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This papier-mâché creation is both a pull toy for a toddler and a set of nine-pins for bowling. The sculpting and excellence in artistry suggest German manufacture, since skittles sets made in France during this period seldom demonstrate such quality. Estimate: $10,000-15,000.
SOLD French clown skittles set with figural clown ninepins, $27,500
This early American tin fire toy dates from the last quarter of the 19th century. The delicacy and almost primitive quality renders and almost folk-art appearance. This example is believed to be a new find within Fallows catalogue raisonné. Estimate: $7,000-9,000.
SOLD A previously undocumented Fallows horse-drawn Patrol wagon, $15,400.
A number of scarce pieces by the illustrious German firm Marklin will be offered, highlighted by this clockwork track-inspection car, complete with original cloth-dressed figures. It is expected to bring in the $20,000 range.
SOLD Marklin’s draisine with a driver figure and two other workers along for the ride, $17,600
NEW HOPE, Pa. – “The show must go on” is a motto that entertainers have lived by for several generations, and it was particularly appropriate over the Oct. 7-9 weekend, with Noel Barrett’s $1.2 million Autumn Toy Auction featuring the Larry and Barbara Kuper circus toy collection. It was a period marked by torrential downpours and flooding in the Philadelphia area. Rural Bucks County, where Barrett’s sales are held, was especially susceptible because of its location on the Delaware River, which was engorged and overflowing in some places.
Barrett took no chances, moving his classic Morgan automobile to higher ground, but inside the hall – at the New Hope Eagle Fire Hall – the auction went forward without a hitch. “It was a small crowd, but we had 400 absentee bidders who were successful with their bids,” said Barrett. “And there was some very significant bidding action from eBay participants, who won about 30 percent of the lots. One of the surprises of the sale was that we’re used to eBay being a source of bidders who buy at the bottom, but not this time. We had 1,000 people registered through the Internet, and they were spending some heavy money.” Barrett added that a “brand-new buyer” spent $30,000 through eBay. After the sale, purchases were shipped throughout the United States as well as to New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia and many countries in Continental Europe.
Prior to the auction, Barrett had been reticent about predicting which lot would finish at the top of prices realized. “But I had thought the skittles might have an outside chance,” he said, referring to a superb painted papier-mâché, wheeled clown holding a set of smaller clown ninepins, “since some skittles sets have sold for $30,000”. Estimated at $10,000-15,000, the colorful lot finished as first runner-up in the sale, purchased by a Pennsylvania dealer/collector for $27,500 (all prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium).
The big guns came out for the rare trains consigned to the sale, including a three-piece Marklin gauge 1 Rheinuferbahn train set described in Alan Levy’s A Century of Model Trains as “a classic collector’s item.” Made around 1929, the suite had not been a commercial success for the prestigious German manufacturer, hence few examples circulated. The rare 50in set estimated at $18,000-22,000 won top-lot honors at $33,000.
A collector flew all the way from Washington state to bid on the object of his desire: a Boucher Blue Comet passenger train set with Chicago, New York and Washing Pullman cars and a San Francisco Pullman observation car, estimated at $6,000-7,000. The determined long-distance traveler prevailed on the lot at $17,600.
An “interesting little grouping” in the sale had come to Barrett just prior to his first of two auctions of the late Ward Kimball’s trains (November, 2004). The toys were so important, Barrett said, that they were held in the wings until they could be properly highlighted in a future sale. “The person’s grandfather, who had visited Germany as a boy in the early 20th century, had acquired a number of Marklin and Carette toys that he brought back to America. The consignor had found them in his grandfather’s attic, wrapped in 1953 newspapers and in absolutely fresh condition.” Within the toy bounty were several pieces that finished in the winner’s circle: a 9in Marklin hand-enameled “Electric Tramway” trolley with robust clockwork motor, $25,300; a Marklin gauge I draisine of hand-enameled tin with three clothed figures, $17,600; and a hand-enameled Marklin freight station with accessory pieces and often-missing extended platform roof, $23,100 against a $7,000-8,000 estimate.
The demand for fine-quality early American toys – especially firefighting examples – has been unrelenting for two decades, now, so it was no surprise that a wonderful 17¼in Fallows horse-drawn Patrol wagon should more than double its low estimate. With its original fireman driver and three firefighter passengers, the toy stenciled with an 1883 patent date was purchased for $15,400 by a California collector bidding over the phone.
Barrett related the back story that led to consignment of the Patrol wagon. “A man called me up quite excitedly and said he had put a toy on eBay and had been bombarded with enquiries. He said one person had offered him $2,500 cash. I looked it up on eBay and said I had never seen a Fallows piece like it, and that if he wanted to put it in the October auction, there was still time. He made the decision to pull the listing off eBay, and shipped the toy. When I received it, I checked around and confirmed that it was, indeed, a new find. No one knew of this particular model. We had quite a lot of interest in it prior to the sale.”
With Christmas ahead, Barrett’s included a colorful selection of antique and vintage holiday items in the October event. Attracting considerable attention was a 31in reindeer-drawn sleigh with Santa driver and a cargo of many miniature Christmas gifts. The detailing on the caribou nodder, including flocked neck and feet, was “impressive,” in Barrett’s view. “Everything about the toy and the way it was accessorized really appealed to collectors, and it brought a good price – $9,900.”
Other lots that finished well in the money included a 36in, circa 1933 Marklin Missouri battleship, $20,900 against a $10,000-12,000 estimate; an early 20th century boxed Bing rear-entry tonneau with lustrous, near-perfect paint, $10,450; and a 19th century French-made Punchinello platform toy (ex Carol Andersen collection) featuring a festively dressed Punchinello clown, $9,350 against a $3,000-4,000 estimate.