40-year accumulation of toys, advertising, more offered in huge Clarity Sells auction


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Bidder interest will be keen for the group of Chein toys, which are coveted by collectors.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – A large single-owner collection comprising around 400 lots in an array of categories – to include Chein toys, Coca-Cola collectibles, framed art and lithograph prints, Native American art and artifacts, vintage dolls, toy trains and airplanes, Americana and more – will be sold in an online, phone and absentee bid auction slated for 11 a.m. Aug. 15.

The collector is a gentleman from north Georgia who, out of modesty, has requested anonymity until after the sale is over. With help from his wife, he has accumulated hundreds of items over a period of 40 years. “Once you step inside the home, where items are kept on shelf after shelf and room after room, time flies by as stories reveal the origins of his favorite pieces,” said Steve Poteet of Clarity Sells Auction Gallery.

Mr. Poteet spent four days in the home, cataloging the auction. He said bidder interest will be keen for the several toys made by J. Chein & Co. Included are a 17-inch Hercules Ferris Wheel (circa 1950s), a Playland Merry-Go-Round carousel with children seated atop horses and swan coaches, and a very rare Aeroplane Whirler Space Ride (circa 1960s), depicting what was, for the time, futuristic space travel. Production of this toy was very short-lived, and only a few examples are known to exist today.

Chein toys are generally seldom-seen on the market and are coveted by collectors. The consignor bought five of the toys at a garage sale in 1972 for just $5 each. Not long ago, someone from the PBS series Antiques Roadshow who’d heard about the toys paid the man a visit. “He offered me $500 for all five and I showed him the door,” the collector said. “One of the toys alone was appraised at $1,200, and that was many years ago.”

For more than 75 years, J. Chein & Co. produced some of the finest lithographed tin toys ever made in America. Founded in 1903 by Julius Chein, the New Jersey-based firm almost immediately started making wonderfully colored but inexpensive toys – from model amusement rides and wind-up characters to spirited banks and sand pails. Its dime-store offerings delighted both kids and collectors.

Native American art and artifacts, currently filling one corner of a basement room in the consignor’s home, include arrowheads (or points), found by the collector himself, on digs in north Georgia and throughout the Southeast. “I found lots of points and pieces of broken pottery in a campsite at Carter’s Dam, in Adairsville (Georgia),” he said. “One time I found a skeleton, but I didn’t keep it. I called the warden.”

The Coca-Cola collectibles include a pair of horse-drawn Coke wagons, one old and one new. The older one – purchased by a friend’s father in the 1930s, when the boy was just 11 years old – will attract more bidder interest, but the newer one (circa 2005), is a nice example, too. Also offered will be a six-pack of Coke in a rare aluminum case.

More than 100 framed art and lithograph prints will cross the block. One lot of note is a framed print depicting the experience of immigration titled Pillars of a Nation. A man whose grandfather passed through Ellis Island in New York when he emigrated from Hungary in 1907 commissioned the work. It comes with a certificate of authenticity on the reverse side, and is signed and numbered (3,094/20,000).

Also to be sold will be a pair of companion C.M. Russell screened prints, produced from watercolor paintings done in the early 1900s; a documented work by the legendary artist Chesley Bonestell (subject of the book Worlds Beyond – The Art of Chesley Bonestell), titled Saturn as Seen From Titan; and an intriguing original portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, depicting the former French leader in a seated pose, done around 1865.

Vintage dolls and toys include a papier-mâché and wood horse, sitting atop tiny spoke metal wheels, quite old and rare; porcelain face dolls, produced by manufacturers worldwide; celluloid dolls from the 1940s and ‘50s (U.S.-made); some papier-mâché clown dolls in immaculate condition, signed; an original Kewpie doll in a grass skirt; and toy airplanes (one with a gas engine, World War II edition).

The consignor has been collecting “stuff” (as he calls it) since moving his family to north Georgia in the 1960s. He got the bug while working for Virgil’s Auctions in Adairsville, in the 1960s. “I worked the floor, but we’d go on trips to New York and New Jersey, looking for items to bring back and sell. Some of it I ended up buying for myself, like a porcelain frog I paid a quarter for. About a week later a guy offered me seven bucks for that frog. That’s when I realized there was profit in collecting.”

Only about 20 of the 400 lots in the sale won’t be from the single-owner collection. Those 20 lots are mainly Chinese porcelain pieces and antique view cameras which are from another southern collector.

The auction will begin promptly at 11 a.m., E.S.T. Previews will be held by appointment only from Aug. 10-14. Call Clarity Sells for more details at 423-339-5581. A 24-page, full-color illustrated auction brochure may be ordered, also by phone, at a cost of $12.95 (postage paid).

Internet bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com.

Clarity Sells Auction Gallery is based in Cleveland, Tenn. To learn more about the firm and the upcoming Aug. 15 online-phone-absentee bid auction, you may log on to www.ClaritySells.com.

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Most of the arrowheads (points) and other Native American artifacts were unearthed by the consignor.
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Pair of Fu Lions made from carved pink gemstones (possibly jade), on carved teakwood stands.
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Framed lithographic print depicting the experience of immigration, titled Pillars of a Nation.
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Large 76-inch-by-88-inch hand-sewn Yo-Yo quilt made from polyester-cotton blend and contains 891 yo-yos.
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Antique and rare papier-mache and wood horse, sitting atop tiny spoke metal wheels.

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