This blog discusses old toys from the early 1920's to the end of the 1950's. All kinds of topics are discussed.
The time span was the greatest period for "hands-on" toys, where a young child could actually go outside and play for hours at a time.
You can see the elegance but simple design of these toys. It was a time when huge machines, and people made and finished toys by hand.
The era has long passed, but many of the toys are still around, and that is what I would like to share.
I'm very subjective (opinionated) compared with objective (the facts) when art is involved. I would also say the same for toys. However, it's hard to have a different opinion when objectivity such as demand and rarity are dominant factors at auction. ANd so it is with today;s toy, hence the title "Who's the Rarest of Them All?", without meaning any disrespect or plagiarism to The Brothers Grimm (1812) who of course wrote "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.
I had mentioned in recently earlier posts that I would eventually write about the fabulous mechanical banks from Mr. Max Berry's Collection via Bertoia Auctions, and so I'm starting today with one of the rarest mechanical banks to go to auction in North America, and probably in the world!
Many famous items that have been passed down from generation to generation or from
person-to-person at auction have as much a history about the people "safekeeping"
the item as the toy, artifact, or piece of art. So if you read the names of these "guardians" of this toy, and search who they are or were on the Net, you will find that they are famous and quite interesting.
It also helps to have an item that is either the only one or only one of two,
as this one is. Perhaps this toy never went to production, and the two were only prototypes. Of course ever since the Net (Auctions) and TV with such programs American Pickers,Antiques Road Show, everyone who collects, buys, or sells is looking for that missing treasure.
The mechanical movements of this toy are quite interesting, as is the caricature of the figure,
and the colourful theme.
The fine texture on the man's blue jacket on his back, and the nice floral and leaf pattern
at his feet certainly add to the allure of this rare toy.
The starting opening bid for this item is $ 69,000.00 (US) with the estimated final price estimated to be between $ 225,000.00 - $ 275.000.00.
Truly, if the facts speak for themselves (objectively), this wonderful toy may enter the record books for one of the highest prices paid for a mechanical American bank toy, and deservedly so.
We're already more than a month into the fall (autumn) season, and all of the auctioneers are presenting their fall lineups. The fall season offers people more time to spend indoors, but they still like to go out. So lots of auctions take place inn the fall. Winter, of course is less busy,, because many people are off to the south (florida), or spent lots of money on Christmas presents. When springs starts to arrive, everyone has been "hibernating" indoors, and they all want to get outdoors, and so more auctions happen once more.
I've been visit James D. Julia many times lately to see all of the fine items that he and his staff have up for auction. Sometimes I'll know exactly what I'll be writing about, and sometimes, I'm like a shopper that keeps coming back to the store, unsure of what to select. James D. Julia has lots of fine items, and it was his fine auction company that introduced me to the "salesman's sample", which I have written about on many occasions. But for today, it's his grouping of motorcycles that caught my eye. Most times, auctioneers list and sell items one at at time. But if the value is lower, then they can group some to many items together, and have people bid. It saves time, and offers collectors a change to win a whole grouping in 1 bid.
When I first went to James D. Julia, I also was not aware that he had many different divisions, one of them being guns. His company's photography is superb, and the knowledge that the writers have to add to these items is encyclopaedic in nature. What's amazing is that guns deem to move on in time, and you can find the most historic armaments, especially relating to American history.
Since these toys will be going to auction on November 7, 2014, I have included the original condition descriptions that were described with the original photos.
The motorcycle on the left is a Harley Davidson with a front working headlight (battery operated).
The one on the right is an Indian brand. Harley Davidsons have their famous "V"_shaped cylinders, while the Indian motorcyles were more vertical in design.
When you see a quartet of motorcycles, each one seems to enhance the beauty of the other. What I first noticed on cast iron toys were the brilliant primary colours. Next of course was the design,followed by nickel plated wheels. Imagine, nickel was used for the wheels to keep them from rusting. That certainly worked!
