Cast-iron toys ruled the roost at Bertoia’s million-dollar summer sale

August 22nd, 2011 by

Hubley Ingersoll Rand cast-iron truck, $13,800. Bertoia Auctions image.

VINELAND, N.J. – Hefty cast-iron trucks, banks and figural doorstops found favor with bidders who congregated at Bertoia’s New Jersey gallery for a lighthearted summer auction of ‘Toys with Character.’ The June 10-11 sale grossed $1,014,000, with above-estimate and even world-record prices achieved on many of the 1,481 lots offered. All prices quoted in this report include a 15% buyer’s premium.


Topping the roster of prices realized was a circa-1933 toy version of an Ingersoll Rand Mack truck with painted driver figure. Made by Hubley, the richly hued green and red truck with spoked nickel wheels featured an open-frame body that exposed a well-detailed nickel compressor. In pristine to near-mint condition, it rumbled past its $8,000-$10,000 estimate to settle at $13,800.


Cast-iron safe-shape still bank with bust of Grover Cleveland, $11,500. Bertoia Auctions image.

An extensive selection of still banks featured as its centerpiece the Guy and Kim Zani collection. The tightly focused collection consisted entirely of antique banks shaped as safes, some with padlocks, others with combination locks. A rare and unusual entry, a J.M. Harper safe bank topped with a well executed bust of President Grover Cleveland was described in the auction catalog as “reportedly one of two known,” and was bid to $11,500 against an estimate of $8,000-$9,000.


Just as desirable as the mechanical banks that were cast from it, a complex brass three-dimensional pattern for J. & E. Stevens’ “Cat and Mouse” bank was in excellent, complete condition. It earned more than twice the low estimate at $8,050.


Bertoia’s is known as a premier source for early cast-iron doorstops. The company’s owner, Jeanne Bertoia, is a noted expert on the subject and has spent years collecting, studying, writing about and selling the very best doorstop examples at auction. Some 75 doorstops were entered in the summer sale, and predictably, a Hubley Art Deco design of two bathing beauties under a parasol, signed “Fish,” created a bidding frenzy.


“The Bathing Beauties doorstop is an extremely popular form with collectors, and this example was in particularly nice

Hubley cast-iron Bathing Beauties doorstop, design by Fish, $10,350. Bertoia Auctions image.

condition,” said Bertoia. “It was estimated at $3,000-$4,000 and sold for $10,350, which we believe to be a world auction record.”


Another doorstop that may well have set an auction record was the Hubley/Fish Messenger Boy. A classic depiction of a Deco-era bellboy holding a wrapped bouquet of flowers, its bright colors and near-mint condition helped elicit a winning bid of $8,050 against an estimate of $4,000-$5,000.


A flotilla of handsome toy boats commanded a first-class fare from bidders. The flagship turned out to be an early 20th-century Bing (Germany) clockwork King Edward gunboat. Made of hand-painted tin and measuring an impressive 29 inches in length, it retained its original guns, funnels, masts and lifeboats. The boat sold within estimate for $8,625. Both a Bing Leviathan painted-tin clockwork oceanliner and Buddy ‘L’ pressed-steel tugboat achieved a closing price of $6,900.


Distler Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy with miniature dancing Minnie Mouse, $8,050. Bertoia Auctions image.

Tinplate character toys finishing in the top dozen lots of the sale were led by an all-time favorite with Disney collectors – a Distler (Germany) tinplate clockwork Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy with tiny dancing Minnie Mouse on top of the barrel organ. A highly sought-after toy, it exceeded estimate to close at $8,050. Joining the beloved mice were two other coveted German clockwork toys: a boxed Lehmann Masuyama, which depicts a Japanese woman being transported in a rickshaw; and an extremely rare Eppie Hogg in Auto, made by Nifty. Each of the toys made $6,090.


Collectors had a superb array of comic and other character toys from which to choose at the June auction, since the section contained part one – approximately 300 toys – from the renowned Ronnie and Sandy Rosen collection. Bertoia’s is auctioning the Rosens’ wonderfully varied 1,200-piece personal collection in three segments, with parts II and III yet to come.


Bertoia’s will conduct a Sept. 23-24 auction featuring the cast-iron automotive toy collection of the late Fred Castan, and the eclectic American and European toy collection of the late Ralph Tomlinson. Additional information is available online at Tel. 856-692-1881 or e-mail