Weart’s collection of vintage toys knocks it out of the park
Review by WA Demers, Photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions
VINELAND, NJ – Its cataloging characterizes it as “undoubtedly one of the most alluring cast iron cycles ever produced, extremely desirable for any advanced collector.” That was all bidders needed to know when a “Say It With Flowers” Hubley motorcycle from the late Bill and Stevie Weart’s vintage toy collection took to the podium at Bertoia’s sole proprietor sale from 8-9 September, without reservation. With just a few minor chips to the black paint on its roof, the all-original example in overall excellent to perfect condition for such a rare and original toy exceeded its $15/25,000 estimate to finish at $32,400. It was sold to a collector in the Midwest. “The sale was a great success,” said Jeanne Bertoia, “proving once again that good condition brings good prices.” The Wearts were a couple whose contributions to the toy hobby were immense, and they filled their home in Allentown, Penn., with custom display cases to display their toy collection. The Wearts co-wrote in 2000 Cast Iron Automotive Toysstill considered the essential reference for collectors of cast iron toys.
The top-selling lot of the sale, however, was an exceptional example of a first bunny dressed in a baseball uniform, standing as if ready to swing. With a molded baseball cap, he holds one of Louisville Slugger’s first wooden baseball bats with a Ty Cobb decal. It stood 22 inches tall and knocked off the park’s 5/7,500 estimate, making $34,800.
Another container of candy bunny is dressed in a driver’s outfit with a molded driver’s cap and goggles, a rubber tire in his hand as if he had just repaired an apartment on the side of the road. The head of the German piece would be removed for candy retrieval. Standing at 21 inches tall, it topped the $4/6,000 valuation, exiting at $15,600.
The sale’s American cast category included selections from Arcade, Dent, Hubley, Kenton, Wilkins and Pratt & Letchworth as well as rarities of unknown manufacture.
Similarly, estimated at $5/7,500, a mixed Pratt & Letchworth fire wagon in red and green, pulled by two white horses, ran for $16,800. Its two detachable ladders were original to this toy, which is very rare, the most interesting of the P&L fire series, the 18 inch long toy is a combination of a firefighter ladder cart and a hose reel fire pit with two opening tool compartments.
Also a combination, a rare Dent wagon, 20 inches long, exceeded expectations by 3/$5,000 to fetch $15,600. Closing in at $11,400 was a Harris flex-wheel wagon, a colorful fire-themed toy from the Toledo, Ohio company, with nice dripping effects throughout, one of the paint-state examples. the strongest, 16 inches long.
Depicted in Wearts’ book, a 19-inch-long Dent battleship New York realized its hopes of sailing to a new home, leaving behind a $2/3,000 estimate to dock at $14,400.
Two other notable toy ships, each offering $10,200, were a professionally restored Marklin iowajawaone of the first battleships of the German builder, which is decorated with guns, lifeboats, batteries and the proud ram bow, 21 inches long, and a river boat Marklin Priscillathe epitome of luxury vessels, highly detailed, 20 inches long and also professionally restored.
A Dent Battleship New York, illustrated on page 123 of Wearts’ book was all original and in near mint condition. At 19 inches, it came in at $7,800, more than double its high estimate.
A 22-inch-long Hubley horse-drawn Royal Circus Bandwagon, displaying brilliant paintwork and excellent detailing, fetched $8,400, while in the Hubley Menagerie of Toys, a scaled-down Lion Circus Wagon (11½ inches) estimated $2.5 / 4,500 made $10,800.
The toy trucks in the collection did their job brilliantly. An Arcade International harvester, rarely offered in a rare yellow color variation, pictured on page 64 of Cast Iron Automotive Toys, 2000, was 10½ inches long and sold for $9,000 against an estimate of $3/5,000. A 10-inch-long Kenton City Service showroom sample with the same estimate did even better, fetching $10,200. The catalog noted the striking condition of a rare example which is rarely presented for sale, with the original chain tag still intact.
Rounding out the highlights of the sale, a 27-inch-long Letchworth & Pratt four-seat brake with two original female figures with some paint, others replaced, had been professionally restored and found a buyer at $7,200, while a hand-built Bugatti by Art Collection Auto with fantastic attention to scale detail, 18 inches long, motorized at $7,200.
Prices shown include the buyer’s premium as established by the auction house. For more information, www.bertoiaauctions.com or 856-692-1881.