Fresh-to-market antique European toys drew international bidders to Milestone’s 100%-sold June 26 auction
Surprising rarities surfaced, including German clockwork ‘Woman Blowing Bubbles,’ $9,900; and French bicycle-go-round, $4,920
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Even the best-connected toy buyers in Europe surely would have been surprised by the contents of the Margaret and Joel Weissman antique toy collection, which was offered by Milestone Auctions on June 26th. The couple’s beautiful assemblage of German, French and English toys included examples of clockwork and hand-painted toys; automobiles, boats, airplanes, go-rounds and penny toys that are seldom seen on either side of the Atlantic.
“It was a no-reserve auction, but If a toy was genuinely rare or unusual, it sold above high estimate,” said Chris Sammet, co-owner of Milestone Auctions in suburban Cleveland. “We had around 3,500 registered bidders for the sale. The European toys attracted very strong interest from international bidders, but there was plenty of competition from the Americans.” The auction was 100% sold and totaled $256,000.
With the Weissmann toys as its centerpiece and other fine collections adding to its great variety, the 762-lot auction also included pressed-steel trucks, cast-iron vehicles, mechanical and still banks, and tin windups by Marx, Linemar, Unique Art and other popular brands. Many toys retained their original boxes, adding yet another layer to their desirability.
Displaying remarkable condition for its age, the sale’s top lot was a late-19th-century German hand-painted tin clockwork toy whose original box identifies it with the penciled notation: “Woman Blowing Bubbles.” The hand-painted tin figure of a woman in an aproned floor-length dress, with blond “hair” swept up into a bun, stands atop a lithographed-tin “brick” platform. When the toy is activated, the woman’s arm lifts the long bubble-blowing pipe from the soap bowl to her mouth. A bellows in the platform blows air through the stem to emit actual bubbles. In working order, this elusive toy rose to $9,900 against an estimate of $1,000-$1,500. It is now part of a Canadian bidder’s collection.
Another toy that charmed bidders was a nicely detailed French wind-up cast-metal bicycle-go-round finished in an attractive red, yellow and black color scheme. A great early depiction of a bicyclist riding around a central hub, it raced past its $800-$1,000 estimate to settle at $4,920. A French automotive highlight, a Rossignol tin-windup Peugeot automobile with companion garage garnered $2,200.
A quaint tinplate steam-toy depiction of a German violin teacher and his student more than tripled its high estimate in selling for $1,110. Other German toys of note included a scarce original Schoenhut clockwork “living picture” titled ‘Thomas’ Concert,’ $3,120; and an early Schuco 11-inch cloth-dressed windup Roller-Skating Clown, $1,380. A 1905 optical toy known generically as a phenakistoscope and marketed as “Dr. Zimmerman’s Ludoscope” was graded at VG to excellent condition and came six colorful motion discs. The lot also included two early kaleidoscope crank-action magic lantern slides and an additional Victorian stereoscope viewer. The group lot sold for $1,860, nearly four times the high estimate.
A plentiful selection of cast-iron cars, trucks, motocycles, boats and airplanes toys was offered, as well. Brands represented in the vehicular lineup included Hubley, Kenton, Champion and the blue-chip brand Arcade. Manufactured by the latter company, a cast-iron Allis-Chalmers tractor with trailer, both with white rubber tires in very good condition, came to auction with the set’s extremely rare original box. It sold for $2,400, twice the high estimate. Also entered in the sale were two scarce US Hardware cast-iron racing sculls, each painted green and tan with red serrated wheels. The larger of the two sculls measured 14½ inches long and was complete with eight varsity team rowers, a coxswain, and oars. It sold within estimate for $2,400.
Most unusual because of its mixed-media composition, an 1885 Welker & Crosley (Brooklyn, NY) clockwork locomotive exhibited a cast-iron body with a painted-wood boiler and domes. Measuring 11½ inches long and powered by a brass clockwork motor (not functional), it tripled its high estimate at $1,860.
Fans of 19th-century American paper-litho-on-wood blocks and games found one particular lot irresistible. Made by Crandall (Pennsylvania), the set known as “Expression Blocks” featured graphics of Jonathan Swift’s character Gulliver with Lilliputians climbing over his head and through strands of his long, wiry beard. Housed in the original factory wood box, the set brought $990, nearly five times the high estimate.