DENVER, Pa. – A 25-year private collection of steam toys amassed by New Mexico couple Pat and Lowell Wagner headlines a 3,100-lot holiday-themed Winter Sale to be held Dec. 10-12 at Dan Morphy Auctions’ gallery in Denver, Pa.
The acclaimed 545-lot steam toy collection includes many great rarities, said Morphy’s CEO and owner, Dan Morphy. “The Wagners bought only the best pieces – like the steam-driven motorcycle with sidecar, and extremely desirable steam-driven boats,” Morphy said. “By anyone’s assessment, it’s a premier collection.”
Lowell Wagner, a former auctioneer, said he attributes his early interest in steam toys to his farming background. “Even though he used a gas tractor, my father was one of the last farmers in the area to thresh rather than using combines,” Wagner said. “Steam and threshing go together in history.”
The timeline in the Wagners’ collection runs from the 1870s to modern day, but most of the toys to be auctioned are pre-1925 examples in excellent condition, many of them boxed. The top-shelf entries are those made by Marklin, said Wagner. “Even though they were sold as toys, Marklin steam toys were so well made, they could be models. Part of their appeal is their robust construction.”
A sizable portion of the collection is devoted to steam toys made by the American company Weeden, with several examples that are seldom, if ever, seen in the marketplace. “Some of them were made in very low numbers or are prototypes that never went into production at all, particularly the steam trains,” said Wagner.
The European and British steam toys in the couple’s collection include designs by Bing, Ernst Plank, Doll et Cie., Carette and Butchers (England). Steam traction engine toys and steam rollers are represented by designs from Krauss & Mohr (Germany), Gisea (Italy), Cranko (New Zealand, 1935-1945), Scorpion (Australia), Mastrand (England), J. Falk, and two Swedish companies: ADE Traktor and H.A. Mobile.
Also to be sold are steam-powered boats by the French manufacturer Radiguet and American firms Ives, Blakeslee & Williams Co., and Weeden, which produced the sale’s rare Gloucester and merchant marine ship. From Boucher comes a live-steam outboard motor called the Polly-Wog.
Additional American productions include steam engines and toys by Edgar Side, Buckman, Peerless, Kenton (including two showroom models), Miller, IND-X, J. & E. Stevens, George Brown, Beggs, and Holly. A fascinating Doll et Cie. (German) steam toy accessory exhibits the processes for making cotton, i.e., ginning, spinning and weaving.
The Wagners also assembled one of the largest known collections of vintage Fisher-Price toys, which comprise 200+ lots in the December sale. “This collection spans the history of Fisher-Price from 1931 to the present,” said Morphy Auctions Chief Operating Officer Tommy Sage Jr. “There are several unique prototypes that never went into production – toys that people at the Fisher-Price factory had on their desks.” Paddle toy prototypes include a Hawaiian dancer, bulldozer and early plug-style telephone switchboard. The collection also includes numerous pre-1940 and early wind-up Fisher-Price productions, many with attractive boxes and labels.
A lineup of 75+ pressed-steel automotive toys will be ready to roll. A special highlight is the fleet of Metalcraft trucks, known for their crossover appeal to advertising collectors.
More than 200 lots of American and European trains represent the brands American Flyer, Lionel, Ives, Voltamp and Marklin. A star lot is a Stephen Girard train set in unrun condition with all original individual boxes and a crisp original set box – estimate: $10,000-$15,000.
Marble collectors will be gathering around the Wayne Sanders collection built over 50 years. “Over time, Mr. Sanders acquired some unbelievable hand- and machine-made marbles,” said Morphy. “We expect a big turnout for this 200-lot portion of the sale. The market for marbles seems insatiable.”
More than 100 mechanical and still banks will be waiting in the wings at Morphy’s sale. An all-original Roller Skating bank straight from a house in New York (estimate $40,000-$60,000); a superb Boy Stealing Watermelon with 99% original paint ($15,000-$25,000), and an Organ with Dancing Bear that Morphy described as “stunning, with unbelievable highlights” ($10,000-$15,000) lead the category.
A J. & E. Stevens Jonah and the Whale pedestal bank came to Morphy’s after a program about the auction house was rerun on national television. “We were featured on the CBS Sunday Morning show in 2007, after the $7.7 million auction of the Steckbeck mechanical bank collection,” said Morphy. “The original owner of the Jonah bank, who received it as a gift in the 1920s, saw the rerun of the show and asked her brother to drive it in from western Pennsylvania. It’s one of perhaps a dozen known examples and has an estimate of $25,000-$35,000.”
A diverse array of dolls awaits collectors, starting with 1960s/’70s Barbie dolls and 65 boxed outfits for the teen queen and her sidekicks Skipper, Francie and Ken. Among the German bisques are dolls by Kestner, ABG, B&P and Simon & Halbig (including an 1159 lady doll), plus a nice selection of baby dolls. French bisques are led by at least five Jumeau dolls and one original Tete Jumeau.
Other choice lots include an early Steiff teddy, a Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Tent with animals and performers; antique and vintage doll furniture and carriages. A highlight is the dealer stock and a sizable selection of mostly French and some German bodies and parts from priest and pioneer doll dealer the late Father William Crandall.
A timely inclusion in the December sale is the holiday antiques collection containing many charming belsnickles and Santas. An oversize (30-inch) Santa candy container with bisque face and blue coat was previously in a private collection in Germany. “This one is special. When a candy container stands 2½ feet tall, it’s not just a candy container but also a statue,” Morphy observed.
The Christmas grouping also includes many beautiful ornaments and an early 20th-century, 30-inch Santa in sleigh with reindeer. “Both the Santa and reindeer are nodders, which is unusual,” Morphy said. “This item was in a 1926 catalog issued by a toy company in Germany, which is where this particular consignment came from.”
Additionally, the sale includes 125+ PEZ lots, 90+ coin-operated gambling, penny arcade, slot and gumball machines; 200+ boxed cap guns, 85+ occupational shaving mugs, and 80+ figural silver napkin rings.
All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet. View the catalog online at www.morphyauctions.com. For additional information, call 717-335-3435, e-mail email@example.com.
Photos courtesy Dan Morphy Auctions.
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