What I am impressed with is the fine detail that could be achieved from cast iron. You have to remember that the cast iron process is one of the first processes that man made when he learned to mine ore and melt it. What makes these toys so exceptional is the detail. You have to be careful when buying cast iron because there are a lot of "fakes" and reproductions. However, one of the way s to differentiate "fake from authentic" is to look at the smooth surfaces and fine detail. American toys made from the 1880's-1930's used very fine sand, with exceptional craftsmen, and it's this detail that makes the toys so much enthralling.
Look at the folds and pleats in the policeman's uniform. Then of course, is the small round indentation on the holster, representing probably a snap or button to keep the gun secure. I can;t be sure, but do I see a small indentation in the eyeball representing the iris?
I whitened the foundation (what the toys are sitting on), in order to focus moron the toys.
I don't think this photo was taken by Julia's professional photographer, but was taken to add more photos. The photo was underexposed, and a bit out of focus. Nevertheless, I saw a great photo here.
When I improved it, it came pout great. I like the high camera angle that presents to you the seat of the red motorcycle. But I like even more is the photographic composition, I like how the toys on the left and right sides are cropped (cut off) tightly so that the emphasis is on the bred and blue motorcycles.
Finally, here are the last two cast iron photos for this auction.
As I mentioned earlier, presenting the motorcycles in groups certainly gives you a sense of the diversity of these toys made back in the early parts of the 20th century.
What is also nice is the lighting. A soft diffused lighting is used on the toys to make the exposure easy to record details. Harsh lighting is harder to capture detail. What Julia's photographer ask did is make the background dark. He or she does this by using a barn door (a light blocker) to create a shadow on the background. What this in turn does is to emphasize the motorcycles again the dark.
These photos are best looked at in Blogger's slide mode, since they are larger than I can present them to you. But if you really want large, venture over to the James D. Julia website. There, large photos are used to best present their fine items to viewers.
Tuesday October 28, 2014 Later afternoon-overcast and no rain
The Carpenter Company Three Storey Burning Building
I found the third model of the Carpenter Burning Building that James D. Julia Inc. had described in his sale of the second model (model II) of the Carpenter Burning Building description. James D. Julia had mentioned that there were in fact three (3) models of this 1890's exceptional toy,but I had only known initially of one,. With the currently scheduled Bertoia Auction of the Max Berry Collection being presented on November 14-14, 2014, I discovered the second model - a two ladder, two story burning building.
Todays post # 3 completes the series of three of the 1890's Carpenter Company cast iron "Burning Building" triad of 3 models. This model was sold by Pook & Pook, another exceptional American Auction Company. I've left their identifying photo characteristic in the photo, rather than go with my white background/white foundation modification. They photograph their items in different ways, but this nice material easily identifies them whenever you see an item from their company on the Net.
As with all three of these fine auctioneers,Bertoia Auctions, James D.Julia Inc.,and Pook and Pook Inc., you will always see the most interesting items, superb photography,and well-written descriptions.
Pook & Pook's model completes the beautiful entry of the Carpenter Company's
Burning Building Series. Their entry is a three story, one ladder toy.
Carpenter cast iron and wood burning three-story
Carpenter cast iron and wood burning three-story building with firemen and rescue women.
Height: 22 3/4" 578 mm*
* Description Courtesy of Pook & Pook Inc.
Once again, this Carpenter toy was built from wood and cast iron. There was no mention of weight, but I'm sure it must be another "heavyweight". In this model, it appears that the hero firemen are able to save two women. The latter is attached via a horizontal bar and can move from left to right and vice versa.
If you haven't read the previous posts, the way the foreman saves the lady is by climbing the ladder. When his raised right hand gets to the lady in yellow, he will be able to hook his hand in her arranged circle of her two clasped hands and arms.
Pook & Pook Inc. took an excellent illustrative photo
to explain how the fireman would save the lady.
