This article was originally printed in Antique Trader
VINELAND, N.J. – The stellar collection of antique toys, banks and Americana amassed by the late Donal Markey surpassed the $2-million mark March 25-26 at Bertoia’s in Vineland, N.J.
The 1,034-lot auction inventory filled the shelves of Bertoia’s showcases with scores of early American folk-art objects and hand-painted signs artfully arranged alongside toys of exceptional quality and condition.
An 1890s Ives cast-iron cutter sleigh with articulated walking horse led the grand parade of playthings. One of only a handful known to exist, the 22-inch-long sleigh was designed with a faux-tufted red seat, delicately detailed running boards, and attractive stenciling to its sides. It more than doubled its high estimate to sell for $86,250 (all prices quoted include 15 percent buyer’s premium). The buyer was a collector from Texas who attended the sale in person.
Of the same era as the sleigh, a Pratt & Letchworth painted cast-iron 4-seat brake with eight passengers and a team of four “galloping” horses was a testament to Markey’s eye for condition and color. Formerly in the Covert and Gertrude Hegarty collection, and measuring an impressive 28 1/2 inches in length, the early transportation toy streaked past its $25,000 to $35,000 estimate to settle at $48,875.
Each of two cast-iron mechanical banks achieved a selling price of $51,750. One of them, an 1884 Kyser & Rex Mammy and Child, drew crossover interest from black Americana collectors. The bank’s action consists of the woman lowering a spoon as though feeding the baby on her lap, followed by the baby raising her legs as the coin drops inside. The second bank, an 1876 J. & E. Stevens production known as “Panorama,” derives its name from the fact that it displays one of a rotating selection of pictures through its front window when a coin is dropped into the slot.
Donal Markey’s collection also boasted many rare and outstanding still (non-mechanical) banks, like a circa-1885 red-version Ives Palace. A favorite with collectors because of its realistic details, the Palace is adorned with chimneys, mock shingles, a cupola and dozens of windows. Estimated at $4,000 to $6,000, it attracted a flurry of bids before hammering $23,000.
Antique advertising also garnered very pleasing above-estimate prices. Made around 1920, a figural cast-iron string holder depicting the long-necked goose mascot for Red Goose Shoes was an eye catcher with its bright crimson-painted body, yellow bill and feet, and green base. Entered with a $2,500 to $3,000 estimate, it brought home the bacon at $17,250. Another advertising lot that kept the bidding paddles airborne was a circa-1870 milliner’s sign with the designer’s name and a different fancy hat painted on each of its sides. Estimated at $3,500 to $4,000, it took a bow at $10,925. Not far behind in the prices realized, a painted optometrist’s sign offering “Spectacles and Eyeglasses” and emblazoned with the image of a pair of eyes peering through framed lenses made $10,925.
Bertoia’s gained a new category of bidders thanks to the 19th- and early 20th-century folk art in the Markey collection. A hand-carved, self-framed picture incorporating a hand with the calling card “Made by J.P. Brown Invalid,” proved hard to resist, with its naïve animals, flowers, fruit and butterflies. The 13 1/2-inch by 17 1/2-inch creation was bid to $21,850 against an estimate of $3,000 to $4,000.
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