If there were a World Cup for antique toys, the name engraved on the trophy quite likely would be that of K-B Toys co-founder and toy collector extraordinaire Donald Kaufman. The late Mr. Kaufman’s incomparable array of antique and vintage toys – a blue-ribbon panoply of pre- and postwar production – has fascinated and seduced hobbyists the world over since Bertoia Auctions’ 2008 announcement that the collection was to be sold.
With three Kaufman auctions from the ongoing series now completed and the $9.3 million subtotal confirmed as the highest amount ever achieved at auction by a single-owner antique toy collection, it’s time for collectors to assume a “now or never” mindset, said Bertoia Auctions’ owner Jeanne Bertoia.
“It’s hard to believe that so much of the collection has been sold, but we’re now in the midst of planning part four of the collection, which will be auctioned on September 24th and 25th,” Jeanne said. “The two-day, no-reserve session will represent the last of the European autos from Don’s collection – this is it – but I think everyone is going to be very pleased to find that the quality of the European autos in part four is just as strong as in the previous sessions. We planned it that way.” Jeanne noted that in spring of 2011 there will be a final, one-day sale to conclude the auction of the Kaufman toys, however that particular session will not include European toy vehicles.
Rich Bertoia, who has handled the cataloging of the Kaufman collection since the beginning said he views each of the three previous sessions as having been like a five-star stand-alone event. “The toys offered in each of those sales could very well have been regarded as an extraordinary single collection in and of themselves, so to have four such sales gives this collection legendary status.”
European transportation toys in Part IV include many rarities – French and German limousines and open tourers, fire pumpers, livery vans, airplanes and racers, with several coveted examples by Marklin. Additionally, the section includes early, large-scale French autos described by Rich as “very difficult to find for sale anywhere.”
Highlights among the European toys include a JEP Hispano-Suiza, a very early French horseless carriage that replicates the forerunner to the motorized auto, two large Marklin sedans, a few circa-1919 hand-painted Bings, and several handsome double-decker busses emblazoned with advertising.
Nearly 50 pedal cars will be offered, including a large, enclosed Packard [a comparable one in the last Kaufman sale made $30,000], a couple of tandem pedal cars and a fine grouping of fire-theme pedal cars, including a late-1920s model with a water tower.
In the smaller-scale pressed steel, there are more than 100 trucks and construction toys by Buddy ‘L’ and other top names, as well as a special grouping of Kingsbury cars. “When we started selling Don’s collection, this category really came back with a vengeance. Kingsbury toys are so hard to find, and Don’s are in very nice condition,” said Rich. Another unusual offering is the selection of very rare 1920s manufacturers’ catalogs for Gendron, Steelcraft and other pedal cars and pressed-steel toys.
Cast-iron toys “run the gamut from A to Z,” Rich said, “from autos to fire pumpers and trucks, and even a few airplanes and motorcycles.” Rich counted nearly 20 different cast-iron fire trucks, noting, “That’s a large selection.” Additionally, there are around 10 boxed toy sets featuring smaller-scale 7-inch vehicles, and a mini-library of cast-iron toy manufacturers’ catalogs, with some of the better-known makers being Ives, Kenton, Arcade, Hubley and A.C. Williams.
The beautiful fleet of Japanese tin friction cars in the September auction exhibit what Rich calls “DK condition – you have excellent, near-mint, mint and then at the top, DK condition. We have an all new scale for grading, now.” Many of the colorful postwar vehicles are boxed.
Comic character toys proved very popular in the third Kaufman sessions held in April, and Rich believes collectors will be “surprised and delighted” by the second grouping to be rolled out in Part IV. “There are toys representing TV and early movie personalities, Popeye, Disney favorites and newspaper comic characters. Many are boxed, and a few of them have boxes that have only rarely been seen, like the Felix on a Scooter, Krazy Kat Scooter and Bonzo Peppy Pup Scooter. I think this might be the first time we’ve seen those three particular toys offered in the same sale with their original boxes.”
Jeanne Bertoia commented that, barring any volcanic activity – a reference to the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, whose ash cloud challenged several travelers who flew in for Kaufman III – she expects the September auction to be “an event to remember. “We expect the same sizable crowd and international interest as before, especially now that collectors realize this will be the last offering of Don’s European toys. We’re very pleased that the excitement level has remained this strong.”
Bertoia’s auction of the Donald Kaufman Collection (bertoiaauctions.com) – Part IV will start at 1 pm on Friday, Sept. 24, 2010 and 10 am on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. All items will be offered without reserve. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet. Full details are available online.