“Chicago” clockwork paddle wheeler may surpass $200K in live, online auction

VINELAND, N.J. – It’s once again time for collectors to set sail as Bertoia Auctions brokers one of the world’s most revered fleet of antique boats and nautical toys: the Dick Claus collection. The $1.8 million auction of part I of the Claus collection, which was held at Bertoia’s gallery on May 12, left boat aficionados clamoring for more. Their wishes will be granted on Saturday, Nov. 10, as the second and final offering of Dick’s incomparable ships and boats is presented at auction.

Additionally, the approximately 350-lot sale will include Claus’s penny toys, trolleys, Heyde sailor figures and sets; and a small selection of comic character toys.

Marklin paddle wheeler “Chicago,” circa 1900-1902, 31 inches long, accompanies by original box, actual example depicted on the dust jacket of the book “Allure of Toy Ships,” estimate $200,000-$250,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

The anticipated top lot is a Marklin “Chicago” clockwork paddle wheeler, one of very few toy boats that rival the superb Marklin “Providence” that set a new world record at Bertoia’s May sale when it sold for $247,250. Made around 1900-1902, the “Chicago” is a first-series production, 31 inches long, with original wooden mast. “It’s one of the most original antique boats I’ve ever seen. We believe it will surpass $200,000,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia.

Bing “Massena” clockwork gunboat, circa 1902, 24 inches long, estimate $14,000-$16,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

All hands are expected to be on deck when bidding commences on a series of ocean liners, some measuring 36 to 39 inches long.

“The sheer size and remarkable accuracy of detail is what makes these boats so desirable. They’re true scale models, which is mind-boggling when you stop to consider the mathematical and artistic skill it would take to create a 3-foot-long replica of a 150-foot vessel,” Bertoia said.


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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Highlights in the ocean-liner section include depictions of the “Kron Prinz Wilhelm,” the “Rhein,” and the “Columbus,” which was a travel agency model and therefore especially scarce. A smaller, 27-inch liner made by the English company Bassett-Lowke replicates an actual boat that once transported passengers to the Channel Islands, long a favorite escape for well-heeled Brits. Estimate: $5,000 to $7,000. Another beautiful smaller-size luxury yacht, the 16-inch-long Marklin “Jolanda,” was manufactured between 1915 and 1925. It is expected to command $25,000 to $30,000 at auction.

Marklin Battleship “Mexico” #5121, Series II, 30 inches long, estimate. $55,000-$60,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

In their heyday – the second decade of the 20th century – battleship designs evolved from sleek-deck battleships to larger craft with ram-bough hulls. Marklin produced the greatest variety of ram-bough ships, and several outstanding examples are included in the Claus collection. One of them, known as the “Mexico,” was actually found south of the US border and is probably patterned after an actual boat, Bertoia said.

Other exciting toy battleships include the artfully designed 16-inch “Olympia,” and the 32-inch clockwork “New York,” a masterpiece whose deck includes every imaginable appointment. “You have to walk around it to take in all of the workmanship and detail,” Bertoia said. Including the Bings, the battleships in the sale have been given estimates that range from $20,000 to $75,000.

The earliest toys in the Claus collection are the two visually appealing 19th-century Rock & Graner riverboats finished in brilliant shades of orange, green and yellow. Christened “The Ocean” and “The Rhein,” they lead an array of riverboats whose lengths measure between 16 and 22 inches, with estimates from $7,000 to $10,000.

Jouets Francais JIF boxed submarine, side stenciled “Clemenceau,” 12 inches long, design won gold medal at a 1916 toy fair, estimate $2,500-$3,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

A wonderful selection of submarines will be offered, as well. Most are German and range in size from 8 inches to more than 20 inches in length. A standout is the French-made “Le Berrob,” which was designed as a scientific amusement toy. When its bladder is pressed, the toy submerges. “It’s a very obscure toy of primitive design. It looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel,” Bertoia observed. The presale estimate is $3,000 to $4,000.

Another category favored by nautical toy collectors is tinplate clockwork sculls with articulated oars and rowers “dressed” in collegiate uniforms. Three of the highlight toys in this section were made by Gunthermann: a 4-man scull with coxswain, a 2-man scull with coxswain, and a single-oarsman model.

The perfect go-alongs for high-caliber boats are sailor and other figures of the type found in the Claus collection. Most were produced by Heyde, an early and sought-after German brand. Additionally, the sale includes a few Heyde sets, one of which contains a zeppelin.

Dick Claus has always had a fondness for early toy trolleys, and a few very special ones from his collection will be auctioned  Nov. 10. One is a Voltamp Interurban trolley; the other is a Lionel trolley manufactured in 2 7/8 gauge. “These trolleys are toys of tremendous quality,” said Bertoia. “There are very few collections where literally every toy you pick up represents the very best of its type. This is one of those collections. About 90% of the sale consists of book examples – that’s the type of ironclad provenance collectors really go for but rarely encounter.”

Scarce, early Voltamp #2115 Interurban Trolley, 18 inches long, estimate $14,000-$15,000. Bertoia Auctions image.

The Nov. 10 auction of the Dick Claus collection, part II, will begin at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Preview weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and 8 a.m. till 1 p.m. on auction day. All forms of bidding available, including live via the Internet through www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

For additional information on any lot in the live and online toy auction, contact 856-692-1881 or toys@bertoiaauctions.com. View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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