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Auctions Spotlight

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Bertoia’s Mar. 27-28 auction of Max Berry toys Pt. II boosts series total to $6M

VINELAND, N.J. – Washington attorney Max Berry left Bertoia’s gallery on March 28th with a smile on his face –…

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How To: Michael Bertoia Discusses Collecting Antique Toy Banks

Michael Bertoia, Auctioneer/Coordinator at Bertoia Auctions, has 8 years of experience working with toy banks and other collectibles. He tells us the fascinating story behind the popularity of antique toy banks

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Slot car sets, farm toys to be featured at M&M Auctions, May 30

HOLBEACH, UK – M&M Auctions’ sale on May 30 is dedicated to specialist farm toys, diecast models and collectibles. The…

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Morphy Auctions to offer robot collection, European toy cars May 30-31

DENVER, Pa. – Robots are on the march again at Morphy’s. The Pennsylvania company’s May 30-31 Toy Auction containing 1,450…

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Marklin 'Stephenson's Rocket' train sells for $121K at Noel Barrett auction

NEW HOPE, Pa. - If variety is the spice of life, auction house owner Noel Barrett was the undisputed king…

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Barrel of Monkeys opens up about turning 50

Everyone of a certain age remembers playing the game Barrel of Monkeys. The author provides a behind-the-scenes account of how…

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Old Toy Soldier May 29-31 auction features top-notch Mike Endres collection

PITTSBURGH – Bidders are on their marks, and battle lines have been drawn for Old Toy Soldier Auctions’ (OTSA) May…

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slot carScalextricNZGMatchboxDinkydiecastCorgiConrad 20 May 2015
Slot car sets, farm toys to be featured at M&M Auctions, May 30
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M&M Auctions' sale of more than 460 lots May 30 includes many premium construction replicas. M&M Auctions images HOLBEACH, UK – M&M Auctions’ sale on May 30 is dedicated to specialist farm toys, diecast models and collectibles. The 464-lot catalog features an eclectic mix of items for many hobbyists.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide absentee and Internet live bidding.

The auction will begin with an extensive collection of agricultural replicas – many boxed and some rare – in various scales.

toysoldierminiatureMignotMickey MouseKing and CountryHeydefiguresDisneyBritainsauction 20 May 2015
Old Toy Soldier May 29-31 auction features top-notch Mike Endres collection
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King and Country 12-piece Scots Highlanders boxed set, estimate $250-$350. Old Toy Soldier Auctions image

PITTSBURGH – Bidders are on their marks, and battle lines have been drawn for Old Toy Soldier Auctions’ (OTSA) May 29-31 sale of military and civilian figures and sets. Over the three-day period, OTSA will offer more than 1,650 lots from several advanced collectors, including Mike Endres, whose collection is the centerpiece of the sale. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.

The auction lineup is highlighted by “connoisseur pieces – primarily military figures and miniature military models – that were detailed to perfection by some of the great master painters of our time,” said OTSA owner Ray Haradin. Among the brands represented are Stadden, Lasset, Courtenay, Courtenay Greenhill, and Greenwood & Ball, manufacturers of one of the sale’s featured pieces – a hand-painted figure of Brigadier Sir Pratap Singh Bahadun in ceremonial attire, complete with Sikh turban, medals and sheathed sword.
zeppelinwindupTipp Co.Simon & HalbigSchoenhutrobotracerPopeyemotorcycleMickey MouseMasudayamarbleLinemarKammer & ReinhardtJumeauJapaneseHeubachdollDistlerDisneyBarbiebankautomotiveauctionantiqueairplane 14 May 2015
Morphy Auctions to offer robot collection, European toy cars May 30-31
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Japanese tinplate Agajanian race car, 19 inches long, est. $6,000-$9,000. Morphy Auctions image

DENVER, Pa. – Robots are on the march again at Morphy’s. The Pennsylvania company’s May 30-31 Toy Auction containing 1,450 lots is led by a prized grouping of sci-fi classics from the Robert V. “Bob” Gallegos collection. LiveAuctioneers will provide Internet live bidding services for the sale.

