The Final Lap: Last Donald Kaufman toy collection auction set April 15-16, 2011

VINELAND, N.J. – In an auction odyssey that began in March of 2009 with an offering of rare automotive toys, the last in an ongoing series of events featuring the antique toy collection of the late Donald Kaufman, co-founder of KB Toys, has been set for April 15-16. The four auctions to date have realized $10.9 million. The last of the toys from the revered Kaufman collection will be auctioned by Bertoia’s in a 275-lot opening session, followed by a daylong Saturday session containing approximately 650 lots.

“Appropriately, we will start with old store stock of Marx toys, since that’s how the Kaufman toy business began,” said Bertoia’s gallery associate Rich Bertoia. “There are many boxed Marx examples in unusually nice condition. On the other hand, some of the Marx toys in the sale are more common, but they have their rare original boxes. The boxes that contained Marx farm toys and moving vans were almost always discarded – those toys were bought to be played with.”

Collectors of pressed-steel trucks are in for a surprise, Bertoia said. “We set aside many excellent pressed-steel trucks just for this sale. There are more than 100 pieces dating from the 1920s to the 1940s, with a few toys from the Richard Keats Buddy ‘L’ Archive. Other pressed steel toy brands represented include Keystone, Sturditoy, Structo and American National. Of special note are a few very rare trucks whose restorations were completed exclusively with the toys’ original parts.

“Collectors might like these restorations, which required great skill and were very expensive to do. Rather than using ‘make-do’ replacement parts from other toys, the trucks’ own parts were painstakingly restored, so they retained their original integrity,” Bertoia said.

The Marx and pressed steel toys, as well as 43 pedal cars – some of them all original and some of museum quality – will be blended into the auction over both days of the sale. Neither day will be “top loaded,” Bertoia said. “In particular, it will be exciting to see the interest level in the pedal cars, which were the largest toys in Don’s collection. There were nearly 250 pedal cars when we started the auction series. For this final selection, we reserved pedal vehicles of every style you can imagine, from fire trucks and work trucks to luxury-level automobiles.” A bumper crop of approximately 200 cast-iron automotive toys has also been added to the sale, to be divided evenly over the two-day period.

Friday’s session will open with the second half of the cast-iron toy grouping, which ranges from common trucks, farm tractors, busses and construction vehicles to several exceedingly rare David delivery trucks.

The cast-iron section of the sale is widely varied. “Anyone who ever wanted something from Donald Kaufman’s shelves stands a very good chance of attaining it, including the first toy Don ever bought – an Arcade Red Baby,” Bertoia said. Because of its significance, that particular toy has been given special status and will be offered as the final lot of the sale. “It takes the collecting journey full circle –the first toy Don bought is also the last one to be sold,” Bertoia said.

Another special inclusion in the sale is the toy that was chosen to grace the cover of each of Bertoia’s catalogs in the Donald Kaufman auction series – a tinplate Hans Eberl van (shown at right) made for a Pittsburgh company called Kaufmann (sic.). The “Kaufmann’s Big Store” delivery van, which is clockwork driven, made in Germany in the 1920s is estimated to sell for $4,000-$5,000.

The Saturday session includes a sizable array of light pressed-steel automotive toys by Kingsbury, Metalcraft, Cor Cor, Turner and other manufacturers. An additional 30-35 lots of boxed modern toys by Marklin and Paya will cruise across the auction block.

For those comic character collectors who may have struck out in previous Kaufman sales in which competition for rare examples was fierce, there’s good news. A small but very pleasing selection of comic character toys has been set aside for the April 15-16 sale. “If a paddle got in their way before, this is not only the last chance but also a good chance for comic character collectors to score a great toy,” said Bertoia.

Jeanne Bertoia, owner and co-founder of Bertoia Auctions, concurred. She said she believes the final Kaufman sale might be “more of an American buying event” than previous sessions, since part five is not comprised predominantly of European toys.

“Donald Kaufman was a completist. He had everything,” Jeanne explained. “I would say to those who were not successful at previous sales, here’s your chance to acquire a toy with very important provenance from a legendary collector who will dominate toy conversations for many years to come. There wasn’t a collector like him before he bought his first toy 61 years ago, and there hasn’t been one like him since.”

With the conclusion of the series, collectors will be able to add the final hardbound auction catalog to the five-volume set documenting the Kaufman collection. Volume V includes a special bonus – an index that alphabetically organizes auction entries from the entire compendium of catalogs, listing toys by name and/or manufacturer with the volume and page numbers where each can be found.

All forms of bidding at Bertoia’s will be available, including live via the Internet through For additional information, call 856-692-1881 or e-mail

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