PITTSBURGH – Ray Haradin’s Old Toy Soldier Auctions will present a 640-lot selection of antique and vintage figures in an absentee, phone and Internet auction closing Nov. 21. The spotlight will focus on two important collections known to toy soldier enthusiasts worldwide: the late Dr. James “Doc” Wengert’s collection of figures, vehicles and other scale-model toys related to military medicine; and the 30-year Britains collection of Deutschebank managing director Vincent C. Banker.
A third-generation physician, Doc Wengert was a U.S. Navy flight surgeon who served in Vietnam. Later in his career, Wengert changed his specialty to psychiatry and worked at V.A. hospitals in his native Nebraska. Throughout his life he harbored an interest in military medical figures – doctors, nurses, orderlies, stretcher bearers, wounded soldiers – and all the accoutrements a collector might desire in setting up a miniature M.A.S.H. unit, like operating tents, field kitchens, rescue dogs and emergency vehicles.
Doc Wengert was well respected among his fellow collectors. “He had a deep knowledge of the history of military medicine, and he never missed attending the Chicago Toy Soldier Show,” said the event’s co-promoter Steve Sommers. “He could spot a Red Cross on a made-in-Japan tin bus across a crowded flea market. No paint variation or casting difference in a figure was too subtle for Doc’s eye.”
“Doc collected medical figures all through his life. He had it all,” said Old Toy Soldier Auctions’ owner, Ray Haradin. “Although his collection included many French and German rarities, he didn’t care so much about the manufacturer, the material or the country of origin; he just wanted for it to be related to war-time medicine. He liked anything unusual, like the circa-1934 Johillco Abyssinian Red Cross unit with black servicemen and a white nurse (estimate $300-$350). He also had several rare French penny toy ambulances.”
The auction contains approximately 150 medical-theme lots from the Wengert collection. A 20-piece circa-1890 T. Krause (German) medical ensemble depicting British wounded, a surgeon, tent, quarters and ambulance is expected to make $900-$1,200. Another desirable grouping is the French, circa-1930 hollow-cast set consisting of a mule carrying two wounded World War I “Poilu” soldiers accompanied by a medical officer. The lot is estimated at $280-$320.
The second premier collection in the Nov. 21 sale is the Britains pre-World War II toy soldier collection of Vincent C. Banker. A Yale graduate and former U.S. Marine, Banker began collecting after an impulsive purchase of more than 500 figures he spotted in a London shop window in 1985. In the years to follow, Banker immersed himself in the hobby, “buying the best that Burt Ehrlich and James Opie had to offer,” said Haradin. “His collection was even featured in an issue of Town & Country magazine.”
Vincent Banker has decided to move his troops on to the next generation, and as a result, bidders in OTSA’s upcoming sale will find themselves in the enviable position of being able to acquire exceptional antique figures from a long-held collection. Highlights include the catalog cover lot, a circa-1900 Britains first-version set 101 Life Guard Band in red. The slotted-arm 12-piece set could make $600-$700 at auction. Another top lot, a beautiful circa-1919 Britains second-version Royal Field Artillery Gun Team with mounted officer, carries an $800-$900 estimate.
The auction also includes a number of quality figures and sets from other consignors. Sure to be at the top of many a collector’s wish list is the 1937-1941 Britains Noah’s Ark set presented in an ark-shape box. “This is only the second one I have ever seen,” said Haradin. “It includes Noah and his wife and a variety of paired animals, including penguins, monkeys, elephants, rhinos, flamingos, hippos, llamas, lions and a polar and brown bear. It’s an extremely desirable set and will probably sell for $6,000 to $7,000.”
The Britains Lambeth Walk set depicting a couple dancing was made for only one year, 1939, and was based on the musical Me and My Girl. The two-piece set is estimated at $1,400-$1,600.
A boxed circa-1920 Mignot (French) Hunting Set with mounted hunters, a variety of wild animals, trees, dogs and a cottage is expected to fetch $700-$900, while a circa-1910 Heyde (German) Old Volunteer Corps set 1387 could reach $2,200-$2,800 at auction.
Manufactured under the banner of Britains’ plastic line, Herald, a 1960s store display farm set with an appealing, colorful box is entered with an $800-$1,200 estimate.
The auction also includes a rare 1934 Britains Father Christmas pencil sharpener made as a commissioned item for Fellowes Office Equipment, estimate $320-$350; approximately 70 Vertunni 1950s-vintage Napoleonic court figures, estimate $120-$150 each; and a large selection of artillery sets with various guns.
“This is, by far, the most diversified sale we’ve ever had,” said Haradin, summarizing the contents. “There are close to 60 different manufacturers and many esoteric items that you just don’t normally see.”
The fully illustrated catalog for Old Toy Soldier Auctions’ Nov. 21 sale of the James “Doc” Wengert Collection, the Vincent C. Banker Collection and Various Properties is available for $25 postpaid ($35 overseas) by calling 412-343-8733 or ordering through the Web site www.oldtoysoldierauctions.com.
All absentee forms of bidding are available for the sale, including online through www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
Photos courtesy Old Toy Soldier Auctions.