Once again, you can see how the patina is so smooth and the figures were addled by small hands and probably large ones (adults) over time. The paint is smooth, lustrous, and in some places simply fell off.
I like the ornate pattern of the building and of course the "horrendous" fire
that is coming out form the apartment. It's a good thing that these firemen came prepared with a three-0story ladder and not a two-story one - otherwise there wouldn't a happy ending for all of the years that this toy has existed - almost 115 years x 365 days, plus leap years, weekends,after homework evenings, holidays…. You get the picture!
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 Partly cloudy with normal temperatures
The Carpenter Single Ladder Burning Building
Earlier today, I posted a fine and very rare toy from the Carpenter toy company. It was a two ladder burning building cast iron toy. There were three slightly different models made, and I wasn't sure if I'd fine all three. I did find the third one. This particular model is the second one with two stories and one ladder.
I found this one from the James D. Julia Inc. company which is one of my many friendly companies who allow me to use their photos. Not only are they one of the finest auctioneers in North America, but I first discovered that they regularly sold what are called salesman's models. These are exact small-sized (scaled down) models of actual machinery and other items. You have to visit their site to see these most fascinating items. If I could ever afford them , these definitely would be my type of toys!
"Originally found in a Massachusetts attic many years ago and until recently resided in a private collection. Perhaps this is one of the greatest and most amusing toys ever manufactured. The Carpenter firm (Port Chester, New York) modeled this toy after the brownstones of NYC. The elaborate cast iron facade is mounted on a wooden base with a cast iron sidewalk. There are three documented versions of this toy, this is the two-story version having a damsel on a fiery balcony awaiting the fireman below to ascend the ladder and bring her down to safety. Down below is a second fireman with a fire hose attached to the hydrant, attempting to extinguish the fiery blaze. A most uncommon feature of this toy is an open side door with cast iron jamb. A toy that appeals not only to the serious toy collector but for anyone who appreciates the rare and unusual. SIZE: 16-1/2″ h x 6″ d x 7-1/2″. CONDITION: Overall near excellent original condition. Original ladder has old inpainting (50+ years?) with original yellow paint visible in spots with original climbing fireman. Woman in balcony and fireman tending hose are old replacements. These slight drawbacks are insignificant compared to the importance of this scarce and desirable piece"*
* Description Courtesy of James D. Julia Inc.
This particular model is in exemplary condition as you can see.
The figures in the cast of characters in this scene are beautiful moulded in cast iron. The lady has her arms and hands in a circle allowing for her rescuer to catch her with his right hand.
He's the fireman climbing the ladder.
You can see how much these figures were handled from the beautiful patina
that has polished and smoothed out the paint over the years.
I believe that the string to have the firman move up the ladder is missing. You can look at the previous post to get an understanding as to how the action of saving the lady would have worked.
So this is a "short and sweet" post, apart of a triad (3) that I decided to door these wonderful Carpenter Company toys.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 Overcast and cold with chance of rain
The Carpenter Two Ladder Burning Building Part I
Yesterday, I presented then exceptional and large Ives fire station and horse-drawn pumper. I mentioned that I'd be writing about today's "surprise", and so I have. This is one of the large cast iron toys made in the 1890's that was made by the Carpenter Company. It's titled the "Two Ladder Burning Building".
You have to remember that in the 1890's and into the early next century, there were no real fire safety codes in the USA. Building were made mostly from wood, and would burn very fast when a fire happened. Wood burning stoves were very common as were oil-burning lamps, so fire was more prone to happen that in todays' times. Also , there wasn't the underground water supply system that modern cities have today, so pumpers moved by horses were the norm at the time. Fire trucks with gas-driven engines were come into existence in about 20 years, give or take a few years, and they were rare.
Fires in those days would be big, and naturally, crowds would gather to watch fire crew combat and try to put out the fires. Even I, when I was young would be attracted to watch a fire, just like a moth is attracted to light. And so it was with toys.There were lots of toys, especially cast iron toys in the USA modelled after fire-fighting equipment and figures (people) of the time.
