Collectors gear up for chance to get the best toys

VINELAND, N.J. – The March 2009 auction debut of the Donald Kaufman Collection set a new house record for Bertoia’s at $4.2 million. Collectors who enjoyed the blue-chip offerings in the March sessions will find a similar second helping awaits at Kaufman Part II, slated for Sept. 25-26 at Bertoia Auctions’ gallery in Vineland, N.J. More than 1,100 lots, offered with no reserve, incorporate European tin, American cast iron, pressed steel and pedal cars; biscuit tins, postwar Japanese cars and prewar Japanese airplanes.

The sale includes a panoramic array of toys by Marklin, the premier name in early to mid-20th century toy production. The bounty includes roadsters, sedans and other auto lines, as well as an example of the toy considered the ultimate in Marklin design: the 1890s live-steam-powered fire pumper. Like most Marklin rarities, the pumper “comes with a platinum price tag,” said Bertoia Auctions’ co-founder and owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “It’s estimated at $40,000 to $60,000.”

In addition to Marklin, the sale will feature many beautiful early-20th-century luxury vehicles by other great designers of that era, such as Carette and Bing. Several of the European cars retain their original boxes, which “adds the exclamation point to the rarity factor,” said Bertoia. French and English cars taking a prominent place in the spotlight, as well. A key piece is a top of the line Bignan blue boat-tail Rolls-Royce roadster.

British and Continental vehicular biscuit and sweets tins wrote their own ticket, price wise, in the first Kaufman sale, and many other outstanding examples await bidders in the September sessions. Leading the group are a boxed Crawford’s red Rolls-Royce limo, a Fry’s Chocolate crane with box, an Italian-made Delser touring bus, ships, racers, large sedans, airplanes and delivery trucks. Joining them is a complete set of six (American) lithographed-tin Mayo’s Cut Plug Tobacco character roly polys.

Another red-hot category in the spring offering was racecars. Many more will be revving their engines come September, several with their original boxes. The field includes Gordon Bennet-style racers, as well as others by Gunthermann and Kingsbury. “I think the racecars are going to knock people out,” said Michael Bertoia, who designed the auction catalog. “They’re as good as, or better than, the selection in the first sale.”

Next up will be a grouping of autos by Distler and Fischer, and some large-scale circa-1905 to 1910 French and German cars. Also, 10 different models of prewar Japanese autos will be auctioned. As any specialist collector would attest, that’s a sizable number within this narrow subcategory of collecting.

The futuristic category is led by an Atom Jet Car with a colorful box that may be the only one of its type in existence. Additionally, there will be a selection of 17 Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon toys, including a boxed Police Patrol, helmets, guns, pistols and holsters.

As a teaser of what may be expected when the comic character portion of the Kaufman Collection is auctioned at Bertoia’s next year, the September sessions include a spectacular rarity – the only known boxed example of Tippco’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse on a motorcycle.

A dream assemblage of cast-iron toys includes a very rare red-version Hubley Indian motorcycle delivery van with a factory paper label that says “Flower Shoppe.” Ex Covert Hegarty collection, it is expected to make $40,000 to $50,000 on auction day. Additionally, the Kaufman Collection features one of the finest known specialty groupings of Vindex samples, including sedans, coupes, stake trucks and a Fokker airplane.

The cast-iron category continues with transportation and work vehicles; moving vans, airplanes, luxury autos and novelties, like the scarce Hubley Seahorse speedboat with “ocean waves” cast into the design. The collection boasts the only known Dent cement mixer and arguably the nicest known examples of a boxed Arcade White No. 6 bus and Arcade Mack 6 bus.

A huge section of pressed steel awaits collectors, including many outstanding productions by Kingsbury, a brand known for accuracy of scale and detail. Much of the pressed steel is boxed – an unusual bonus. Some of the rarest pieces have a factory pedigree, having come from the Buddy ‘L’ corporate archive. Within the category are more than 100 examples of large-scale pressed steel by Buddy ‘L,’ Sturditoy, American National, Toledo and Keystone. Additionally, there is a prized assortment of old store stock by Smith-Miller, and several Metalcraft trucks, some featuring Art Deco styling and side-panel advertising.

Kaufman Part II will feature nearly 50 pedal cars, highlighted by a handful of museum-quality designs in wood and pressed steel and including a few rare English productions. “Don has the really good ones from the most collectible period of 1905 to 1940s,” said Bertoia’s specialist Rich Bertoia. “Early pedal cars in all-original condition are very seldom seen in the public marketplace, so a collection like this one really brings out the collectors. They know it’s a now-or-never buying situation.”

Donald Kaufman, a co-founder of KB Toys who sold his interest in the company in 1981, is considered a pioneer in the toy hobby, having started his collection nearly 59 years ago. His collection of approximately 10,000 toys is being auctioned exclusively by Bertoia’s in a series of semiannual sales over the next two years or so.

Bertoia’s auction of the Donald Kaufman Collection – Part II will start at 1 p.m. on Sept. 25 and 10 a.m. on Sept. 26. All items will be offered with no reserve. The toys will be available to preview during the month leading up to the sale, but please call to arrange a preview time during this period.

All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through The full-color hardcover catalog costs $55 postpaid to U.S. addresses and $65 overseas. The fully illustrated catalog may also be viewed online approximately one month prior to the sale at or on Bertoia Auctions’ Web site at

Bertoia Auctions is located at 2141 DeMarco Dr., Vineland, NJ 08360 USA. For information or to order catalogs, call 856-692-1881, e-mail, or visit

Photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions.