Rare toys, trains, banks, dolls and holiday antiques in Dan Morphy’s Dec. 10-12 Winter Sale would make even Santa nostalgic
Auction’s centerpiece: the Lowell Wagner collection of 500+ steam-powered toys
DENVER, Pa. – A 25-year private collection of steam toys amassed by former auctioneer Lowell Wagner is the perfect choice to headline a 3,100-lot holiday-themed Winter Sale to be held Dec. 10-12 at Dan Morphy Auctions’ gallery, located at the Adamstown Antique Gallery in Denver, Pa.
The acclaimed steam toy collection totals 545 lots and includes some remarkable rarities, said Morphy’s CEO and owner, Dan Morphy. “Lowell built his collection over a quarter of a century and bought only the best pieces – things like a steam-driven motorcycle with sidecar, and extremely desirable steam-driven boats,” said Morphy. “This is, by anyone’s assessment, a premier collection.”
Wagner, a former auctioneer who lives in New Mexico, said he attributes his early interest in steam toys to his farming background. “Even though he used a gas tractor, my father was one of the last farmers in the area to thresh rather than using combines,” he said. “Steam and threshing go together in history.”
Although he was thoroughly familiar with steam-driven farm implements, Wagner did not realize that steam toys even existed until one Sunday back in the early 1980s when he happened to be at an auction in Ames, Iowa. “I ended up buying three toys that were live-steam traction engines,” said Wagner, who was already a collector of antique guns. “When I start collecting something, it becomes a passion, not only in finding but also researching the items.”
The timeline in the Wagner collection begins in the 1870s and follows through to modern day, but most of the toys to be auctioned are pre-1925 examples in excellent condition. Many are in their original boxes.
The top-shelf entries are those made by Marklin, said Wagner. “Even though they were sold as toys, Marklin steam toys were so well made, they could be models. Part of their appeal is their robust construction.”
A sizable portion of the collection is devoted to steam toys made by the American manufacturer Weeden, including several examples that are seldom, if ever, seen in the marketplace. “Some of them were made in very low numbers or are prototypes that never went into production at all, particularly the steam trains. They’re pictured in old Weeden catalogs with the words “Do Not Make” stamped over them in red,” Wagner said. “Weeden experimented with 25 of these trains that were heated to make the steam by electricity from a shoe that ran alongside the tracks. Either the company decided the trains were too dangerous, or they didn’t work well. The one in my collection is one of those 25.”
The European and British steam toys in Wagner’s collection include designs by Bing, Ernst Plank, Doll et Cie., Carette and Butchers (England). Steam traction engine toys and steam rollers were always of great interest to Wagner, as his collection amply reflects. Many manufacturers are represented, including Krauss & Mohr (Germany), Gisea (Italy), Cranko (New Zealand, 1935-1945), Scorpion (Australia), Mastrand (England), J. Falk, and two Swedish companies: ADE Traktor and H.A. Mobile.
Also to be sold are steam-powered boats by the French manufacturer Radiguet and American firms Ives, Blakeslee & Williams Co., and Weeden. Marine steam toys by Weeden include a rare Gloucester and a merchant marine ship. From Boucher comes a live-steam outboard motor called the Polly-Wog.
Additional American productions include steam engines and toys by Edgar Side (eventually bought out by Weeden, who used the earlier company’s leftover parts to create what are now fairly rare models), Buckman, Peerless, Kenton (including two company showroom models), Miller, IND-X, J. & E. Stevens (Frisbie’s patent toy steam engine No. 2), George Brown (clockwork fire engine), Beggs (trains), and Holly (overtype steam engines).
An item deserving of special attention is the Doll et Cie. steam toy accessory that runs the gamut of processes for making cotton, with ginning, spinning and weaving machines included.
A painted black steam car offered in the sale is a unique piece that was made especially for the president of Weeden. Reportedly it sat on the executive’s desk for many years, and will be offered with provenance. Another great rarity with appeal to Weeden collectors is the wood and cardboard store display that depicts two blacksmiths at work with a Weeden No. 1 steam engine.
