Archive for March, 2013

Exceptional European and American toys, banks and advertising await bidders at Bertoia’s May 3-4 ‘Toy Picks’ auction

March 28th, 2013 by

VINELAND, N.J. – Bertoia Auctions’ May 3-4 ‘Toy Picks’ auction features the pick of the crop in dozens of popular collecting categories. In addition to a vast array of vehicles, European clockwork toys and comic character favorites, the sale lineup also includes dollhouses and miniatures; trains, steam engines, banks and Part I of the late Bill Bertoia’s superb collection of occupational shaving mugs, which will be auctioned during the second session.

The late Bill Bertoia (1950-2003) was a leading light and indisputable expert in the field of antique toys and cast-iron banks, but few realized he was an advanced collector of occupational shaving mugs.

Although Bill’s mug collection would have been welcomed at any major American art museum, it was never publicly exhibited. A very personal collection amassed over a 15-year period, it was displayed with pride in the antique-filled home Bill shared with his wife, Jeanne, and children Michael and Lauren.

On Saturday, May 4, Bertoia’s will auction Part I of Bill’s shaving mug collection. Approximately 50 mugs will be offered, ranging from pristine examples of more-common mugs – conservatively estimated at $100-$200 – to rare, highly desirable mugs in the $5,000 range.

Bertoia Auctions co-founder and owner Jeanne Bertoia said her late husband regarded shaving mugs as “one of the greatest forms of Americana…He was fascinated by the hand-painted images of various occupations, many of which no longer existed.”

Jeanne recalled that no matter what he collected, Bill was a stickler for quality, condition and originality. “He was very particular when buying toys and banks, and he took the same approach with his mugs. He especially liked mugs with images of people engaged in their work, and hand-applied details, like gilt trim and a person’s name,” Jeanne said.

Every mug in Bill’s collection was a source of enjoyment to Bill, but he had a few special favorites, Jeanne said. “He was very proud of his mug that showed a stockbroker with ticker tape (est. $2,500-$4,000), but I think he was most excited with the mug he bought at an auction in South Jersey that has an image of a distinguished man in a derby hat, walking two very grand Boston terriers ($2,000-$3,000).”

Bill Bertoia’s occupational shaving mug collection covers a broad variety of themes: automotive, horse-drawn, nautical, storefronts, sports. Some of the more unusual mugs include: lunch wagon, $3,500-$5,000; clothing store, $800-$1,200; barrel stake truck, $1,000-$2,000; chefs at work in a busy kitchen, $1,000-$1,500; marble arch cutter, $1,000-$1,500; dump truck, $1,000-$2,000; delivery wagon builder, $800-$1,200; and horse-drawn hearse with open curtain. $800-$1,200.

German and French wind-up toys will keep the keys busy during Bertoia’s preview. An outstanding collection of Lehmanns, many of them boxed, has been consigned by a longtime Bertoia Auctions customer. “Quality and condition are evident throughout this collection,” said Bertoia’s auctioneer, Michael Bertoia. “The owner always stepped up to the plate to pay the price for the best examples.”

The Lehmann collection includes many autos, including a rare, yellow 12-inch Baldur; two motorcycles – a boxed Echo and a Halloh with litho’d box lid – a Heavy Swell, Ski Rolf and Ikarus. A boxed Masuyama and an equally desirable Man-Da-Rin with its rare and beautifully lithographed original box also occupy top slots in the collection.

Alongside the Lehmanns are several scarce French-made Martins, including a Gendarme and a Parisian gentleman in top hat with cane and cigar. “This is only the second time we’ve seen this particular toy,” said Michael Bertoia, referring to the wind-up gentleman.

Forty European penny toys are entered in the sale, with themes that cross several categories, including transportation and people. Among the colorful tin novelties to be auctioned are a double Irish mail cart, sledding boy, skier and Chinese man with parasol.

Several impressive toy boats will sail toward new harbors on auction day. Among the coveted Marklins are a restored 46-inch first-series Battleship Maine, a second smaller-size (32-inch) first-series Battleship Maine in all-original condition, and an especially attractive 20-inch first-series Battleship Sperber. Additionally, Bertoia’s fleet includes several other battleships, cruisers and boats by Carette and Fleishmann.