Approximately 115 robots, mostly boxed, will cross the auction block. Some of them boast illustrious provenance, like the boxed Jupiter Robot that had “lived long and prospered” in the Robert Lesser collection. Boxed examples of a Chime Trooper, Conehead, Hook Robot, Space Scout and Tremendous Mike join a Topolino, Astro Man, Mighty 8, Thunder Robot, silver Mechanized Robot (Robby) and blue-version Cragstan Space Man in this premier collection. The list continues with rare blue versions of Winky, Robot with Piston Action (ex Alan Rosen collection), and Moon Explorer. Gallegos’ subcollection of Masudaya “Gang” members includes boxed examples of Target, Radicon, Lavender and Train (Non-Stop) Robots. Pictured here are two very nice robots, both boxed -- at left, a Sparky, and at right, a Pug Robby.
zeppelintrolleytraintoytinplatetin lithoSmith-MillermotorcycleMarxLionelKestnerKammer & ReinhardtIvesdollcast ironcarouselcarnivalBuddy 'L'automotiveArcadeantique 29 Apr 2015
Stephenson's to auction John Dieterly collection of toys, trains on May 8
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Distler (German) lithographed tin wind-up Monkeys on Seesaw. Stephenson’s Auctioneers image

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – Stephenson’s Auctioneers, estate specialists based in Bucks County (suburban Philadelphia), Pa., will open its doors to welcome toy and train collectors on Friday, May 8, as it presents the John Dieterly collection, Part I. LiveAuctioneers will provide absentee and Internet live bidding services.

A vast assemblage formed over a 35-year period, the Dieterly toys filled countless shelves and cabinets in the consignor’s spacious four-story home in Montgomery County.

tinplatetin lithoPratt & Letchworthpenny toymechanical bankJ. & E. Stevenscast ironblack Americanabell toybankauctionantique 27 Apr 2015
Bertoia’s Mar. 27-28 auction of Max Berry toys Pt. II boosts series total to $6M
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Mary and Her Little Lamb bell toy, Gong Bell Mfg. Co., considered the finest known example, provenance: Covert Hegarty collection, $14,400. Bertoia Auctions image

VINELAND, N.J. – Washington attorney Max Berry left Bertoia’s gallery on March 28th with a smile on his face – not because Part II of his collection had just been auctioned for $2.92 million, but because of the enthusiastic way in which the toy community had come together over a two-day period to celebrate his lifetime of achievement in the hobby.

“Max was happy to see who the next caretakers of his toys would be,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “He was very focused throughout the entire auction and did a lot of positive nodding.” Added to the $3.1 million realized by Part I of Berry’s collection last Nov. 14-15, the March 27-28 auction pushed the series grand total to $6.02 million. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of buyer’s premium.

winduptinplatePratt & Letchworthpenny toymechanical bankKyser & RexKentonJ. & E. StevensHubleyfirefighting toyChristmascast ironbankauctionantique 23 Feb 2015
Bertoia's gears up for Mar. 27-28 auction of Max Berry toys, mechanical banks
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Pratt & Letchworth horse-drawn Flying Artillery, polychrome-painted cast iron, two mounted soldiers and four seated figures, 33½ inches long, provenance: Bill Bertoia collection, est. $30,000-$40,000. Bertoia Auctions image

VINELAND, N.J. – In describing what awaits bidders on March 27-28 when Bertoia Auctions presents Part II of Washington attorney Max N. Berry’s antique toy and bank collection, gallery associate and auction coordinator Rich Bertoia offered an analogy from the motion-picture world.

“When they do a sequel in Hollywood, it’s never as good as the original, but the follow-up to Part I of Max’s collection, which we auctioned last November, will be a blockbuster,” he said.

zeppelintraintoytinplateMarklinfirefighting toycircuscarouselautomotiveauctionantiqueanimation 26 Jan 2015
Marklin 'Stephenson's Rocket' train sells for $121K at Noel Barrett auction
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NEW HOPE, Pa. – If variety is the spice of life, auction house owner Noel Barrett was the undisputed king of condiments over the weekend of December 5-6. His 926-lot Antique Auction colorfully ran the gamut from carousel figures and German Christmas ornaments to tattoo memorabilia and jewelry store motion displays. “And there were buyers for every single niche category,” said Barrett, known to collectors from coast to coast for his avuncular demeanor and expert appraisals on PBS Television’s Antiques Roadshow.

The auction, which utilized LiveAuctioneers for its online bidding, was anchored by two important collections: the Libby Goodman dollhouse and miniatures collection and a wonderful array of antique toys and trains amassed by renowned magician the late John Daniel and his wife, Kathy. In addition, the lineup featured a wealth of other toys, trains, signs and curiosities from approximately 40 other American and European consignors.

