There are few collector categories that can rival the global appeal of antique and vintage toys. Ask any toy enthusiast and they’ll tell you the “toy bug” plays no favorites. No matter where you grew up or what your age may be, you’re sure to recall with fondness your own favorite childhood toys, and that’s often what leads to an exploration and appreciation of toys of an even earlier era. Many in the know say the smart way to start a collection is via the auction route. Nothing can beat buying from a collection that has already been upgraded and refined, like the one offered in this week’s Vintage Toy sale.
A gem of a collection, the 79-lot assemblage features early European tin wind-ups, including automotive; comic character toys, Japanese vehicles with colorful original boxes, banks, clowns, and German toys by Lehmann, Gunthermann, and other manufacturers.
There are some surprising rarities in the sale, like this 1901 Fernand Martin “Le Pianiste” (Piano Player). When wound up, the cloth-dressed musician appears to play the piano, his hands moving across the keys as he sways back and forth. The market for French-made Martin toys has never been stronger. This particular toy is expected to make $3,250-$4,000.
Any serious European toy enthusiast would want at least a couple of Gunthermann toys in their collection. This auction offers several possibilities. A hand-painted 1910 Man Playing Cello has been professionally restored and is cataloged with a $1,000-$1,500 estimate.
Other Gunthermann productions include a Little Boy Twirling Two Celluloid Balls, estimate $650-$800, and a Galloping Horse with Rider, $400-$500.
When it comes to antique and vintage German cars, demand is always greater than the available supply. Lot 32, a handsome Lehmann ivory with red, lithographed tin LUXUS limousine with driver is in perfect working order and complete condition, even retaining its original battery-operated headlight bulbs. This 13-inch beauty is not often seen in the marketplace. The example offered here is estimated at $7,150-$8,800.
Lot 30, a vintage Fischer tinplate wind-up 4-door sedan finished in green and black is expected to make $500-$600.
Boxed construction toys include a 1950s Tru-Mix cement mixer truck, a postwar (ATC) Japanese tin Ford F-800 dump truck; a Momoya tin friction dump truck, and several tractors by desirable Japanese manufacturers.
A treasure of the early comic character era, Lot 35 is a 1932 Chein production of wood and tin depicting Ignatz Mouse, the precursor to Mickey Mouse. The playful rodent retains its original King Features Syndicate Chein & Co decal and original leather ears. A bright, colorful charmer, the toy is entered with a $2,860-$3,520 estimate.
It has been well documented that Ernst Paul Lehmann, creator of the ingenious tin toys bearing his name, took his inspiration from things he saw in his own German village or during his travels. The latter seems to have been the case in his design known as Dare Devil, Lot 26. The toy depicts a man seated in a cart pulled by a zebra, something Lehmann is said to have witnessed while visiting Africa. The lithographed tin Dare Devil in this sale is in excellent, all-original condition and carries an $850-$1,040 estimate.
Click to view the fully illustrated auction catalog for this weekend’s Vintage Toys Auction.