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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org