VINELAND, NJ – An enthusiastic gallery of bidders brought their A-game to Bertoia’s May 3-4 Toy Picks auction, bidding actively against a formidable contingent of phone and Internet bidders from throughout the United States and abroad. The attraction was a gleaming array of toys, trains, dollhouses and banks presented alongside the sale’s special highlight: Part I of the late Bill Bertoia’s personal collection of antique occupational shaving mugs.
The auction totaled $1.5 million, led by Lot 318, a circa-1902 first-series Marklin Battleship Maine that realized $64,900 (all prices quoted are inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium). The 30½inch-long tinplate clockwork ship was an “attic find in virtually unplayed-with condition,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. More than a century after its production, the hand-painted beauty still had its original masts, rails, two lifeboats and multiple guns. “Collectors want originality and condition right along with rarity. This boat covered all three bases, which is why it easily reached the high end of its estimate range,” Bertoia said.
The presale estimates on the selection of Lehmann and Martin windups ran true to form, with buoyant prices noted all across the European tin category. “There was a lot of interest in the Lehmanns, especially the Primus roller skater (Lot 388), which sold for $14,160. Before the auction, collectors were very curious as to what that particular toy might sell for,” Bertoia said. “There was always a very healthy competition between Lehmann and Martin to see who could come up with the most cleverly designed toys, and today’s collectors benefit from that competition, which produced excellence in design.” The Lehmanns in the May 3-4 sale came primarily from the same collection; Part II will be offered by Bertoia’s later this year.