Lowell Wagner’s wife, Pat, had the collecting bug right along with her husband. She assembled on of the largest known collections of vintage Fisher-Price toys, which comprise more than 200 lots in the December sale.
“It’s a major collection that spans the history of Fisher-Price from 1931 to the present,” said Morphy Auctions Chief Operating Officer Tommy Sage Jr. “There are several unique prototypes that never went into production and which I had never seen before. They’re toys that people at the Fisher-Price factory had on their desks.” Within this category are prototypes of paddle toys including a Hawaiian dancer, bulldozer and early plug-style telephone switchboard.
The collection also includes numerous pre-1940 and early wind-up Fisher-Price productions, many with attractive boxes and labels. “Those are the ones collectors go after, especially the really rare ones made from 1931 to 1933,” said Sage.
In addition to Fisher-Price, Pat Lowell’s collection contains excellent, boxed paper litho on wood toys by All Fair, the company where Herman Fisher had worked prior to co-founding Fisher-Price; as well as toys by Gong Bell and others.
A lineup of more than 75 pressed-steel automotive toys will be ready to roll. A special highlight within the group is the fleet of Metalcraft trucks, which are known for their crossover appeal with advertising collectors.
More than 200 lots of American and European trains have been cataloged for this sale. Among the makers represented are American Flyer, Lionel, Ives, Voltamp and Marklin.
Lionel entries include a No. 100 blue and yellow trolley in original box and a nice postwar set from the original owner, with Budd-powered car and two commuter cars. A Lackawanna freight set is complete with original car boxes and the original set box. The star lot, however, is a Stephen Girard train set in unrun condition with all original individual boxes and a crisp original set box. It is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.
The Marklin selection features a set of three gauge 1 Rheinuferbahn cars, a huge station hall in like-new condition, and a Leipzig station with back panels. Voltamp productions include a steeple cab engine and a handsome, early trolley in original wood box. A very rare Ives 1694 transition set retains its original car boxes and set box.
A colorful drawcard in the sale is the Wayne Sanders marble collection. “Mr. Sanders has collected for 50 years, and over that period of time he managed to acquire some unbelievable hand- and machine-made marbles,” said Morphy, himself a marble fancier. “We expect a big turnout for this 200-lot portion of the sale because the market for marbles seems to go in only one direction – up. Morphy’s has a fantastic following of marble buyers, and they want more and more, which we’re happy to bring to them.”
More than 100 mechanical and still banks will be waiting in the wings at Morphy’s sale. Leading the mechanicals are an all-original Roller Skating bank straight out of a house in New York (estimate $40,000-$60,000); one of the best known examples of Boy Stealing Watermelon, with 99% original paint ($15,000-$25,000); and an Organ with Dancing Bear that Morphy described as “stunning, with unbelievable highlights” ($10,000-$15,000).
A single estate held a small trove of mechanical banks including a Mason, Speaking Dog, Teddy (Roosevelt) and Bear, and a Boy Scout bank in pristine condition. “While we knew about the estate, we had no idea there were banks in it,” Morphy said.
An even greater surprise was the J. & E. Stevens Jonah and the Whale pedestal bank that came to Morphy’s unexpectedly after a program based on a sale at the auction house was rerun on national television. “We were featured on the CBS Sunday Morning show in 2007, after the $7.7 million auction of the Steckbeck collection (of mechanical banks),” said Morphy. “The original owner of the Jonah bank, who received it as a gift in the 1920s, saw the rerun of the show and asked her brother to drive it in from western Pennsylvania. The bank is repainted over the original paint because the owner, as a child, didn’t like the colors and repainted it. We would not be surprised if someone decides to take a shot at removing the overpaint to see if the correct paint is underneath. Most collectors don’t have an example of this bank. There are fewer than a dozen known.” The Jonah bank in the December sale carries a presale estimate of $25,000-$35,000.
