$100,000. Leading the many exquisite European toys in the sale, a Mohr & Krauss double Ferris wheel depicted in David Pressland’s The Art of the Tin Toy was aggressively chased to a final price of $132,000 – nearly nine times the high estimate.
As was the case in the March sessions, the September auction will include a generous lineup of cast-iron banks, including more than 100 “stills” and nearly 200 mechanicals. “Even the most advanced collectors were thrilled to have a chance to bid on the Schroeders’ banks entered in our spring sale. We know they’ll be pleased with the high condition and excellent variety of banks set aside for the September event,” said Michael Bertoia, president of Bertoia Auctions.
Among the mechanical bank highlights Michael singled out for special mention are: a pristine magician-themed Kyser & Rex Mikado, $80,000-$120,000; and one of only a few known examples of the Man Kicking Watermelon bank, $40,000-$70,000. Both a Shepard Hardware Picture Gallery bank and Kyser & Rex Roller Skating bank carry individual estimates of $30,000-$50,000; while an amusing and always sought-after Chimpanzee bank follows with a pre-sale estimate of $25,000-$45,000. A J&E Stevens Girl Skipping Rope, $20,000-$40,000; and elusive Little Red Riding Hood bank, $15,000-$25,000, complete the “top 7” list of mechanicals. An intriguing near-mint Lighthouse (manufacturer unknown) has a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.
Two J&E Stevens productions – a Trust Bank, $1,500-$2,000; and a General Butler, $1,000-$1,500 – are among the still banks to be auctioned. Both an Ives painted Santa Claus (ex Seaman collection) and large Columbia bank with a combo trap are cataloged with individual estimates of $1,000-$1,500.
The spotlight on cast iron will continue with a stellar array of American horse-drawn, automotive, figural and bell toys, as well as cast-iron novelties, such as cap guns and cigar cutters. The doors to the Schroeders’ stable of horse-drawn toys will open to release a parade of stately equines, including a Pratt & Letchworth four-seat brake, $8,000-$12,000; a scarce and all-original Carpenter Burning Building, $12,000-$18,000; and a Hubley Royal Circus Bandwagon, $4,000-$7,000. A near-mint Ives Reindeer Sledge – a toy that’s on the wish list of many a cast-iron toy collector – will cross the auction block with a 10,000-$15,000 estimate.
A stunning example of the extremely rare cast-iron toy known as “Alphabet Man” or “Yankee Schoolmaster” will step to the head of the class with a $20,000-$30,000 estimate, while a circa-1885 Hubley clockwork Amusement Ride toy is expected to ascend swiftly to the $12,000-$18,000 range. Among the prized bell toys, two of the most appealing entries are an N.N. Hill Boy Pulling Cat’s Tail, $2,500; and a pristine Gong Bell Freedom Ringer toy, $4,000-$6,000.
The enviable selection of more than 80 American tin and clockwork toys ranges from platform and horse-drawn pieces to walkers and Secor figures. A circa-1880s Ives Woman Dancer on Box is in near-mint condition and estimated at $2,500-$4,500. Two delightful productions by Althof Bergmann include a large Boy Riding Dog, $2,500-$4,500; and Boy Herding Animals, $2,000-$3,000. Both are in pristine condition.
European tin productions are ready to impress as they follow a timeline from early hand-painted toys and diminutive penny toys to automotive, aeronautical and other wind-up toys. Bidders can also take their pick from more than 60 whimsical characters created by Lehmann and Fernand Martin. Many retain their original pictorial boxes, including Lehmann’s ever-popular Ski Rolf, $7,000-$10,000; Paddy & the Pig, $2,000-$3,000; and Tut Tut, $1,500-$2,500. A desirable Martin Barrel Roller is in all-original condition and estimated at $2,000-$3,000, as is a circa-1897 boxed Oxen Cart by the same French manufacturer.
Other Continental toys of special note include a large hand-painted French omnibus, $6,000-$9,000; Bing double-decker bus, $4,000-$6,000; and a pristine Hans Eberl Performing Clown with Wheelbarrow, $4,000-$6,000. A $3,000-$5,000 estimate applies to both a large hand-painted French rowers toy and an all-original Gunthermann Seated Clown Musician.