Toy spectacular features rare European and American productions

Milestone Auctions’ Fall Antique Toy Spectacular features huge single-owner collection

Collectors of rare antique and vintage toys – whether manufactured in Europe, Japan or the USA – are in for a treat on Saturday, October 2nd. That’s when Milestone Auctions of suburban Cleveland, Ohio, will present its Fall Antique Toy Spectacular starring one of the most diverse collections of fine toys ever amassed. With the exception of a few select additions from other consignors, the 704-lot auction is devoted exclusively to the marquee collection, whose superlative holdings are a testament to decades of searching and networking within the toy hobby. All forms of remote bidding will be available for those who cannot attend the auction in person, including live via the Internet through Milestone Live.

“A month before the sale date, our phones were already ringing. The word had gotten out and collectors were eager to learn more about the toys and leave bids,” said Chris Sammet, co-owner of Milestone Auctions. “It’s very unusual to see a single-owner collection with this much variety. There are 138 German, Spanish and Japanese motorcycles; early American toys by George Brown and Ives; Marx prototypes, and hundreds of great European toys, many in their original boxes.”

A parade of 86 Lehmann windup and flywheel tin toys is poised to cross the auction block, including a number of uncommon examples. Sometimes based on characters that toymaker Ernst Paul Lehmann observed in his own village and during his travels, German-made Lehmann toys are just as amusing today as they were when they first left the company’s Nuremberg factory over a century ago. Top entries include a Chinese-themed “Boxer Rebellion,” considered the rarest of all Lehmann toys, $12,000-$15,000; a dashing “Ski Rolf” with pictorial box, $6,000-$8,000; and an early flywheel-driven “Going to the Fair” with pictorial box, $4,000-$6,000. 

Other character-centric Lehmanns include “Snick Snack” (man walking two frisky dogs), $4,000-$6,000; Mandarin with pictorial box, $4,000-$5,000; and a jaunty “Halloh” motorcycle with rider and bright, multicolored pictorial box, $4,000-$5,000. The fleet of Lehmann vehicles includes old favorites like “Naughty Boy” and “Autobus” – each boxed and estimated at $1,500-$2,000 – and elusive branded productions like a “Salus” Red Cross ambulance, $3,000-$4,000, and a “Deutsche Reichspost” van, $2,000-$3,000. A boxed “UHU” amphibious car is also expected to make $2,000-$3,000. 

Designs from other revered European manufacturers bear witness to the Continent’s century-old toymaking tradition of crossing technology with artistry. A prime example would be the rare 1885 Vielmetter Clown Artist, a hand-crank tin toy that still wows collectors with its ability to sit at an easel and draw a real picture when operated. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000. 

Coveted Gunthermann toys in this sale run the production gamut from the earliest hand-painted musicians to vehicles from the first quarter of the 20th century. Primitive windups, which are so desired by collectors, include: Clown Musicians on a Bench, $3,000-$4,000; a large and impressive Clown and Black Xylophone Players, $2,000-$3,000; a Clown Barber with Customer, $2,000-$3,000; cloth-dressed Black Musicians on Platform, $2,000-$3,000; a Cat Musician Trio, $1,500-$2,500; and many more. Gunthermann classics from subsequent decades include a very scarce skirted tin windup motorcycle with driver, $3,000-$4,000; a beautiful 20½-inch Captain Campbell’s Blue Bird racer with its original, brightly graphic box, $2,500-$3,500; and comic character favorites such as Mutt & Baby Cicero Walking, $2,000-$3,000; a 10-inch tin windup Bonzo, $1,500-$2,000; and Bonzo on a Scooter, $800-$1,000.

Toys made by INGAP – an acronym for Industria Nationale Gicattoli Automatici Padova (Italy) – have their own avid following amongst collectors, and it’s always exciting when an example turns up at auction. Milestone will offer nine INGAP toys, including an amusing tin windup Topolino race car with hell-bent mouse driver, $3,000-$4,000; a Grandi Magazzini vending scooter with composition driver, $2,000-$2,500; and comic characters Happy Hooligan driving a donkey cart, and two versions of Charlie Chaplin with a cane – each estimated at $1,000-$1,500. There are, in fact, 27 different Chaplin toys in the sale, from various manufacturers. 

Along with INGAP, another exotic name known to ignite bidding action is Paya, the Spanish company whose tin motorcycles are great favorites with ‘cycle aficionados. Within the astonishing selection of 138 motorcycles are three Paya bikes, including an 11-inch sidecar model with a driver and smartly dressed Black passenger blowing a horn with still-functioning bellows. Its estimate is $3,000-$5,000. 

The mindboggling motorcycle category boasts additional rarities from Germany (Lehmann, Fischer, Tipp, Distler, Georg Levy, G&K, and more), Italy (Matarazzo), France (JML), Spain (RAS) Russia, and Japan. A boxed Marusan battery-operated Sunbeam is estimated at $1,500-$2,000, while another Japanese beauty, a “Romance” tin friction bike with male driver and female passenger, is entered with a $1,000-$1,500 estimate. 

Not to be missed are two Marx (USA) prototype windup military motorcycles: a Speedboy 4 with soldier driver and camouflage box on the back, and a second military motorcycle with a spring-loaded cannon and ammo box on the back. Each features hand-painted details and has a $6,000-$8,000 estimate. Other Marx prototypes include a windup Blondie & Dagwood Car, $4,000-$6,000 and Popeye Motorcycle Express, $3,000-$4,000. They are joined by an outstanding array of comic character toys that includes a Nifty tin windup Hi-Way Henry Car, all original and complete, with its original box. Estimate $5,000-$7,000

Among the early American toy highlights are 10 rare Ives clockwork designs from the 1880s. Six of them have an African-American theme, including a working museum-quality example of “The Old Nurse,” with its original porcelain baby and illustrated box. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000. “Sparring Pugilists,” a depiction of two Black men boxing, is complete and in excellent working order. Estimate: $6,000-$8,000. The category’s headliner is a George Brown masterpiece – a boxed “Equestrian Acrobat” tin clockwork toy with all original paint, its original figure, and working mechanism. Elegant and exceedingly rare, this toy is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.