Antique steam toys starring in June 15 auction

The highlight of Pook & Pook's June 15 online antique toy sale is part two of the Morton A. Hirschberg Collection of steam toys. Hirschberg is a former president of the Antique Toy Collectors of America.
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By Kaitlyn Julian

DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. — As the summer months approach, it’s time to put away the school books and bring out the toys. Downingtown-based auction house Pook & Pook announced its June 15 Antique Toy Auction in collaboration with Noel Barrett, the colorful ponytailed antique toy expert of Antiques Roadshow fame. The auction kicks off at 10 a.m. and will present hundreds of toys and unique offerings from a number of collections.

The highlight of the June sale will be part two of the Morton A. Hirschberg Collection of steam toys. (The first group was sold in Pook’s December 2018 sale.) A former president of the Antique Toy Collectors of America [https://atca-club.org], Hirschberg is also the author of the definitive book on the subject: Steam Toys: A Symphony in Motion (Schiffer, 1996). Steam toys, often referred to as steam engine accessory toys, are designed to be operated by drive wheels attached to stationary steam engines but can also be operated by hand.

As a collector since the 1980s, the variety in Hirschberg’s collection includes wind and lumber mills, lighthouses and other forms of machinery. An excerpt from Hirschberg’s book articulates his decades-long passion: “Steam toys from the late 19th and early 20th centuries occupy a special niche in the world of antique toys. But steam toys are appreciated in their own right, as ingenious inventions and charming contraptions! Hooked to a steam engine or operated by hand, these pieces move — mills grind, blacksmiths hammer, Ferris wheels and carousels revolve, woodsmen chop, and minstrels dance. They can be delightfully intricate, colorful, and creative.”

All told, more than 130 lots of Hirschberg’s steam toys will be sold. Some top lots from this offering include a painted tin airship carousel steam toy accessory, with provenance from the Atlanta Toy Museum ($2,000-$3,000), a scarce Bing cotton mill steam toy accessory ($2,000-$3,000), and a Carette tin lithograph factory steam toy accessory, with five factory workers ($2,000-$3,000).

A few last minute additions to the sale are consignments from the estate of a private collector. One exciting item is an English butcher shop diorama in intricate detail, with two carved and painted butchers wearing aprons, rows of meticulously painted carcasses and various cuts of meat, all arrayed in a painted brick façade with potted plants ($3,000-$5,000). A good portion of this consignment is comprised of tin lithographed penny toys, more than 75 in total, featuring everything from trains, to animals, to people at work and play. One special example is a scarce Meier animated tin lithograph Punch & Judy penny toy ($1,200-$1,600).

Other small antique toys include a group of approximately 40 figural pencil sharpeners, to include two Bakelite tanks, Felix the Cat, a Coca-Cola bottle, cars, airplanes, Uncle Sam, the Empire State building, and many other iconic figures. Other miscellaneous toys from this collection include a D.S. Cohen clockwork Autoperipatetikos Walking Doll, in the original box and with her original outfit ($800-$1,200), a collection of figural animated whistles, and a grouping of advertising toys.

Another grouping in Pook’s June auction includes pieces from The Bill & Stevie Weart Collection. Items include exceptional cast iron vehicles, fire pumpers and patrol wagons, along with horse drawn wagons and drays. Among the highlights of the Weart Collection is a Carpenter cast iron floor train, with provenance from the Hegarty Collection ($1,200-$1,600), and an Ives cast iron Phoenix fire pumper, with the original labeled pine shipping box ($1,200-$1,600).

Not toys but truly toy-like is a group of agricultural salesman samples from a Florida estate. Of note is an example of an Adriance Buckeye sickle mower, identified by raised lettering on the cast metal gear box ($4,000-$6,000). Other salesman samples include a C.M. Clinton horse drawn hay rake ($3,000-$4,000), an excellent W.H. Hathaway buckboard wagon, and a horse-drawn road roller ($1,500-$2,500). This consignment also includes a grouping of traction engine models, including an impressive 36” long 1912 Case tractor, with wood bunkers ($8,000-$12,000).

Schoenhut circus with people, tent, and animals. Courtesy of Pook & Pook / Noel Barrett Auctions

Schoenhut circus with people, tent, and animals. Courtesy of Pook & Pook / Noel Barrett Auctions

An Online Only Toy Auction to compliment Saturday’s sale will be held the following week, on Monday, June 17 at 9 a.m. This auction will feature antique toys along with mid-century, retro, and vintage objects. Items in this sale will be available for bidding on Bidsquare (www.bidsquare.com) and LiveAuctioneers (www.liveauctioneers.com).

Catalogs for the June 15 sale may be viewed online on Bidsquare and LiveAuctioneers, where live bidding will also be offered, or on Pook & Pook’s website: www.pookandpook.com. Absentee bidding and phone bidding will also be offered for Saturday’s auction. Live bidding for the sale will commence at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15.

Interested buyers are encouraged to contact Pook & Pook Inc. at info@pookandpook.com or 610-269-4040 with questions regarding condition reports, absentee bidding, phone bidding, or online bidding. Pook & Pook is located at 463 E. Lancaster Avenue, Downingtown, PA 19335.

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