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Freedman’s Bank stashes away $130K during toy auction

Jerome B. Secor ‘Freedman’s’ mechanical bank

Jerome B. Secor ‘Freedman’s’ mechanical bank, circa 1880, American, one of fewer than 10 known examples, $132,000. 

VINELAND, N.J. – Family-owned Bertoia Auctions produced another big winner on April 27-28 as its 2018 Spring Signature Sale rang the register at $1.9 million. More than 1,000 lots of high-quality toys, banks, trains and Christmas antiques attracted an energetic crowd to Bertoia’s gallery.

Hundreds of other bidders battled for favorites over the phone and via the internet. All prices include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Rare tin litho toys and clockwork characters

Bidders wasted no time reaching for the top shelf, so to speak. Lot 5, a rare Citroen delivery wagon emblazoned “Au Louvre,” suggesting it was a depiction of a Louvre Museum vehicle, came to the auction block with a $2,000 to $3,000 estimate, however, it reached an astonishing $48,000. Chatter during the preview suggested it was likely a prototype.

Citroen hand-painted clockwork tin ‘Au Louvre’ delivery van, $48,000

Citroen hand-painted clockwork tin ‘Au Louvre’ delivery van, $48,000. All photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions

The 55-lot array of clockwork characters by Fernand Martin was selectively acquired over a 60-year period by a New York collector. It comprised the second half of a collection Bertoia described as “one of the best Martin collections we’ve ever seen.” Its prized contents included a Diablo, Washerwoman, Barber, Drunkard, and Man with Barrels, to name but a few classic productions. An English “bobby” made $9,000, while a Cakewalk sold for $9,600. A possible one-of-a-kind piece was the circa-1892 Le Cherif depicting an Arab rider on a camel. Bertoia’s had never seen another example, and collectors, who obviously recognized its rarity, pushed it to a winning bid of $9,600. Even the smaller Martins were in demand. A diminutive goose ended its run at $3,300.

Toy robots 

Robot collectors were holding their cards close to their vests over one particular lot: a Tremendous Mike clockwork robot made by Aoshin Shoten, Japan. In pristine condition, it also retained its very rare original box. Against an estimate of $6,000-$9,000, it commanded $13,200.

Linemar tin wind-up Popeye Pilot Air-O-Plane, circa 1950s, $5,700

Linemar tin wind-up Popeye Pilot Air-O-Plane, circa 1950s, $5,700

A Connecticut collector’s extensive assortment of Popeye toys transported collectors across a panoramic timeline of the cartoon sailor’s adventures. A Linemar Popeye Pilot Air-O-Plane, one of the rarest of all 1950s Japanese Popeye toys, landed at $5,700, while an example of Popeye Funny Firefighters blazed to $2,280.

In other tin toys, a fleet of fine boats all sold within estimate, including a Marklin Battleship Baltimore and Bing Furst Bismarck. A highly desirable tin vessel of smaller scale, a 19-inch Gunthermann eight-man racing scull, was chased to $14,400.

Pressed steel vehicles

Pressed-steel vehicles of note included a 26-inch Buddy ‘L’ Baggage Line truck with opening doors, which tripled its high estimate at $4,800; and a Gendron Buick pedal car, 56 inches long, which nearly doubled its high estimate in selling for $14,400. A Buddy ‘L’ Junior Milk Delivery sold for $3,600, nearly doubling high estimate; and a Steelcraft screen-side Railway Express nearly tripled estimates at $3,000.

Althof Bergmann horse-drawn, painted tin fire pumper, American, circa 1874, 16in., one of few known, $7,200

Althof Bergmann horse-drawn, painted tin fire pumper, American, circa 1874, 16in., one of few known, $7,200

A grouping of early American clockwork and tin toys and banks was very well received. An Althof Bergmann horse-drawn fire pumper was snapped up for $7,200, but the star of the show was a historically important Jerome B. Secor Freedman’s Bank. Of museum quality, it was expected to finish in the six-figure range, and did not disappoint in reaching $132,000. A pristine Darktown Battery mechanical bank nearly doubled high estimate in achieving $11,400; while an Acrobat sold above high estimate for $12,000, as did a Perfection Registering bank, which reached $10,200.

Part I of the Palmer Cox Brownies grouping from long-time collectors Ed and Nan Wagoner featured two Brownie Egg figures that tripled estimate at $2,200; and a Keystone Cop lantern, which made an above-estimate $2,040. The second half of the Wagoners’ whimsical collection will sell in Bertoia’s November sale.

A small grouping of teddy bears and dolls included a 20-inch Steiff rod bear in the rare apricot color ($10,800); and a 6-inch Bru Bebe earned $19,200. The lineup of figural cast-iron doorstops was led by a rare Hubley 13-inch Giraffe, which realized $14,400.

Bertoia Auctions can be reached at 856-692-1881 or, or visit

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