VINELAND, N.J. – The first auction of a world-renowned collection of antique toys and mechanical banks grossed more than $3 million at Bertoia Auctions.
The March 5-6 sale was of items in the collection of Aaron and Abby Schroeder, which Bertoia said is “Considered one of the greatest toy and bank collections in existence. This collection is the epitome of good taste and quality.”
More than 500 items were offered and the top lot was a Girl Skipping Rope bank by J&E Stevens that brought $156,000, which is a record for the form. In pristine to near-mint condition, Bertoia said a better example would be hard to find.
The other top lot was a double ferris wheel by Mohr & Krauss that the couple had spotted while traveling that sold for $138,000. “Abby and Aaron were driving through a small town in Pennsylvania when they passed a closed barber shop with this toy prominently displayed in the front window. They spent the night and visited the shop the next morning. Aaron left with a haircut and Abby had a double Ferris wheel in her arms,” according to Bertoia.
The vast private collection encompasses the finest of late-19th and early 20th-century American cast iron, including incomparable mechanical and still banks, ultra-desirable horse-drawn and bell toys, and rare cap guns and cap bombs. An extraordinary selection of early American tin and clockwork toys, including museum-worthy classics made by Ives, is beautifully complemented by an array of European tin that includes many boxed Lehmann and Martin character windups, tin autos, aeronautical toys, and penny toys.
The Schroeders’ impressive Schoenhut wooden toys were ushered in by a grand 46-inch horse-drawn Humpty Dumpty Circus Bandwagon with driver and six liveried musician figures that sold for $9,500. Other American toy highlights include a mid-19th-century Francis, Field & Francis Omnibus that was formerly in the Perelman Antique Toy Museum’s fabled collection that brought $11,000; a circa-1906 Carpenter Deluxe Burning Building that sold for $28,000; and a scarce Ives Monkey Perambulator that sold for $10,000.
In addition to the top lot, other prized mechanical banks included a Presto 5 Cent to 25 Cent bank by Henry C. Hart Co. of Detroit that sold for $50,000; and a trio of banks by J&E Stevens Co.: Bread Winners, which sold for $85,000; Bowing Man in Cupola that sold for $80,000, and Preacher in the Pulpit that sold for $70,000.
The many rare and whimsical European toys in the collection included coveted productions by 19th and early 20th century manufacturers such as Gunthermann, Marklin, Carette, Lehmann, Martin, Issmayer, Ernst Plank, Bing, and many more. An early-20th-century “Boxer Rebellion” wind-up tin toy by the German company Lehmann, which was inspired by the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, sold for $32,000; and a charming circa-1894 Fernand Martin “Flemish Dog Cart” wind-up tin toy that still had its rare original box sold for $8,000.
The late Aaron Schroeder (1926-2009) and his wife and business partner of 49 years, Abby Steinberg Schroeder, wielded influence and garnered worldwide respect both in business and philanthropy, just as they did in the playful world of antique toys, for which they had a great passion. Schroeder also had a multifaceted career in the music industry that grew from his prodigious talent as a songwriter. Many prominent vocalists recorded his songs, including Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Tony Bennett, Chaka Khan, Carl Perkins and the Beatles. Elvis Presley recorded 17 of his songs, including five that became No. 1 hits.
“In terms of quality, rarity and importance, the Schroeder collection is on par with those of Donald Kaufman, Max Berry, Dick Claus and the Perelman Museum,” said Bertoia President Michael Bertoia. “The core of the collection was amassed four to five decades ago, when it was still possible to find rare banks and toys in shops and at antique shows and flea markets. In fact, Aaron and Abby made their first purchase – a Stevens ‘Magic Bank’ – for a mere $40 back in 1963.”
For more information about the collection and to see more lots, visit Bertoia Auctions. Part II of the collection will be offered this fall.