Absentee bidders were anything but absent as Noel Barrett Auctions realized $1,235,000 at the company's June 16-17 Antique Toy auction. "We were very pleased with the gross, which was 15 percent above the overall high estimate," said Barrett. "Overseas and internet bidders played a big part in the sale's success. Out of 1,079 lots, 348 of them sold through eBay Live. That added about $150,000 to the two-day total." All prices quoted are inclusive of a tiered buyer's premium that ranged from 10 percent for in-house purchases by cash or check to 20 percent for eBay purchases.

Topping the tinplate clockwork toys was a circa-1905 Marklin Providence sidewheeler boat that had been estimated at $40,000-$50,000. The scarce 26-inch craft was in a remarkably well-preserved state, with only minor bits of paint loss noted here and there. Condition proved to be the key to its doubling expectations and achieving a $99,000 winning bid.

The sale contained a number of clockwork toys and patent models that had come from a local consignor in New Hope. "The patent models flew," Barrett said. "For years this category languished - nobody wanted them." Among the more amusing patent models in Barrett's auction was an 1873 painted-wood and tin example featuring a clockwork Irishman that, when activated, could "dance" on a stand of recycled cigar boxes. Subsequently, this design was adapted by the distinguished American toymaker Ives Blakeslee & Co. At Barrett's, the patent model achieved $6,600 a far cry from its $300-$400 estimate.

While the primarily German-made penny toys in the sale were "all over the field, some high and some low," Barrett said the market showed no reticence in its demand for early American toys. A Kyser & Rex painted cast-iron bell toy known as "Miss Liberty," complete with a figure of the American icon and an eagle finial on the bell, rang up a winning bid of $29,700 - triple its high estimate. Two desirable 19th-century clockwork toys featuring clothed figures holding props - Ives' General Grant Smoker and Secor's African-American Banjo Player - earned $18,700 and $22,000, respectively. Both of these selling prices were well above estimate.

A well-publicized highlight of the sale was the Paul Neuman collection of 18th, 19th and early 20th-century architectural building sets. While there were disappointments at the lower end, Barrett said the better examples "held their own, and the really fine sets that crossed other categories did very well. The total high estimate for the collection had been set at $156,000. With the buyer's premium included, we easily surpassed that figure."

There seemed no shortage of interested suitors for the varied selection of cast-iron mechanical banks in the sale. Leading the category was an intricately designed J. & E. Stevens cast-iron Girl Skipping Rope bank with robust clockwork mechanism. It surpassed expectations to realize $16,500 (estimate: $8,000-$12,000). Barrett noted that there had been "big Internet support" for the banks, and that they had performed well even with a small crowd present for that particular segment of the sale.

Noel Barrett Auctions will not be holding a fall sale, as is their usual custom. Instead, Barrett said, his team is concentrating on an April sale of toys and trains that already has attracted a number of fine consignments. Barrett's will also conduct an October 2008 auction event. Anyone wishing to consign to either of next year's sales can contact Noel Barrett by calling 215-297-5109 or e-mailing toys@noelbarrett.com.