Bertoia Auctions three day mega sale this November will feature the life long train collection of the late Bernard Kuenle of Toledo Ohio. Spanning nearly fifty years of sheer collecting fun and serious toy train company research, the collection rates high on the respect barometer. Bernard focused on the earlier periods of Ives and American Flyer examples, and in the process amassed some interesting Lionel and transitional sets. He was instrumental in the development and fostering of the TCA, having been on the ground floor of the first meetings ever held., and rarely missed a convention since 1968. A recently viewed tape depicting Bernard talking about his collection at age 93, demonstrates his passion for the art of collecting, and for those who aim to keep the hobby at fever pitch: he will be remembered from coast to coast by those he liked to call his dearest friends… toy train collectors everywhere.
His energy for collecting equaled his genuine intensity to promote and share his knowledge with anyone willing to make train collecting more then just a part time hobby. Early photos reveal Bernard with only a handful of members huddled in basements scattered with assorted train sets at the ready for inspection and future classification. Greenberg mentions his name with pride in having worked with Bernard on his highly acclaimed book, and suggest that his willingness to share knowledge and time was to be admired by other collectors... for a long time.
Well, now, his entire collection can also be admired, and it contains some pretty special offerings for the upcoming sale. It features an outstanding share of rarity and condition that promises to create an extraordinary opportunity for collectors in search of elusive sets and examples. Along the path of collecting for so many years, Bernard searched the country over, and in between, found the hunt for great sets sometimes very rewarding. A few of his prized possessions include a tag of provenance from the Bill Clapper collection, and the noted founding train magnet Coleman collection. Special indeed, but with over 400 lots to be offered on Sunday’s train session, expect many show stoppers that would make any new shelf proud.
The collection is a study in Ives and American Flyer, with a major portion of O gauge examples, and a selection of standard gauge. Train stations and other accessories dot the collection nicely, and a few surprise entries make it a very note worthy fifty plus year old collection.
The collection contains an enormous amount of boxed examples, as Bernard realized many moons ago that boxes complete the find. And many boxes there are, as the late Kurt Patzlaff attested while helping spearhead the collection pick-up, is this a collection of trains with boxes, or a collection of boxes which happen to contain trains? One gets the picture easily, and it makes the collection that much more special. The pack itself took six people nearly two days, and the cataloging dwarfed those numbers easily. From minty die-cast American Flyer flag pole to an elusive Mack Junction water tank, to an almost complete boxed set of the coveted Ives transitional set, the examples included in the November sale will make for a fun weekend of toy train opportunities.
While Bernard’s focus is clearly on the earlier periods of toy trains, one has to remember that by age ninety plus, and years of collecting, those early trains were not so early for the younger collector. Imagine a fifty-year-old set as an early example, and plenty of them available at the time. A collector’s dream come true, and for one short weekend, collectors can experience the thrill of stepping back in toy time, and all is ready for a virtual tour, and a new shelf. It promises to be a thrilling weekend of bidding surprises, and auction attendees should have plenty of choice decisions to make.
Highlights include not one, but two, King George Locomotives, rarely seen, never offered, one in green, one in black with varied embossed markings, and noted in Greenberg’s catalog with, of course, NRS. Time to change that, and a few other entries that should entice even the most advanced of collectors. The pack was literally a learning lesson, as every set had a typed written note, and paper work uncovered later, further detailed many of the sets that appeared in various trade magazine over the years. Again, Bernard was the consummate student of toy train collecting, and thanks to his years of unselfish nature to share information, much has been revealed in the sometimes mysterious world of toy manufacturing practices. Why one set was only made in blue, or came with a tender from a past issue, or the discontinuing of a popular set, it all mattered to Bernard, and he usually found the answers. Collectors familiar with his unquenched thirst for information probably remember the numerous articles he contributed to hobby magazines over the years, and probably remember learning a whole lot along the way.
Collectors fortunate enough to visit the Kuenhle basement, surely received an advanced degree in toy train education before leaving. He was thorough in his descriptions, and used original catalogs like a Bible. Many of the sets contain transitional cars used and noted by all collectors during company take-overs, and these are usually the most sought after today. Add a few prototypes and the collection rounds out to a very important grouping. O gauge dominates the collective grouping, but Bernard amassed a good cross section of Ives and American Flyer standard gauge. Early Ives Trolleys weigh special attention, including the 800 model, and other entries make equally impressive finds. Lionel fills a table or two, and accessories go along with all three-toy train sessions. Early clockwork Ives, and Chicago coach sets by American Flyer fill a few shelves, and collectors can expect almost everything in between to complete the variety. The Gallery has attempted to make the sale as collector friendly as possible, and the entire train collection will be sold on Sunday, November 20, with an estimated starting time of 12:a.m. Approximately 400 plus lots will make their way to the podium, and everyone is encouraged to mark their calendars for this important event. Several additions to the train collection have been added including an extremely rare J. Butcher scale model Steam engine from the late 1800's, a Carlisle and Finch Trolley with car, and a few Lionel standard gauge sets.
Collectors are encouraged to take part in the weeklong preview or anytime prior to sale on Sunday. Full color -hard cover catalogs are available featuring the entire sale sessions and an after sale price key will accompany all orders. Additional auction notes appear in this article, and too numerous to mention, each and every set will be displayed in the catalog. Bertoia Auctions welcomes special viewing time appointments if necessary, and for further information on this or upcoming sales call the office at 856-692-1881 or fax at 856-692-8697. The auction bidding agenda includes live public auction, phone bidding, absentee bidding, and live time internet bidding on www.ebaylive.com , hosted by www.Liveauctioneers.com. Please visit the Bertoia Auction website at www.BertoiaAuctions.com, email at Toys@Bertoiaauctions.com., or fax 856-692-8697.