Collectors ‘go ballistic’ over toy Exploding Trench


PITTSBURGH – The battle lines were drawn and bidders brought their “A” game to Old Toy Soldier’s Summer Auction, June 21-23. The big three-day event featured 1,674 lots of choice soldiers and figures from prestigious collections, including those of Dr. Arthur Puglisi and the late Paul A. Germain (Part II). After the final salvo of bids had been fired off, OTSA owner Ray Haradin confirmed an auction total of $501,000, inclusive of the 20 percent

toy Heyde officer

Made exclusively for the American market is this circa 1890 Heyde nodding U.S. Artillery officer in 100mm scale, it finished at $2,520. (Photo courtesy Old Toy Soldier Auctions)

buyer’s premium.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way the toy soldiers in this auction performed,” said Haradin. “There were bidders from 26 different countries, many of whom participated online. In all, 55 percent of the lots were purchased through the Internet, which was a clear sign that collectors felt very confident about our grading and condition reports. It was our best sale ever,” he said.

Haradin said interest ran high for the more than 600 lots of Britains that had been cataloged. “Before the sale, I was concerned that it might have been too much for the market to absorb at one time, but that turned out not to be the case at all. The prices held up extremely well on all three days.”

In what might have been described as the “blast heard ’round the world,” a boxed circa-1915 Britains Exploding Trench shot to the top of prices realized when it sold for $7,200 against an estimate of $2,500 to $4,500. “Rarity was the main thing that drove up the price on this toy. There are only three boxed examples known, plus two or three others that aren’t boxed,” Haradin said.

“The Exploding Trench is one of very few interactive sets that Britains made,” Haradin explained. “It has a spring-loaded platform with a flag on the side. When it’s hit by a Britains cannon, a spring is tripped and causes the trench to ‘explode.’”

A special attraction in OTSA’s June auction was the array of eight Mignot dioramas

toy mignot diorama

This intricate and captivating Mignot diorama depicts Capt. James Cook’s South Pole expedition and fetched $4,440. (Photo courtesy Old Toy Soldier Auctions)

sourced from a New York City collection. Several had been special orders created by the French manufacturer, Haradin said. Of the eight, a diorama depicting Captain James Cook’s South Pole expedition, brought the highest price at $4,440 (estimate $800-$1,200). An eye-filling presentation, its four tiers were laden with three-dimensional glacial scenes, polar animals, explorer figures, boats and various types of camp shelters, including a tent and igloo.

An assortment of premium-quality Courtenay medieval figures – including a number of boxed knights in jousting armor – found favor with bidders. A finely hand-decorated Captal De Bugh tournament knight with original store box from Charles Morrell’s retail establishment in Burlington Arcade, London, was bid to $2,520.

Collectors seeking 19th-century Continental pieces responded enthusiastically to a Heyde nodding U.S. Artillery officer. Made in 100mm scale, the circa-1890 figure was produced exclusively for the U.S. market and reached a closing price of $2,520.

Highlights of Old Toy Soldier’s next auction, slated for Nov. 22-24, 2013, include important early Britains from the collection of the late Richard Appleby, the George O. Gillespie collection of toy soldiers and select additions from other consignors.

For information on building a collection or consigning a collection to auction, call Ray Haradin at 412-343-8733 (800-349-8009) or e-mail Watch for November auction details online at

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