VINELAND, N.J. – An exceptional circa-1909 Marklin tinplate steam-powered boat known as the Priscilla sailed to the top-lot position at Bertoia Auctions’ $1.6 million Toys for the Mantle sale held Nov. 12-14, realizing $63,250 against an estimate of $35,000-$45,000.
The imposing 19-inch vessel exhibited fine original paint and intact original lifeboats, sailor figures and masts. The toy had been discovered many years ago in a Chicago attic and subsequently passed through the hands of several owners before being acquired by the late Bill Bertoia, co-founder of Bertoia Auctions.
“My brother held on to it for many years before selling it to the consignor,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “It’s one of those great toys that was never
shopped around. Collectors knew about it, but it never came up for sale. Finally it did, and now it’s the property of a private collector in Europe.”
Bertoia noted that it is rare to find large tin boats from the early 20th century that are as pristine as the Priscilla. “So many were put into water for play, and nothing
ruins tin and paint like water. The Priscilla, with its incredible detail, almost certainly would have been sold to a wealthy person to put on the mantel for display.”
Another superior example of Marklin’s mastery was the early 20th century steam-powered horse-drawn fire pumper with a vertical copper-finish burner, cast-iron spoke wheels and two seated firemen figures. A charming, well-detailed toy also formerly in the Bill Bertoia collection it blazed to $17,250.
The seemingly unquenchable desire for antique German-made toys extended to other manufacturers, as well. A Bing 1 gauge train set with components including a 4-4-0 “Express” electric locomotive and tender, Wagon-Lits sleeping car and hand-painted Speisewagon dining car achieved more than four times its
high estimate at $12,650.