“This was one of our most eclectic sales ever. It contained a number of unusual single-owner pieces – family heirlooms that had been passed down through several generations,” Barrett said.

Grossing $1,120,000 (inclusive of 21% buyer’s premium), the sale breezed past its presale high estimate of $925,000. Leading the prices realized was a rare Marklin toy train replicating the real-life Stephenson’s Rocket that road the rails at record speeds from 1829 to 1840. Consisting of a locomotive with tender and two cars, the 25-inch-long train was offered with a $25,000-$35,000 estimate and ultimately sold for $121,000.
Untagged  24 Dec 2014
Barrel of Monkeys opens up about turning 50
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NEW YORK – Everyone of a certain age remembers playing the game Barrel of Monkeys. The author provides a behind-the-scenes account of how the popular 1960s game came to be.

When Pixar featured Barrel of Monkeys in all three "Toy Story" movies, it was proof that this celebrated toy was not only iconic, but still a whole lot of fun. It’s hard to believe that it has been hanging around us since early 1965, and yet, 2015 will mark Barrel of Monkeys’ 50th year in stores. As popular as it is, finding facts relating to this classic game’s origin is nearly impossible.

Milton Dinhofer, now 91, provides the missing links regarding this nostalgic toy’s evolution. After earning his engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dinhofer went on to design the recognizable monkeys found in those plastic barrels today. Dinhofer didn’t work for a big toy company; it was at his Long Island home where he toyed with his many game ideas.

Leonard Marks, the Barrel of Monkeys inventor on file, was a schoolmate of Dinhofer’s. Marks told Dinhofer in 1961 that he had an idea for a game – an idea that came to him while waiting to sell his line of greeting cards to a small mom-and-pop shop. Dinhofer recounts the story Marks told him: “As he waited for the shop’s owner [Robert Gilbert], Marks started fiddling with [an open box of] snow-tire-replacement-chain links that were on the counter – hooking them together. Later when the owner approached to look at Marks' greeting cards, Marks was still playing with the links.” Dinhofer adds: “Marks was so interested in playing, he hadn’t realized so much time had passed. He said to the owner, ‘this would make a great toy.”

Gilbert then said to Marks he was friends with a successful toy promoter named Milton Dinhofer.” Marks immediately reached out to his old school friend.

Dinhofer had already had two major toy achievements to his credit. He created what he believes to be “the first full-size wearable space helmet.” His helmet made the covers of both "The Saturday Evening Post" (Nov. 8, 1952 issue) and "Collier's" magazine (April 18, 1953 issue). Prior to that, he invented, designed and successfully brought to market Sip-n-See. This was a line of twisted plastic drinking straws with characters on them. Dinhofer says it was not only the “first twisted straw,” but also the “first plastic drinking straw” on the market. It provided an alternative to the glass and paper straws being sold at the time, and Dinhofer says it sold over “five million pieces.” One of those straws would influence the design of Barrel of Monkeys.

Recounting his first business meeting with Marks, Dinhofer said: “Marks brought a pile of his links over and started playing with them.” They are in Dinhofer’s possession today and are red, s-shaped links made from a one-quarter-inch plastic rod. Each link has pinched ends for connecting. Dinhofer said that as he watched Marks play with the links, he thought to himself, ‘monkeys!’

“I told [Marks] he had a winner ... I would develop it and he should sell it ... We signed an agreement that night.” Asked why he chose monkeys, Dinhofer responds: “What else would you make them? Monkeys came to my mind instantly.” Dinhofer modeled the monkey’s arms after his Sip-N-See cowboy straw which had s-shaped arms just like a link.

“Our first step,” Dinhofer explained, “was to have a patent search made. Many linking games were disclosed but nothing with animals.” Dinhofer said that while none of those patented toys were successful, he still believed in theirs. It would take Dinhofer three months to go from a sketch to a functional monkey – in other words, likable and linkable. “We had to have 10 to 15 perfect pieces in order to see how they played,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge in designing them was the monkey’s balance. After that, he said, “I researched monkey photographs and made numerous sketches until I got a cute face down on paper.” Dinhofer selected a body he liked from another of his sketches and then hired a professional model maker.

A. Santore of A.S. Plastic Model Co. carved, under Dinhofer’s supervision, one perfect sample. Dinhofer then found a company that would make a beryllium mold from Santore’s monkey and run sample monkeys from it. Looking at Dinhofer’s first-run monkeys, one sees that they look exactly like Lakeside Toys’ 1965 debut version. The only difference between Dinhofer’s monkeys and today’s is that shortly after the toy’s release, more hair was added to their bodies.

