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Auction Report: Bertoia’s Donald Kaufman Automotive Toy Collection

by Christopher Kent (03/05/09).

Bertoia Auctions is pleased to present the world-class Donald Kaufman toy collection. He spent 58 years searching the world over for the finest in tin luxury vehicles, cast-iron rarities, pressed-steel examples, comic-character toys, pedal cars and still more indescribable toy oddities. The very private collection will be revealed for the first time and presented in its entirety for public sale.

Don Kaufman, co-founder of KB Toys, chose the time to sell his toys with the same care he always exercised in buying them. When asked why he decided to part with the collection, he replied, “It’s time. I want to have as much fun selling the collection as I had in building it.”

His is an achievement that may never be duplicated and allows all collectors a once in a lifetime of buying opportunities. The collection is “a museum” of quality toys and will be offered over a series of eventful sales beginning March 19 and running through March 26. More than 1,447 individual lots will be presented.

In reviewing this sale, it bears repeating that each of the lots is superb. Here are but a few of the highlights of the show.

Lot 9, a rare Hubley revolving monkey cage wagon circa 1920. Considered the MOST elusive entry in the famed circus menagerie on wheels, this ultimate find depicts monkeys perched on a tree housed within a mesh cage, which revolves when the toy is pulled along. The colors are striking, painted in an orange body, extensive embossing in gold, red spoke wheels, black parade horses and red-suited driver. This is a factory showroom example. Provenance: the Perelman Museum Collection. Sixteen inches long, it is in mint condition. The estimate is $30,000 to 40,000 with a minimum bid of $15,000.

Hubley revolving monkey cage wagon

Hubley revolving monkey cage wagon

Hubley monkeys climbing a tree

Hubley monkeys climbing a tree

Lot 46, a rare 19th-century Carpenter burning building. This remarkable toy building features an elaborate cast-iron façade with second-story balcony containing a standing figure at embossed fire flames. A fireman stands on the sidewalk with an extension ladder that can pulley him to the top. This wood-finished building is considered one of the most ingenious of early cast toys. The 17-inch-high toy is restored and assembled from original parts. Estimate: $12,000 to $15,000 with a $6,000 minimum bid.

Carpenter burning building

Carpenter burning building

Closeup of Carpenter burning building

Closeup of Carpenter burning building

Lot 71 is a “Gala” sedan created by Lehmann, one of Germany’s finest toy makers. The large limousine with seated driver, done in white and blue with red piping, reads, “Gala” on the sides. It has disc wheels, is clockworks driven and is 12-and-a-half inches long. The clockwork spring is unraveled but working. It is in pristine condition with an estimate of $4,000 to $5,000 with a starting bid of $2,000.

Lehmann "Gala" touring car

Lehmann "Gala" touring car

Rear view of "Gala" touring car

Rear view of "Gala" touring car

Lot 178, an early French auto, circa 1900. This hand-painted, back-to-back seating, open auto is done in yellow with red striping. A forerunner of the open touring car, it is modeled after the first motorized vehicles. Its rear floorboard simulates the foldable models of the day. There are two headlamps, an added composition figure and a nickel-plated fender. The auto is 11 inches long. There was some repaint to reds and a repair to a lantern. The estimate for the remarkable toy is $4,000 to $6,000 with an opening bid of $2,000.

Early French car, circa 1900

Early French car, circa 1900

Rear view of early French car

Rear view of early French car

Lot 228, Tootsietoy boxed aerial offense toy number 5062. In its original, near-mint condition packaging, the set includes nine airplanes of varied colors. It features large trimotors and four smaller monocoupes, low-wing and high-wing models. It is 10-by-15 inches. Estimate: $1,500 to $2000 with a minimum starting bid of $1,000.

Tootsietoy boxed aerial offense set

Tootsietoy boxed aerial offense set

Nine Tootsietoy planes

Nine Tootsietoy planes

I encourage you to go onto the Bertoia site and view and participate in this once-in-a-lifetime sale.

Christopher Kent is a member of the WorthPoint board of advisers and director of evaluations for WorthPoint. He is also an antiques and collectibles generalist, fine-arts broker and president of CTK Design.

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One Response to “Auction Report: Bertoia’s Donald Kaufman Automotive Toy Collection”

  1. Travon says:

    Grade A stuff. I’m unqesuiotnably in your debt.

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