A diverse array of dolls awaits collectors, starting with a number of 1960s/’70s Barbie dolls and 65 boxed outfits for the teen queen and her sidekicks Skipper, Francie and Ken. Other modern dolls include designs by Kathe Kruse, Madame Alexander, Mary Hoyer and Toni. An excellent boxed Flossy Flirt and Ideal Tammy will also be offered. Celebrity dolls poised for the spotlight include Margaret O’Brien, Judy Garland and Shirley Temple.
Among the German bisques are dolls by Kestner, ABG, B&P and Simon & Halbig (including an 1159 lady doll), plus a nice selection of baby dolls. French bisques are led by at least five Jumeau dolls and one original Tete Jumeau. Also to be sold are a rare SFBJ no. 262 toddler and other French dolls marked “DEP” and “R.D.” Additionally, the doll category features papier-mache and china dolls, and a coveted Martha Chase cloth doll.
Rounding out the group are antique teddies – including an early Steiff – a Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Tent with animals and performers; antique and vintage doll furniture and carriages; and a sizable selection of mostly French and some German bodies and parts from priest and pioneer doll dealer the late Father William Crandall. Specialist Jan Foulke, who cataloged the doll portion of the sale, described Father Crandall as “legendary in the doll business. Those who have been involved with dolls for a long time would surely know how important he was.” Foulke said the December sale also features Father Crandall’s dealer stock of dolls, many of which are over 30 inches tall. “The height of the dolls is important to note, since there are many who collect only dolls that are of that size,” said Foulke.
A timely inclusion in the December sale is the holiday antiques collection containing many charming belsnickles and Santas. One of the top lots is an unusually large (30-inch) Santa candy container with bisque face and blue coat that previously had been part of a private collection in Germany. “When a candy container stands 2½ feet tall, it actually enters the realm of being not just a candy container but also a statue,” said Dan Morphy.
The Christmas grouping also includes a number of beautiful ornaments and an early 20th-century, 30-inch Santa in sleigh with reindeer. “Both the Santa and reindeer are nodders, which is unusual,” Morphy said. “This item was in a 1926 catalog issued by a toy company in Germany, which is where this particular consignment came from.”
More than 125 PEZ lots will be auctioned, including many scarce dispensers and other PEZ items. Collectors will be pleased to see such examples as a Make a Face on original card, the Lions Club dispenser, an Alpine Man, Pear, Hippo and Mary Poppins, among many other rarities.
Bidders will be able to try their luck against a lineup of more than 80 coin-operated gambling, penny arcade and gumball machines, plus 10 slot machines. A Paces and Races game in all-original condition is estimated at $6,500-$9,500; and a very early traveling crane penny arcade machine is entered with an estimate of $4,000-$5,000.
Other highlights of the sale include more than 200 boxed cap guns described by Morphy as “good, clean early examples, boxed and in near-mint to mint condition,” more than 85 occupational shaving mugs, and 80+ figural silver napkin rings, including Rip Van Winkle and Girl in Swan Chariot.
Auction & Preview Details:
Dan Morphy Auctions will hold its Winter 2009 sale Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10, 11 and 12 at the Adamstown Antique Gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517 (on the Adamstown antique strip). Special note: Like the Saturday session, the Thursday and Friday sessions will commence at 10 a.m., two hours earlier than has been customary for weekday sessions at Morphy’s.
The entire inventory may be previewed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. any day leading up to the sale except Wednesdays, which are by appointment or by chance only. Exception: Gallery will be open to previewers on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009, the day before the auction’s opening session. On all three days of the auction, the preview will begin at 8 a.m.
All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet – see Morphy Web site for details. A hardcover, fully illustrated color catalog may be purchased for $45 postpaid ($50 postpaid to overseas addresses). An electronic version of the catalog may be viewed in its entirety online at www.morphyauctions.com
. For additional information, call 717-335-3435 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org