Early hand-painted cars include an all-original red Alfa-Romeo No. 2 racer by CIJ, a yellow 4-door Marklin Torpedo open car, and a Bing steam-driven Spyder. Around 10 other French automobiles by Citroen and JEP also join the auction selection. Other European toys include two exquisite Ferris wheels attributed to Doll et Cie.

The auction also features the Tom Palumbo pressed steel collection, comprising 40 to 50 vehicles primarily by Sturditoy. “What makes this collection so attractive is the fact that the toys are 100 percent original,” Michael Bertoia noted.

The large assortment of European and American trains and accessories includes both live steam and clockwork examples. Leading the group are a very early Volt-Amp loco and tender; a gauge 1 Marklin 1021 steam-outline loco and tender with cast-iron frame, a Carlisle & Finch suspension bridge, and many Marklin trains and cars. Of special note are Marklin’s gauge 1 Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz advertising cars, and a well-detailed chicken transport car with functional cage doors. Rounding out the railroad bounty are productions by Bing, Schonner, Carette and Knapp; as well as a train station by Marklin.

Between 80 and 100 cast-iron banks will be waiting to show off their tricks. Standouts include a circa-1889 Kyser & Rex mechanical Globe Savings Fund bank, a Lighthouse and Girl in Victorian Chair (both semi-mechanicals); and several excellent still banks – a small Boston Statehouse, Ives Palace and rare Arcade Eggman.

Bertoia’s is known for offering fine figural cast-iron doorstops, all personally vetted by Jeanne Bertoia, a renowned doorstop authority. The selection Jeanne has prepared for the May auction incorporates florals, people, animals, houses and whimsical shapes. A few Fish designs are included, e.g., a Deco Messenger and Rhumba Dancer. Also in the mix are clowns, a Rabbit Pushing a Wheelbarrow, and a Lobster.

Cast-iron automotive collectors will find many excellent racers, motorcycles, taxis and work vehicles waiting to exit Bertoia’s garage. Around 40 horse-drawn cast-iron toys have been consigned, as well. Three Dent productions – a fire engine, horse carriage and hook & ladder – exhibit near-mint condition and are believed to have been originally purchased at the Dent toy factory by legendary collector the late Covert Hegarty.

Just in time for spring cleaning and redecorating, Bertoia’s sale features 65 lots of miniature furniture, including designs from Gottschalk and Rock & Graner; plus 20 upscale dollhouses and room boxes, most by top German makers.

Approximately 150 country store and advertising items add early American charm to the auction list. There are several salesmen’s samples, around 20 glass showcases, advertising signs, apothecary jars, and tea and coffee bins.

Bertoia’s Toy Picks Auction will begin at 12 noon on Friday, May 3; and 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, 2013. All forms of bidding will be available, including absentee, by phone or live via the Internet through To contact Bertoia Auctions call 856-692-1881; Online:

14th-century Yuan Dynasty jar tops $1.3M at I.M. Chait March 17 Asia Week sale

March 21st, 2013 by

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Records were shattered on March 17th at I.M. Chait’s Beverly Hills gallery as the family-owned company known for its expertise in Asian art auctioned the most expensive antique and achieved the highest gross in its 44-year history. The sale of Chinese ceramics and Asian works of art exceeded $3.4 million and was led by a highly important 14th-century Yuan Dynasty porcelain jar that sold for a breathtaking $1,342,000 (inclusive of 22% buyer’s premium). A prominent American collector placed the winning bid over the phone.

14th-century Yuan Dynasty blue and white ovoid porcelain jar

Magnificent and highly important 14th-century Yuan Dynasty blue and white ovoid porcelain jar with narrative scene from the Yuan zaju drama ‘The Savior Yuchi Gong.’ Sold for $1,324,000. I.M. Chait image.

I.M. Chait’s director of operations, Josh Chait, described a tense battle that pitted the ultimate winner against an Internet and absentee bidder, as approximately 100 guests in the gallery looked on.