This item is current;y up for auction. It's from the exceptional collection of Mr. Max Berry, whom I have mentioned in several recent posts. What distinguishes this toy is that it has two ladders. I 've seen the Carpenter burning fire buildings but only with one ladder. The description mentions that there were three versions made, so I'll certainly have to kook for the third one or try and buy an old Carpenter catalogue or reproduction.
The lady on the balcony has her arms in a circle. When the fireman on the left side climbed the ladder, his right arm and harm were extended out, and he would "catch" the lady via her hands and arms that were in a circle.
The photo below show you that the lady is now safe in the arm of the left fireman, while the fireman on the right side hgas descended to the bottom of the ladder.
I have no idea what the lady on the wheeled platform to the left would be doing. Perhaps, there was a lever that released as the firemen saved the lady on the balcony, and she rolled out of the building.
Today's toy was made from wood and cast iron metal. It must be quite heavy, since yesterdays' was smaller and weighed in at 14 pounds or 6.36 kg.
I'm not sure that the inside cord and pulley is to the right side, but perhaps it connected to the lever that I "guessed" before might have allowed for the release of the lady on the wheeled platform.
You can see the words and numbers "Patented Jan 19, 1892" in the lower left corner. Also, in the shadows to the left and behind, you can see a small platform inside the building. Perhaps there is a lever action to release the lady on the wheeled platform, after all.
The opening asking bid for this item is in the 5 figures. I'm sure, that like all big toys that were "costly" in 1892, there were not as many sold as the lower-priced toys. Consequently, they were rarer then, an as they are today.
Somebody who wins this fine toy is going to be a very luck boy, or man or girl or lady!
Monday, October 27, 2014 Mainly sunny and seasonally milder
The Ives Fire Station and Pumper
It's the time of year when you have to prepare fir winter - at least for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere, and especially Canada. Yesterday, I built a small shelter to cover our swimming pool hear pump and water filter, repaired a broken fence slat, and then replaced the central air filter and the batteries for the smoke alarms. I also had to replace 2 smoke alarm detectors.
SInce I just received an excellent Ives, Blakeslee, and Williams Company reprinted catalogue, I examined it again, and found a fine fire station and pumper. This particular toy is quite large. I had found tomorrow's post time earlier in the week, but was looking for an item to compliment that "piece de resistance" and to start this week. And so I found the Ives station, and tomorrow, you will see a really spectacular item - both part of the exceptional Max Berry Collection to be auctioned via Bertoia Auctions.
The fire engine house and the fibre engine (pumper) certainly were the "de riguer" (very fashionable ).Ives and partners had used an entire catalogue page to present this pair of toys. What of special interest is the fact that these two items were very expensive at $ 5.00 and $ 1.00 respectively for 1893.
It would be interesting to know if the value of an antique toy is directly related to its originalprice . In other words ,I would think that the more expensive the toy, the fewer that are sold, and the rarer they become in 100 years when antique you collectors vie for them at auction or buy them at antique toy stores.
Have a look at the weight of the fire engine house itself at the bottom left part of the above page.
It weighted 14 pounds or 6.36 kg
I now understand why the toy was made both of wood and cast iron. Had the entire toy been made of cast iron, it would have been both too expensive to sell, and would have weighed too much for the average child to move about. Even at 14 pounds or 6.36 kg, it's a super-heavyweight!
The toy must have been lots of fun for young children. The key wound up the clockwork mechanism. A release would fling open the from doors and the fire engine (pumper) with the horses would come out of the inside.
There are a few of these old fire stations left in Montreal, but they've been relegated to tourist attractions or use by the City of Montreal for tourism.
These particular toys are rare, and have received excellent final prices at auction, but not what I would have thought. However, tomorrow's fire-related item is even much rarer!
