Collectors could strike gold in California toy auction


featuredImage
1927 Ford Model T 2-door coupe, 23,827 miles, tricked out with Ford Cobra engine, 1966 Jaguar XKE front and rear suspension, 1976 Mustang II rack and pinion power steering, Jaguar disc brakes and other custom features. Estimate $20,000-$30,000. Photos courtesy Morphy Auctions.

DENVER, Pa. — At the heart of Dan Morphy Auctions’ 1,300-lot July 16-17 Premier Auction is a collection of mostly mint/boxed toys that has flown under the radar for nearly three decades. Running the gamut from European, early American and Japanese toys to pressed steel, pedal cars and even two actual hot rods, the collection was amassed by retired California architect and Victorian home restorer Michael O’Hearn. It will be offered at auction “unpicked and in its entirety,” said auction company CEO Dan Morphy.

“Very few people have even heard of this truly exceptional collection,” said Morphy. “Mr. O’Hearn never sold a toy; he only bought, and in each of the 46 categories of his collection, he kept the emphasis on condition. All of the O’Hearn toys are a strong 9 out of 10 or better.”

The auction’s flagship collection came to Morphy’s as a result of the 20-year business association and friendship between O’Hearn and Morphy’s chief operating officer, Tom Sage Jr.

“I started selling toys to Michael in the late 1980s or early 1990s through my magazine ads,” said Sage. “For many years I had no idea how large and impressive his collection was, until Michael extended an invitation to Dan and myself to visit his home and view the toys. It was something to behold. There were some 4,000 toys in his collection, at least 2,500 of them in their original boxes. As toy collections go, it’s a California gold mine, right up there with the very best.”

The July 16 session will open with more than 75 boxed robot and space toy lots. Highlights include boxed examples of a New Space Station (estimate $1,000-$1,500), a Space Refuel Station ($2,000-$4,000) and a friction Space bus ($1,200-$1,800). A TV Space Patrol Car is expected to make $1,500 to $2,500.

More than 100 European tin toys will be auctioned in the first session. A French Gem #42 racecar is entered with a $1,500 to $2,000 estimate, while a German lithographed-tin #15 Super Racer friction toy shows its rarity and desirability with a $4,000 to $8,000 estimate. A Fisher windup bus with “Joyville” as its destination is expecting a fare of $2,000 to $4,000.

The panoramic sub-collection of Japanese toys spans the era from pre-World War II through the boom years of postwar toymaking. “It covers quite a range – celluloid, battery ops, tin airplanes, big ’50s cars,” said Morphy. A #58 Atom Jet racecar is estimated at $2,000 to $4,000.

Michael O’Hearn also gets a kick out of full-size cars, as evidenced by the two beautifully appointed contemporary hot rods consigned to Morphy’s sale. His 1927 Ford Model T coupe ($20,000-$30,000) is fitted with a Ford Cobra engine and Jaguar front and rear end. Described by O’Hearn as “a deluxe mini racecar in an antique body,” the car has air conditioning, power steering and a 50-gallon gas tank in its trunk.

“At first glance, it looks like a Model T, but it’s deceptive,” said O’Hearn. I would take it out for a spin and have a little fun when people would drive by, pointing at the old Model T. I’d hit the gas and leave them in the dust.” The second hot rod, which O’Hearn has owned for 30 years, is a 1929 Ford Roadster convertible pickup truck customized with a big-block Chevy engine ($18,000-$20,000).

The July 17 session opens with more than 125 high-end advertising lots. A parade of pretty girls from the turn of the 20th century includes the fabled model Hilda Clark on a near-mint 1903 Coca-Cola tray; and another beauty sipping Dr. Pepper as the central image of a 1908 cardboard sign ($8,000-$12,000). Cardboard signs from the 1930s and ’40s touting Coca-Cola include a 1940s example with the image of a girl lying on the beach ($3,000-$5,000).

An early Lawrence Paint Company porcelain sign emblazoned with a tiger’s head is expected to leap to a winning bid of $2,000 to $4,000; while an oval tin sign for Robert Smith Ale, Philadelphia, with a Bengal tiger’s head “breaking” through it, will require $5,000 to $7,000 in order to be tamed.

Representing an American classic, a porcelain Campbell’s Soup sign in near-mint condition is mm-mm-good looking and carries an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000; while a custom sign depicting a cook holding a pan and frying chicken over a fire carries an estimate of $2,000 to $4,000.

In the tobacciana section, a large Mayo Cut Plug Tobacco porcelain sign with a rooster image could reach $4,000 to $6,000. Smaller but no less desirable, a Hi Ho Tobacco pocket tin with a wonderful image of scullers rowing also carries a $4,000 to $6,000 estimate. Three complete sets of Roly Poly tins, advertising Dixie Queen, Navy Cut and Red Man Tobacco, could realize $4,000 to $6,000 per set.

Additional lots include a large assortment of tip trays, 78 occupational shaving mugs, and 20 large, double-sided porcelain neon signs sourced from a warehouse in Duluth, Minn., where they had been stored for many years. “Some are 10 to 12 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds. They came off 1920s storefronts in Duluth and advertise such retail establishments as a furniture store, jewelry store, a brewery, etc.,” said Morphy. Among the more eye-catching examples is a 10-foot-long, quintessentially Art Deco, lime green and yellow neon sign for Nolander’s Furniture ($3,000-$5,000) and an 8-foot-long 1920s sign for Hotel Arrowhead ($3,000-$5,000).

Sixty mechanical and still banks, more than 200 tin toy lots and 100+ pressed-steel toys and pedal cars will be auctioned on day two of the sale. “Many of the O’Hearn pedal cars were custom made, and very unusual,” said Morphy. A 1914 Ford C-Cab could bring $5,000 to $7,000; and a Say It With Flowers motorcycle pedal car is entered with a $7,500 to $9,500 estimate.

All forms of bidding, including live via the Internet, will be available for Dan Morphy’s July 16-17 Premier Toys & Advertising Auction, which will be held at the Adamstown Antique Gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517. For additional information, call 717-335-3435 or e-mail dan@morphyauctions.com. View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid online at www.morphyauctions.com. ?

You might also enjoy:

     •  Family’s brewing heritage strengthens collecting resolve
     • 
Corgi Toys stood for quality and innovation
     • 
Childhood memories often draw collectors to farm toys
     • 
Donald Kaufman reflects on a lifetime of collecting



MORE RESOURCES FOR ANTIQUES ENTHUSIASTS

Great books, CDs, price guides & more

Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2011 Price Guide

Interact with other antique enthusiasts in Antique Trader’s online forum

Browse hundreds of FREE online classified ads

Sign up for your FREE AntiqueTrader.com email newsletter

More Images:

featuredImage
Cardboard 1908 Dr. Pepper sign featuring a turn of the 20th century beauty. Extremely rare, 15 by 10 inches. Estimate $8,000-$12,000.
featuredImage
"Say it with Flowers" Indian pedal motorcycle, 76 inches long, made late 1950s to 1960 as part of a carousel ride and later customized. One of a kind display piece. Estimate $7,500-$9,500.
featuredImage
Tin Space Fuel Station battery-operated toy, Japanese, includes original rocket, antenna and box. Estimate $2,000-$4,000.
featuredImage
Robert Smith Ale Brewing Company oval tin sign, 23 inches long with stunning image of forward-leaping tiger, estimate $5,000-$7,000.
featuredImage
Curved porcelain Campbell's Tomato Soup sign, 22½ by 12¼ inches, near mint plus, estimate $3,000-$5,000.

Leave a Reply