“It was the same feeling as watching a high-stakes gambling event. There’s no way of knowing who will come out on top. Also, whenever there’s a phone or Internet bidder involved, you can never be sure what their limit is,” Chait said.

Beyond the million-dollar threshold, bids on the precious Chinese artifact increased in $10,000 increments. When bidding ceased at $1.1 million, presiding auctioneer and company founder Isadore M. Chait called out, “Going once – going twice – sold!” and brought down the hammer to thunderous applause.


“There was tremendous excitement,” Josh Chait said, describing the scene that followed. “Some 20 people swarmed around the glass display case to take pictures and video the jar for Chinese Facebook and Twitter – and for posterity. Shortly afterward, the Southern California affiliate for NBC called us. It didn’t take long for the story to get out.”

In spectacular condition, the 14-inch blue and white ovoid jar is a revered historical icon from China’s Yuan Dynasty period. Its decorative motif narrates a scene from the Yuan zaju drama “The Savior Yuchi Gong” and describes how General Yuchi Gong saved the Tang Emperor Taizong from assassination. Isadore Chait had correctly predicted the vessel would reach or exceed one million dollars at auction.


Several bronze, jade and furniture lots brought stellar prices, as well. Lot 224, a 7 7/8in spinach jade brushpot with a continuous landscape scene of sages in a courtyard, came to auction with provenance from the Cleveland Museum of Art Collection. Estimated at $35,000-$45,000, it rose to $122,000.

Lot 186, a highly important early 15th-century Ming Dynasty gilt bronze Bodhisattva of Manjushri with six-character Yongle mark under its base finished well within estimate at $274,500. A Sino-Tibetan gilt bronze shrine with jeweled borders and eight elaborately chased repousse Buddhist emblems, entered as Lot 101, was bid to $36,600 against an estimate of $6,500-$8,000. The 295-lot auction’s closer, a pair of Chinese huanghuali wood armchairs, settled at $43,750, more than six times the high estimate.

According to I.M. Chait’s records, most of the bidders taking part in the March 17 auction were either American or Chinese. Some had stopped over in Los Angeles specifically to attend the auction en route to Asia Week New York.

“Holding our annual Asia Week auction at the Beverly Hills gallery was something new for us,” said Isadore Chait. “For the past seven years we had held our sale in Manhattan, and it had developed a strong following with Asia Week’s visitors. Unfortunately, this year we weren’t able to secure a suitable auction space in Manhattan, so we decided to conduct our Asia Week sale right here at our West Coast gallery. Some thought it was a bold move.”


Chait admits that he initially had concerns about the change of venue and feared that not being right in the thick of Asia Week New York might have a negative impact on his company’s March 17 sale.

“In fact, it turned out to be just the opposite. It ended up being the highest-grossing sale in our entire 44-year history,” Chait said. “It’s very encouraging to see that collectors will flock to a sale – no matter where it is held – and spend their hard-earned money if world-class and one of a kind items are offered.”

To contact I.M. Chait Gallery & Auctioneers, call 1-800-775-5020 or 310-285-0182; or e-mail Visit the company online at

Wovensouls’ April 6 debut auction features private collection of antique textiles, Asian cultural art

March 13th, 2013 by

SINGAPORE – Discovering and learning about remote Asian cultures has long been a passion of Jaina Mishra’s. An award-winning photographer and travelogue writer, Mishra has spent the past 10 years reverently documenting what she describes as “vanishing cultures.” While immersing herself in the decade-long odyssey that took her to faraway mountains and valleys that few tourists visit, Mishra also collected tribal textiles, jewelry and folk art objects she felt were special. And although she never previously attempted to make her living from the sale of Asian cultural art, Mishra, an MBA whose fascination with distant places and people dates back to her childhood in India, is now taking that logical next step. She will share her remarkable finds with the rest of the world in an April 6 online-only auction conducted through

Mishra chose the business name Wovensouls because her collection began with textiles and later expanded to include other artforms. “Textiles are the woven expression of the soul of a tribe, so the name appealed to me,” she explained.

Before formally launching her business, Mishra tested the commercial waters by selling a few pieces privately. Then, at the end of 2012, came an important breakthrough. Mishra sold a piece to one of the world’s most prestigious museums. That particular sale was a validation to Mishra that she had achieved the level of sophistication required to identify and deal in top-quality Asian cultural art.