Sunday,October 26, 2014 Partly sunny, cold,with a chance of rain
A Horse is a Horse,
of Course, of Course…
If you just though that the title of today's post was familiar to you , it was! It's the theme song from the American TV program from the 1960's called Mr Ed. The twist to this half-hour comedy was that Mr. Ed, the horse in the program talked to his owner Wilber. So this equine, wasn't just any ordinary horse, of course! The program was very funny because Mr. Ed naturally almost never talked to anyone but Wilber. Occasionally, Mr. Ed would blurt out embarrassing words or sentences, and poor Wilber would get into trouble!
When I presented Mr. Doug Van Middlesworth's fine pull toy yesterday, I asked everyone if they could help me identify it. When Doug had asked me to try and identify his very fine "horse platform pull toy", I thought it would be easy. Another lessen learned! Never assume that a toy you've thought you've seen many times will be easy to identify. Doug's toy measures at least 12" ( 305 mm) long, which appears to be rarer than I thought.
Then when I started to check for a similar horse, all of the horse drawn pull toys all looked too similar for my untrained equine horse identification! I had to slow down and take a serious look at these toys. Moreover, search engines are not written well by programmers when more that 2-3 words are used. If you start to search for a Hull & Stafford horse platform pull toy, you will definitely have trouble! Six words are too much for any search engine including Google to handle. So I tried horse platform pull toy, figuring that would be easier - just a "mere" 4 words. Nooooooooo! There were metal wood, large-sized, very large-sized, small,miniature, penny toys,pull toys, wind-up toys and every other horse toy you could almost think of!
So I tried 3 words - horse pull toy. I got results, but still some toys were not in the exclusive result for the horse drawn pull toys. And worst of all, they still looked too similar to me. My apologies to all my equine readers and my niece Carly who used to rise horses and even owned one! Moreover, when you see the search results, the results on let's say most sites have photos or composite photos that are of uniform size. So looking at a whole page of horse platform pull toys is like looking at a table of 1000 white eggs, and trying to find the single goose egg among the others that are all chicken eggs. The goose egg is slightly larger, but among 100, it blends in quite week.
What's also interesting is that most of the toys of that era (1880's-1920's) were platform pull toys made from tin. THe design and shape of the horses were quite similar, and you begin to have a keener eye to differentiate one horse from another. It's like trying to see the differences in the 2 illustrations in the newspaper that have 6 subtle differences between the 2 of them. SOmetimes it's easy, and sometimes, it take me a long time!
One is larger than the other and the platforms are different.
This horse's front left foot is bent much more than the previous two.
Also the reins are painted in a different pattern.
I didnblt mention that Doug's pull toy had a standing stable boy or standing rider.
Below we have a lady sitting in what I believe is called the "British Style" or
"Side Saddle" of riding.
The lady's horse is an a very "eloquent" stride, and the platform is different form the others.
I names the horse pose as a stride, but not being equip gate,or a stride.
Just when I was learning the names of horse-drawn vehicles, I now need to learn the differences in the pacing of horse movements!
I was fortunate to find this fine large-sized horse platform pull toy. It's being offered in the exceptional collection of Mr. Max Berry that I have been writing about. This toy is quite beautiful,and of presents well with the lady rider above.
It's quite large for platform horse drawn pull toys, just like the one that I presented yesterday.
I also decided to add Doug's photos (below) that I whitened up.
Perhaps, presenting Doug's fine "steed" and stable toy in two posts will get more viewers to look for the brand of toy that it is.
I liked how Doug photographed his toy above with that harsh shadow that I increased in contrast and exaggerated. Notice the tapered and narrowed ankles in the shadow. It's a small detail, but perhaps a "clue" as to who might have made this toy. The shadow helped to illustrate this toy feature as the direct lighting to the toy itself was flat, hence reducing the shape of the toy.
I hope everyone will be out there searching for the maker of Doug's toy!