Marklin “Amerika” Steams to a Record $271,400

Bertoia Auctions, Vineland, New Jersey

Photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions

An enthusiastic, rollicking crowd convened at Bertoia Auctions’ Toy Shoppe sale on May 20 and 21. They helped pull off, in Jeanne Bertoia’s words and in racetrack parlance, a trifecta. The $1.4 million run at the Vineland, New Jersey, auction house made it three consecutive million-dollar-plus auctions: the March Select Toys Sale, April’s Jerry and Nina Greene’s trains and accessories sale, and the Toy Shoppe sale.

The more than 1300 lots included banks, comic/character toys, transport, construction, and utility toys in pressed steel, cast iron, tinplate, and wood, penny toys, holiday toys, and all the trimmings. Countless treasures bore the pedigree of such legendary collectors as Lillian Gottschalk, Barney Barenholtz, Richard Keats, Bill Bertoia, Don Kaufman, and Max Berry.

The odds-on favorite was the ocean liner Amerika by Gebrüder Märklin that had been found in a midwestern attic and was remarkably preserved; the early 1900s four-stack liner is nearly faultless and spans 38″. Intense, aggressive bidding ensued in the gallery between a stateside collector and the agent for a noted Märklin aficionado from Europe. At a record $271,400 (includes buyer’s premium), the European prevailed.

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This Märklin Amerika ocean liner, early 1900s, 38″ long, a recent attic find, reached a new high for nauticals at $271,400.

Nearly as jaw-dropping was the price for a painted tinplate floor train set by Francis, Field and Francis, the earliest U.S. toy in the auction. It was a splendid stencil-painted tinplate train set from the early 1870s with a 10″ engine with tender and two coaches, each 6¾” long. It mesmerized bidders to $64,900, more than double the estimate.

This sale marked a return engagement for Jay Schoedinger of Columbus, Ohio, a consignor of light pressed steel toys. Part I of his collection had been eagerly vied for in Bertoia’s March auction. “Jay’s toys would be an upgrade for almost anyone’s collection,” observed Rich Bertoia. Brawny delivery trucks and vans emblazoned with the logos of mercantile giants of the 1930s and 1940s were a high priority. Especially noteworthy was a Buddy “L” dairy transport truck, No. 857, a 25″ long boxed example, that sold for $2950.

A Borden’s milk delivery van by Rich Toys, wood and tin, with glass milk bottles, 16″ long, sold for $2124. No matter how you slice it, the exceptional graphics on the side panels of a First Prize truck (Albany Packing Co.) added to its allure. It was 13″ long and sold for $4130. Unbelievably immaculate, a U.S. mail truck, 1920s, 26″ long, delivered at $4720.

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Painted tinplate train set, Francis, Field & Francis, early 1870s, ribbon design boiler, 10″ long engine and tender, and two coaches, each 6¾”, $64,900. – See more at: http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/marklin-amerika-steams-to-a-record-271400/5900#sthash.yzRb1raG.dpuf

Fulton side-wheeler ferry boat, Althof, Bergmann & Co., 1880s, with condition flaws, $17,700 (est. $16,000/20,000).

As the options for buying all-original, top-condition pressed steel toys diminish, diehard pressed steel devotees are begrudgingly beginning to show more interest in contemporary and completely restored examples. Take a custom Buddy “L” Harley Davidson truck, a recent Les-Paul creation, for example. At 25″ long, it brought $708. Cataloged as a fully professionally restored and custom re-creation, a Steelcraft Mobiloil truck, 23½” long, made $413.

A marvelous private selection of Santa Claus figures and other holiday celebrities highlighted Bertoia’s November 2015 outing. Some 130 candy containers, displays, sleighs, wicker autos, belsnickels, and Dresdens again made spirits bright at the May sale. Santa even appeared riding a horse on a platform pull toy. At 13″ high, it sold for $826. Fanciful in form, a nodding Santa walking with a cane on a wheeled platform had blue glass eyes and was 20½” tall. It was at the top of most wish lists at $16,520.

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Police Patrol, Marx, boxed, 1930s, lithographed tin windup, 10″ long, $5605 (est. $700/1000). – See more at: http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/marklin-amerika-steams-to-a-record-271400/5900#sthash.yzRb1raG.dpuf

This was the first auction outing in years for this toy. The F. Martin boy roller skater, early 1900s, hand-painted tin, 8½” high, made $16,520. When a toy reference book extols its allure, a category invariably receives a bump in media exposure and collector interest. Fernand Martin, Toymaker in Paris: 1878-1912 (2016) by Lourens Bas and J. Arthur Verdoorn offers a fresh look at Martin’s oeuvre. It includes hundreds of full-color images and a DVD of the bonshommes in action.

Richly hand-painted Märklin ocean liners, battleships, and paddle-wheelers from the golden years of the early 1900s are in a class of their own in the toy hierarchy. Many specialists hold the opinion that these majestic floating palaces push the classification as a toy to the extreme. Produced as luxury toys and marketed in limited editions to the British and U.S. markets, they were priced at an equivalent of about one month’s pay for the average worker. Accurately scaled and equipped with powerful clockwork engines, they could navigate streams, lakes, and ponds for as long as 40 minutes.

This writer recalls covering a Sotheby’s Collectors’ Carrousel auction in June 1983 when a Märklin Lusitania ocean liner cruised to a then record price of $28,600. We naively assumed that this record was so unassailable that it would hold up for some time. We hesitate to estimate how many times that figure has been surpassed. Fast-forward to 2012 when the Märklin steam-powered paddle-wheelers Chicago and Providence sold for $264,500 and $247,250 respectively at Bertoia’s auctions of ships and boats

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from Dick Claus. And last year Märklin’s Auguste Victoria, which at 42″ is the largest Märklin ship made, surged to $230,000 at Auktionhaus Hohenstein; it was ex-Märklin Museum, Göppingen, Germany. As Israel Sack often expounded, “With masterpieces, there is no limit.”

For more information, call (856) 692-1881 or check the website (www.bertoiaauctions.com).

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Boxer Rebellion Chinese blanket tossers, Lehmann, 1900, possibly Lehmann’s rarest, yellow base variant, $18,880. – See more at: http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/marklin-amerika-steams-to-a-record-271400/5900#sthash.yzRb1raG.dpuf

Deluxe Carette limousine with chauffeur, circa 1910, largest in Carette series at 16″ long, $12,980. – See more at: http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/marklin-amerika-steams-to-a-record-271400/5900#sthash.yzRb1raG.dpuf

Nodding Santa with cane, wheeled platform toy, Germany, composition, papier-mâché, 20½” high, $16,520. Originally published in the September 2016 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2016 Maine Antique Digest – See more at: http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/marklin-amerika-steams-to-a-record-271400/5900#sthash.yzRb1raG.dpuf

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