“It made me think, ‘If a top-class museum is buying from me, then the only thing standing in the way of Wovensouls becoming a successful venture is my own lack of effort.’ Up until that time, I wasn’t really sure if my eye was good enough. I had always bought using my eye and instinct, and only once had I bought an item solely because of its provenance or because someone else said it was good,” Mishra said.

All of the pieces offered in the April 6 auction are from Mishra’s 10-year personal collection and nearly all were obtained firsthand during her travels. The carefully assembled auction selection includes jewelry, hand-painted art objects, manuscripts and, of course, textiles. The cultures represented are largely Tibetan and Ladakh (an Indian culture influenced by Tibet), with the addition of pieces from Borneo (Dayak), India and the Golden Triangle of northern Thailand, South Vietnam and Laos. The latter region is home to the Yao and Attapeu Hilltribe peoples.

The collection also includes art from the Indian Gujarat culture. “Gujarat art is very beautiful and, I believe, undervalued,” said Mishra. “Some of the Gujarat people are descended from Romany gypsies. Their art is unique and deserves further research.”

Among the most impressive items in the sale are three decorative antique peraks, or headdresses, from the Himalayas. Peraks – which can weigh as much as 29 lbs. each – are usually passed down from mother to daughter until there is a generation with no female child. In such cases, the perak is donated to a monastery after a ceremony and subsequently auctioned. Lot 102 is from the Zanskaar Valley and is embellished with old turquoise stones, coral, silver and lapis. Its two side panels are adorned with rows of pearls, which are rarely seen in peraks. Estimate: $6,000-$8,000. Another fine Zanskaar Valley perak has similar decorative elements, but with highly prized coral rather than pearls on its side panels. Its estimate is $8,000-$12,000. The third example is from the Changthang region and has pearl borders along the hood and small, suspended coral chains that serve as a veil. This particular perak could make $9,000-$12,000.

Lots 113 and 115 are 19th-century Tibetan noblewomen’s headdresses known as pat’h. “These pat’h are very rare. Once they are gone, I doubt I’ll ever be able to find any others,” Mishra noted.

Photos of Tibetan pat’h are seen in the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford and in the Schuyler Jones book “Tibetan Nomads.” Status symbols in their culture, pat’h were used to support elaborate hairstyles and typically were enhanced with coral, turquoise and pearls. The two examples in Wovensouls’ auction are estimated at $12,000-$16,000 and $10,000-$15,000, respectively.

Presale interest has been shown in many lots containing woven Tibetan garments and accessories. They include bags and pouches, yak-wool pants, a bridal coat, kaabo cummerbund, and a costume set consisting of a coarse wool chooba and baku.

Pabuji-ki-phad are large, beautifully hand-drawn and hand-painted folk art textiles used as a backdrop mural for devotional performances by “bhopas.” Each narrates a story about the lok deva, or folk gods. Ancestral phads are passed from father to son and used over three or four generations. Lot 131, executed in stunning rose, green and blue shades, was acquired from one of the few surviving phad artists and is estimated at $5,000-$8,000. Lot 132 was created by the renowned phad master artist the late Shri Jadau Chand Shrilal, who work is displayed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Its estimate is $4,000-$8,000.

There are seven palm leaf etchings in the collection, all from Odisha, India. Several of these fascinating hand-inscribed works narrate legends or folk tales. Others relate the story of a journey to Java Sumatra, are etched with writings about medicine, or, in one case, display content from the Kama Sutra, therefore classifying the etching as erotica.

Wovensouls’ April 6 online-only auction featuring the personal collection of Jaina Mishra will commence at 10 a.m. Pacific Time (1 p.m. Eastern). For questions about any item in the sale, e-mail or call Singapore 011 659 824 2864. Prompt international shipping.

