Quietly held private collection includes extremely rare 1930s/’40s celluloid wind-ups, soft dolls, ceramics, children’s character wristwatches
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – When antique toy collectors gather and talk about the truly great comic character collections of the past, the names of a certain few trailblazers in the hobby invariably come up. However, it has been many years since a virtually unknown collection of fine, early comic character toys has appeared at auction, which is exactly what will happen on November 18th at Milestone’s gallery in suburban Cleveland.
The auction includes 700 lots of premier pre-WWII celluloid wind-up, ceramic/bisque and wood toys; coveted soft dolls by Steiff and Lenci, and a bonus collection of rare character wristwatches, most in their colorful original boxes.
“We are so honored that the consignor chose us to auction his fantastic collection of toys,” said Miles King, co-owner of Milestone Auctions. “Twenty-five years ago it might have been possible to amass a smaller version of a collection like this one, but it would have involved considerable time, travel and expense – it was the pre-Internet era. Bidders are going to immediately recognize this sale as a unique buying opportunity. Everything in the collection is rare and in exceptionally beautiful condition. Many items look exactly as they would have in the 1930s or ’40s in a retail setting.”
Comic character connoisseurs jump at the chance to acquire even one Steiff, Charlotte Clark, Knickerbocker or Lenci soft doll. The November 18 auction includes more than six dozen such dolls by those four manufacturers and others of the period, including Dean’s, Nifty/Borgfeldt, Krueger, Averill, Ernesto Kohm, Chad Valley, and more.
Steiff Mickey and Minnie Mouse soft dolls from the 1930s are entered as consecutive lots in the auction, each with a $4,000-$5,000 estimate. The dolls stand 9 inches tall and have their desirable original Steiff buttons and tags. “It would be very difficult to find better examples, as they are truly in excellent to near-mint condition,” said King.
Another popular duo, Lenci’s (Italy) Popeye the Sailor and Olive Oyl, will follow each other across the auction block. The whimsical felt dolls exhibit strong colors, a testament to the care they have received since their manufacture in the 1930s. Popeye stands 21 inches tall and wears an oilcloth cap, while the willowy Olive, with her oversize shoes, measures 18½ inches from the ground up. Each is expected to make $1,500-$2,000.
In addition to other versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, the cast of characters in the soft doll section also includes Krazy Kat, Donald Duck, Felix the Cat, Barney Google, Goofy, Jiggs, Little Red Riding Hood and many more.
There are numerous rare wood dolls and toys, as well. A Nifty/Borgfeldt (American) Mickey Mouse has an unusual action. When its tail is pushed down, the toy’s head pops up. Milestone’s great example of a hard-to-find toy is estimated at $4,000-$5,000. Three different versions of Cameo’s jointed-wood Betty Boop are in the mix, with the cartoon cutie’s dress shown in red, green and black, respectively. Each is estimated at $600-$800.
The collection features some wonderful celluloid wind-ups, including the only known example of Mickey Mouse baseball players on wheeled tin platforms. Facing each other, one of the two Mickeys holds a bat, while the other cups a ball in his hand. This presumed sole survivor is entered with a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.
Another one-of-a-kind celluloid toy depicts Mickey Mouse riding a circus elephant while a smaller version of the famed Disney character rides atop the pachyderm’s trunk. The elephant, adorned with a richly colorful “blanket,” walks forward and bobs his head when activated. The only known example to include the smaller Mickey figure, it could command a winning bid of $2,000-$3,000.
Felix the Cat makes an auction appearance in many forms, including composition, bisque, rubber, ceramic, and even metal, as an amusing radiator-cap mascot. Donald Duck is another beloved cartoon character whose image appears throughout the many subcategories of the sale. A very rare 1930s Fisher-Price wind-up Donald Duck “walky balky” toy, with passengers Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse behind him in a pull cart, is in very clean, all-original condition. Estimate: $1,600-$2,000
The ceramics selection is broad and all encompassing, both in terms of the characters depicted and the functional purposes the pieces represent. There are toothbrush holders, lamps, bath salts holders, pincushions, perfumes, vases and bowls. Other figures are simply meant for display, some with their coveted original boxes.
Character watches are sought after not only by toy buffs but also those who collect timepieces. The auction includes 77 watch lots (mostly boxed), with a list of characters that spans the greats of early cartoons, comic strips and radio shows. They include Little Orphan Annie, Captain Marvel, Hopalong Cassidy, Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Zorro, Roy Rogers, Li’l Abner, Porky Pig, the Three Little Pigs, and many other Disney and Warner Bros favorites. The top prize is a 1935 Ingram Buck Rogers pocket watch in its original box with a directions leaflet. “The condition must be seen to be believed,” Miles King said. “It looks as though it was never used.” Estimate: $1,000-$1,500
Milestone’s Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 Character Toy Auction will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, with all forms of bidding available, including live online. Address: 3860 Ben Hur Ave., Unit 8, Willoughby, OH 44094. For additional information, call 440-527-8060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: www.milestoneauctions.com or www.LiveAuctioneers.com.