Large estate auction contains pink pigs, toys and trucks

The estate of Kathleen “Kate” Robinson – whose mother-in-law, Helen, founded the renowned Kane County Flea Market in 1967 – will be sold March 14-15 in the main building of the Kane County Fairgrounds, St. Charles, Ill (site of the flea market). The auction will be conducted by Matthews Auctions Nokomkis, Ill., in conjunction with Ward Auctions & Appraisals of Big Rock, Ill.

“Kate Robinson was an enthusiastic collector who kept alive the same spirit and passion for antiques and collectibles her mother-in-law had,” said Dan Matthews of Matthews Auctions. “She was especially fond of pink pigs, Depression glass, jack-in-the-pulpit vases, Hummel figurines, Royal Bayreuth, flower frogs, pottery and Longaberger baskets.” These and more will be sold on March 14.

The next day, March 15, will be dedicated mainly to farm toys and toy trucks, from the lifetime collection of Kate’s husband, Fred. About 350 lots will be offered, many of them mint in the box. They include a Buddy L anti-aircraft truck (circa 1960) and Buddy L Express Lines truck and trailer (circa 1930s), both in the box; a Tonka ramp hoist truck (circa 1963); and a Tonka 1955 Starkist Tuna truck.

Other truck makers will include Nylint and Structo. The farm toys will comprise about 200 lots. Manufacturers include Ertl, Scale Models, Product Miniature, Tru-Scale and others. The day will also feature 15-20 lots of local memorabilia (Northwestern University, the town of St. Charles, etc.), as well as advertising items for tractors and farm-related equipment (signs, paper, ephemera and more).

Because of their scarcity, the trucks and farm toys just may post more top earners, in terms of prices realized, than the lots in Kate’s collections, but her items will probably appeal to a broader range of bidders because she collected so many things in such a wide array of categories. Mrs. Robinson, who passed away in 2007, owned hundreds of antiques and collectibles. All will cross the block.

The Kane County Flea Market has been a major stop along America’s antique trail for more than 40 years. Helen Robinson got the idea for it while on a trip to California in the 1960s. She stopped at a flea market that featured everything from socks to purses to junk jewelry. She was fascinated, and upon her return to Illinois told her husband she wanted to start one (only higher-end). He thought she was crazy.

But Helen persisted, and soon the Kane County Flea Market was born. It continues to this day – held the weekend of the first Sunday of each month, at the sprawling Kane County Fairgrounds (29 acres, 60 counting parking). And it’s still run by the Robinson clan – the offspring of Helen and other relatives. Dale Robinson, Kate’s son, said as many as 25,000 people turn out in the summer months.

He acknowledged, though, that several factors – among them the Internet and a sour economy – have combined to reduce attendance in recent years. “The business started to take off in the 1970s, then it really took off in the ’80s,” Dale Robinson said. “Of course, that was before eBay. We still do well, though. It’s as much a social event as it is a place to buy things and do business. People like to mix, mingle and shop.”

The Saturday, March 14 session will begin promptly at 9 a.m. (CST). The Sunday, March 15 session has a 10 a.m. (CST) start time. There will be a preview on Friday, March 13, from 5-7:30 p.m. The buyer’s premium is 10 percent for on-site purchases, 15 percent for online and absentee bidders. Online bidding will be facilitated by Proxibid ( Phone bids will also be accepted.

Matthews said he expects a crowd of several hundred people at the Kane County Fairgrounds, located at 525 South Randall Road in St. Charles, Ill.

Matthews said Part 2 of the estate of Kate Robinson – to comprise furniture, miscellaneous glassware and other items in the home – will be sold Saturday, May 16, at 10 a.m. (CST).

To learn more about Matthews Auctions, LLC, or the estate of Kathleen “Kate” Robinson, visit

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