Log on to to view the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live online during the April 6 auction. Visit Wovensouls online at

Collectors called the shots Feb. 28 at Legend-Morphy’s $1.73M PCGS Las Vegas sale

March 6th, 2013 by

Heavy Internet bidding contributed to consistent above-estimate prices

LAS VEGAS – Coin connoisseurs from throughout the country gathered at the elegant Venetian/Palazzo hotel for Legend-Morphy Rare Coin’s Feb. 28 Regency Auction, which tallied an outstanding $1.73 million (all prices quoted inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium). Legend-Morphy brought its A-game, offering a carefully handpicked selection of coins in a boutique-style, 334-lot sale held in association with the PCGS Members Only Coin Show.

Collectors liked what they saw and bid aggressively, both before and during the event.

H10C 1796/5 PCGS MS64+ CAC, provenance from the Eliasberg collection, $92,000. Legend-Morphy image.

“The pre-auction online bidding activity greatly exceeded our expectations,” said Legend-Morphy’s president, Julie Abrams. “That, combined with heavy attendance at the preview, gave us every reason to believe the auction would be a success.”

Boasting exceptional eye appeal, an H10C 1796/5 PCGS MS64+ CAC exhibited fully struck details, pristine surfaces, light semi-proof-like mirrors and strong luster. With provenance from the Eliasberg collection – the only known complete collection of half dimes – the rare coin was offered without reserve and estimated at $65,000+. Bidders showed no hesitation in pushing the final price to $92,000, making it the top lot of the sale.

Landing in the runner-up position was a $20 1909-D PCGS secure MS66 CAC, ex Dr. Steven Duckor collection. A totally original coin, exceptionally clean and satiny on both sides, it sold for $80,500.

Another crowd favorite was a 1798 $1 Small Eagle 15 Stars B-2, BB-81 PCGS secure AU55+. “This particular coin came from the personal collection of a major bust dollar dealer and is extremely rare in ‘choice AU’ or higher,” said Legend-Morphy partner Laura Sperber. It made a strong showing at the Feb. 28 auction, garnering $51,750.

“Penny wise” collectors were all over an exceptionally high-quality 1C 1909 VDB PCGS secure PR64 BN CAC. Considered the ultimate example of a matte proof Lincoln, it streaked past its estimate of $15,000+ to settle at $27,600.

Offered without reserve and pre-auction guidance of $20,000-$22,500, a much-sought-after 1796 25C PCGS F12, was described as “picture perfect” and “superb gem fine 12.” A problem-free coin in original pewter with hints of golden brown, its details and depiction of Miss Liberty were “just what they are supposed to be – nicely struck,” said Sperber. The 18th-century numismatic treasure concluded its bidding run at $29,900.

A magnificent multicolored Peace Dollar was entered in the sale with a $6,000-$7,000 estimate and Sperber’s catalog notation that it was “easily the finest colored 1923S and possibly one of the finest colored Peace Dollars that exist.” The coin handily surpassed expectations to sell for $11,500.

There was great excitement over a 1C-$1 1901 proof set PCGS PR64-66 from the Buckeye Commander Collection. Every coin in the set was high end, with matched original colors and spectacular clarity and reflectivity. Offered without reserve, it was bid to $21,850 against an estimate of $17,500-$20,000.

“There was intense interest in this auction, and absentee bidding was strong,” said Legend-Morphy partner Dan Morphy. “That reflects very favorably on the trust coin buyers have placed in our operation. They know how selective we are and that we bring only the finest-quality coins to the auction marketplace.”

$1 1901 proof set PCGS PR64-66, ex Buckeye Commander Collection, fully matched set, $21,850. Legend-Morphy image.

Sperber, Morphy and Abrams all commented on the valuable feedback they received from customers at their second Las Vegas Regency event.

“The comment I heard most often was how much they appreciate our boutique approach and the carefully chosen high-end offerings in our auctions,” said Abrams. “Customers also appreciate that we produce a beautiful hardbound catalog and that we’re so attentive and available to answer their questions at the preview.”

The Legend-Morphy team has already begun work on the next Regency Auction, which will be held April 11th at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

“Although the April 11th sale is already full, we are accepting quality consignments for our July auction,” Sperber noted.

For information about consigning to Legend-Morphy’s July auction, call Julie Abrams at 717-335-3435 or e-mail Visit the company online at