By Catherine Saunders-Watson – Antique Trader Editor
VINELAND, N.J. – Toppling one auction record after another, Bertoia’s concluded its spring Fresh Finds sale with a gross of nearly $2 million (all prices quoted are inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium). The internationally respected auction house known for its consistently excellent offerings of cast-iron banks, American and European toys, and cast-iron novelties such as doorstops and bookends, Bertoia’s has a fiercely loyal following. According to the New Jersey company’s auction coordinator, Rich Bertoia, there was an excitement among collectors at the April 28-29 auction that “has not been witnessed in many years.”
Cast-iron banks, which have never been stronger, entered five-figure territory in the first hour of the sale, with a beautiful Carnival bank achieving $13,750. A pristine Coin-Registering bank chalked up $28,600; an exceptional Dog Tray bank earned $34,100; and what is possibly the only known example of an original-patent Ferris Wheel bank hit the heights at $24,200. A superb example of a Paddy and the Pig mechanical bank made $20,350.
Prices escalated as even-rarer banks took the auction block. A very scarce North Pole bank brought in a cool $39,600; while an exquisite casting of a US bank knocked down $67,100. A stunning example of the coveted Girl Skipping Rope, had no trouble climbing to $72,600.
An expert in the field of cast iron, Bertoia’s owner, Jeanne Bertoia, observed that enthusiasm for the specialty category is soaring, with the great items always doing well, and the cream of private collections “really packing the heat.” Bertoia said her company promotes all over the world and works hard “to feed the collector’s joy of collecting … Our collectors are like family to us, and we do everything we can to give back to that community.”
The April sale made its mark by achieving “haven’t-seen-lately” prices on items such as European boats. In fabulous original condition, a Marklin paddlewheeler New York led its category at $56,100. Following along were Bing oceanliners in the $6,000 range. Another specialty, Voltamp transportation toys, validated that demand continues to exceed supply, with an exceptional Interurban Trolley ringing its bell at $12,100.
Popeye’s punchy presence translated to some powerhouse prices. Among the top entries in this tin-toy section were: Heavy Hitter $13,200; Fliers $4,400, Aero Plane $3,850; Chein Walker $3,300; and Popeye in Barrel $3,300.
A brief burst of applause followed the sale of a $44,000 Schoenhut Bandwagon, complete with its ensemble of musicians. Other Schoenhut productions that met with audience approval included a High Wire Tent, $8,250; a Chariot, $5,225; and a Grotesque Jockey figure, $2,475.
Bidders were spoiled for choice in the doorstops, doorknockers and cast-iron cigar cutters portion of the sale. A Donkey cigar cutter with advertisement embossed on it swept the honors at $5,225; while a pristine Artie cigar cutter followed a close second with a winning bid of $4,675. Among the doorstops, a grand, large-size Elk finished at the top, at $3,850. Other noteworthy entries included a Bradley & Hubbard Girl Holding Dress, $3,300; and a large Black-eyed Susans example making $2,475.
Compliments on the quality and abundance of exceptional material flowed steadily throughout the event, which lived up to its Fresh Finds name, and then some. Rich Bertoia, who is Jeanne’s brother-in-law, remarked, “The excitement and activity I witnessed matched almost every auction we ever held, barring the Stan Sax sale, which is still the legend. This April event showed a renewed frenzy for all things toy related.”
Bertoia’s staff is now working on a three-day November auction that will feature 150 magic lanterns and optical toys from the Don Curran collection. As always, the sale will include mechanical and still banks, toys of all types, including a grouping of Lehmanns; and figural cast-iron doorstops. For additional information on the upcoming auction or to learn about consigning to future Bertoia sales, call 856-692-1881 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: www.BertoiaAuctions.com.