Milestone’s Oct. 28 auction will launch multi-year series devoted to toys from Elmer Duellman’s fabled Wisconsin museum
ABOVE: Scarce original Buddy ‘L’ International Harvester ‘Red Baby’ express truck, pressed steel, 24in long. Excellent condition. Produced in low numbers, it was originally available only through International Harvester dealers. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000
Over a 28-year period, the museum’s 25,000 vintage toys attracted collectors and journalists from all over the world
WILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Just about everyone in the antique toy hobby knew about “Elmer’s place.” Formally known as Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum, the long-regaled haven for vehicles and automotive toys of all types was almost as legendary as Elmer himself, who passed away in 2019 at age 79. Now, with the blessing of Duellman’s heirs, Milestone Auctions is auctioning the vast collection of antique and vintage toys that Elmer displayed at his Fountain City, Wisconsin museum.
The multi-year series of quarterly sales will debut on October 28, 2023 at Milestone’s Willoughby (suburban Cleveland), Ohio gallery, with all forms of remote bidding available, including live via the Internet through a choice of online-bidding platforms.
“It’s impossible to describe how comprehensive Elmer’s collection is. He had a head start on all of us,” said Miles King, co-owner of Milestone Auctions. “As far back as the 1980s, Elmer was buying and selling at a rapid pace and had a small army of pickers from coast to coast who were always on the lookout for items of interest.” Duellman was also known for his encyclopedic knowledge of toys. He authored two volumes of the now-classic Elmer’s Price Guide to Toys and contributed significantly to Volumes 1 through 5 of the Evolution of the Pedal Car books.
Duellman’s museum opened in 1994 and operated for 28 years. Inside and around five barns and sheds, visitors could view a mind-blowing array of 100+ cars, 175 motorcycles, 800 pedal cars, 250 bicycles, advertising signs, and a staggering collection of antique and vintage toys of all types.
Elmer’s son Les Duellman recalled: “Dad collected a lot of pressed steel toys and a lot of tin – Japanese, German and American – plus tether racers, Dinky Toys, TootsieToys and ride-on toys. He always sought out original condition and original boxes because he knew that’s what really made the piece. He also liked boxed sets that were complete with all of their parts present, as well as ships, airplanes, and car- and car-racing memorabilia and board games.”
The October 28 auction-series opener showcases many museum visitors’ favorites. A rare pressed-steel Tonka #210 Road Builders set is new/old stock in never-played-with condition. It includes a Big Mike dump truck, a second dump truck, a lowboy semi (tractor trailer) truck, steam shovel, road grader, and plow. It is possibly the nicest of all surviving sets of its type and is presented in its crisp original box with inserts. The auction estimate is $6,000-$10,000.
Also by Tonka, a scarce private-label United Van Lines semi truck, 24 inches long, is in excellent all-original condition with very nice paint and its original box. It is estimated at $1,500-$2,000.
Pressed-steel toys by other revered Midwestern manufacturers will be ready to rumble, like a seldom-encountered Buddy ‘L’ International Harvester “Red Baby” express truck. The 24-inch-long truck with original paint and decals is one of a limited number that International Harvester marketed exclusively through their dealerships. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000
A Metalcraft Pure Oil Airmail Toy Airplane displays wonderful original paint and decals. It comes with its very rare original box whose artwork depicts the well-designed pressed-steel airplane line for line. “It’s the nicest example of its type that we’ve ever seen,” King remarked. Estimate: $2,000-$3,000
Another head-turning pressed-steel highlight is a zippy 29-inch-long American National Packard Roadster. The stylish convertible has been beautifully restored in a cream and British racing green motif. Its dash, with artistic interpretations of gauges, is in original condition. Estimate: $2,000-$4,000
Coveted postwar Japanese toys will cross the auction block, led by an Alps Japan tin friction Lincoln Futura. All original and retaining its pictorial box, the sleek 11-inch-long bubble-topped beauty looks as though it has never been played with. “It’s beautiful. You won’t find a better example,” King said. Estimate: $2,500-$3,500
Two of the most sought-after of all postwar tin friction motorcycles, both by I.Y. Japan, are part of a lineup that features dozens of great bikes and scooters. Each of the I.Y. ’cycles is an amazing 12 inches long. The first, a “Condor Motor Cycle,” is accompanied by its original pictorial box and carries and estimate of $2,000-$4,000. The other, known as the “large blue version” of the “Romance” motorcycle, has a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.
A Bremer Whirlwind tether gas-powered race car in all-original, as-raced condition measures 18 inches long and comes complete with its motor, ignition, gas tank and drive system. It should make a perfect landing in the vicinity of $1,000-$1,500.
Those who love European toys will find some exciting entries in the sale, such as a German-made Bing tin clockwork Diamond T delivery van emblazoned “BOSTON STORE” on both its sides and rear portholed doors. All original and complete, with a working windup mechanism, this lovely 8-inch antique vehicle should have no trouble achieving $1,500-$2,000.
Many other types of toys will be offered, including comic character, German nautical toys, robots and space toys, buses, boxed TootsieToy sets, Disney toys, and Marx battery-op favorites like Frankenstein, Mighty King Kong and Whistling Spooky Kooky Tree.
The Oct. 28, 2023 debut auction of the Elmer Duellman toy museum series will be held at Milestone Auctions’ gallery at 38198 Willoughby Parkway, Willoughby (suburban Cleveland), OH 44094. Start time: 10 a.m. ET. All forms of remote bidding will be available, including absentee, by phone, and live online through Milestone’s bidding platform or LiveAuctioneers. For additional information on any item in the sale, call 440-527-8060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: www.milestoneauctions.com