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Late 19th century Germania bank caps $51K

A late 19th century Germania Exchange cast-iron mechanical bank, featuring a goat sitting atop a beer cask, commanded intense bidding before one bidder took it for $51,000 during Bertoia Auction's Spring auction, June 2-3.

TheVINELAND, N.J. – Collectors started planning their bidding strategies weeks ahead of the million-dollar 2017 Spring Auction, held at Bertoia Auctions June 2-3. Extra time was needed, some said. The auction’s exceptionally fine array of toys, banks, dolls, and doorstops demanded time for review. German toys and banks were plentiful.

Bertoia Sale Prompts Intensely Active Bidding

Germania Bank

J & E Stevens cast-iron Germania Exchange mechanical bank with painted-lead goat figure, circa 1880s, sold for $51,000. (All photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions)

Among the choice offerings at auction a Swiss family’s multigenerational collection of hand-painted German tin toys. The final installment of Jay Schroedinger's pristine pressed-steel toys was among the lots offered. A selection of antique teddy bears from the highly regarded Catherine McKinney teddy bear collection was present. Several toys with provenance from the legendary Donald Kaufman collection crossed the block. This collection originally came to auction through Bertoia’s in 2009 and 2010.

The nearly 1,300-lot sale realized a $1.05-million total. Bidding had been fast and furious. The audience included a packed gallery, constantly buzzing phone lines and nearly 1,200 people bidding online.

“There was interest from all over the world, including Russia, South Africa, Australia and many European countries,” said Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions. “If a collector wanted a toy, they had many ways in which to pursue it.” Forty percent of the lots were sold via absentee and gallery bidding. Internet bidders claimed 36 percent, and phone bidders, 24 percent.

19th Century Mechanical Bank Leads Offerings

The top lot of the sale was a coveted J & E Stevens Germania Exchange cast-iron mechanical bank, which sold for $51,000, twice the high estimate. It features a whimsical depiction of a three-dimensional painted-lead goat seated atop a beer cask holding a mug. The bank had been discovered in the attic of a Virginia home. Other popular mechanicals included a Ferris Wheel bank (ex Max Berry collection), $6,600; and a J & E Stevens Hen and Chick, $3,600.

A Kenton Presto bank fetched $870, and a Two-Face Devil finished at $720. Looking right at home with the banks, an array of beautiful painted cast-iron doorstops drew attention. They included a spectacular 13-inch-tall, three-dimensional Hubley Giraffe, $10,800 (against a $3,500 high estimate); West Wind Girl, $4,800; Hubley’s very rare Bugle Boy, $3,900, Little Black Sambo, $3,300; Pheasant, $3,000 (against a $900 high estimate); and a near-mint Lobster, $2,700. Many doorstops reached or exceeded their high estimates.

Firefighting Toys Spark Collector Interest

Buddy L Pumper truck

Buddy ‘L’ pressed-steel fire pumper, circa 1920s, 23.5 inches long, realized $3,900.

Igniting great interest among bidders, firefighting toys pumped up the crowd. A striking Pratt & Letchworth cast-iron horse-drawn hook and ladder fire wagon with original seated drivers and accessory wooden ladders had the unmistakable look of originality from front to back. It blazed past its estimate to settle at $5,400. A circa-1920s Buddy ‘L’ pressed-steel fire pumper came up for bid. It measures 23.5 inches in length and is complete and original in every respect. Estimated at $2,000-$2,500, it commanded a healthy $3,900.

Many eyes were on a particular automotive prize with Donald Kaufman provenance – a late-1920s Hubley cast-iron racer finished in a bright yellow and black motif. The details included a driver figure, nickel grille, electric lights and white rubber tires. An extra-nice detail is the hood that is accessible from either side to reveal a battery. In pristine to near-mint condition and accompanied by its colorfully illustrated original Hubley box, the speedy racer handily surpassed expectations to cross the finish line at $7,200.

German-made Collectibles Plentiful

Superior-quality European toys found favor with bidders hoping to repatriate them to the Continent. A Phillip Vielmetter Clown Artist, whose ingenious design enables the clown figure to draw various pictures according to which interchangeable cam, rose to $6,600. A German-made, boxed Lehmann Masuyama, commanded $6,000. An elegantly attired Gustav Vichy Monkey Harpist automaton was ready to entertain bidders with a repertoire of two songs and multiple movements that included realistically strumming the harp strings, blinking his eyes, moving his head and opening and closing his hinged jaw. It well surpassed its $2,000-$4,000 estimates, selling for $7,200.

A parade of gorgeous early teddies was led by a Steiff center-seam cinnamon mohair bear with glass eyes and original nose. Measuring 20 inches high, the long-limbed charmer sold within its estimate range for $4,200.

Dynamic 18th Century Doll Drives Bids to $19,200

Great interest surrounding an 18th-century English painted wood and gesso Queen Anne-style doll made by Lance drove bidding. With jointed hips and knees, and dressed in brocade period clothing, the 21-inch doll estimated at $2,500-$3,500 ended its bidding run at a remarkable $19,200.

“We could not have been more pleased with the outcome of our sale, or with the enthusiasm, bidders showed on both days,” said Jeanne Bertoia. “The prices paid in every category showed how strong the market continues to be for antique and vintage toys, and the excitement continued even after the auction. Our phones were ringing off the hook with requests from successful bidders who wanted to organize payment immediately so their toys could be shipped.” 

Next Bertoia Event

Bertoia’s next Signature Auction will be held on Nov. 11, 2017. Among the highlights are a fresh-to-the-market Fernand Martin clockwork toy collection, Marklin boats, trains and stations; store-display Santa nodders, top-quality comic character toys, and cast-iron automotive toys, mechanical banks, and doorstops.

For more information, visit, call 856-692-1881 or email

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