Next Dinhofer had to name it. “More fun than a barrel of monkeys,” was a common phrase in the ’60s that dated back to at least the 1800s. But that was not where Dinhofer and Marks got the name for their toy. Dinhofer disclosed, “I also have one package...with the name Chimp to Chimp on it.” Chimp to Chimp was Barrel of Monkey’s initial name and like BOM, it had 12 monkey playing pieces. Twelve monkeys “seemed just right,” said Dinhofer. “Three to 12-year-olds had to stand to link all 12.” Thus too many links would require actually lifting the children higher to accommodate the growing chain of monkeys – a situation where more wasn’t necessarily better.

Asked if Chimp to Chimp monkeys came in a cardboard tube like Lakeside’s 1965 version, Dinhofer says: “Lakeside had more experience at $1[retail prices]. I had designed very expensive packaging. It was much more expensive than the cardboard can that Lakeside used and much more expensive to load.”

At last Chimp to Chimp was ready to be shown to retailers. Dinhofer says, “Marks showed to Woolworth’s ... it was the biggest chain with 2,100 stores. They liked it but wanted a guarantee that we would put it on TV for 13 weeks (approximately $150,000-$275,000 worth of commercials).” TV advertising was becoming the norm, but was impossible for Marks and Dinhofer to agree to Woolworth’s deal; it was too expensive and too risky for them to chance a failure. After that, Marks told Dinhofer there was no further interest from retailers. Marks moved on and partnered with another man named Herman Kesler.

In 1969, Dinhofer met James R. Becker at Lakeside. Becker would eventually become Lakeside’s president and go on to help pioneer global licensing as we know it today. But at the time, Becker was a vice president and still relatively new at Lakeside. Through Becker’s recounting, Dinhofer came to learn how Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys from Kesler and Marks. In 1964, Kesler called Zelman Levine, the chairman and president of Lakeside Toys, and set a November meeting in New York City. At the meeting were Levine, Becker and Lakeside’s soon-to-be national sales manager, Stanley Harfenist (Harfenist was trying to bring the Gumby toy line to Lakeside, which he eventually did in February 1965. Harfenist then went on to become Lakeside’s general manager.)

Becker told Dinhofer that Kesler walked into Levine’s room and just as Marks had done with his links at Dinhofer’s, Kessler uncupped his hands, dropped the monkeys onto a table, and started to link them together. Becker also said that the phrase “more fun than a barrel of monkeys” was brought up at that meeting by Becker himself. Zelman Levine immediately approved the item, and Zelman took all the samples back with him to Minneapolis.

Dinhofer’s legal documents show Kesler and Marks signed an agreement with Lakeside on Jan. 29, 1965. Dinhofer also has royalty statements showing gross sales beginning in the first quarter of 1965. He speculates that if Lakeside used his original mold, that would explain how the toy got to market so fast after contracts being signed. Lakeside also used similar packaging to their already successful Pick-Up-Sticks game, which probably sped up the release process. Dinhofer’s news clippings show that that by April of 1967, Barrel of Monkeys was No. 2 on "Toy and Hobby World" magazine’s “Toy Hit Parade” chart. Coincidentally, at No. 3, was BOM’s future "Toy Story" co-star and eventual Hasbro-brand mate, listed simply as Potato Head. Today BOM is part of Milton Bradley under the Hasbro umbrella. As one of "Time" magazine’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Toys,” (2011) prepares to turn 50, Dinhofer can’t help but reflect. Taking it all in, he shares: “I had a lot of talent. Too bad it took me 50 years to realize it.” But thanks to Dinhofer and many other talented people, Barrel of Monkeys has successfully run without batteries for almost half a century. Why is it so successful? Is it the barrel, the monkeys or the links? Maybe it’s the game’s simplicity? It certainly doesn’t hurt that it brings a smile for under $10. Quite possibly, it was just a perfect storm of ideas, people, timing and luck. Whatever the reason for BOM’s longevity, after hearing Dinhofer’s recounting, one can’t help but imagine a big 50th bash with monkeys swinging from chandeliers, barrels of champagne flowing, and Dinhofer photoBOMbing us all. At the very least, we can raise a glass and toast to him and all who put those monkeys in a barrel, and those barrels into tiny happy hands. And when Milton raises his glass, may he be beside his favorite links – his family, his children, his great-grandchildren, and his great-great-grandchildren, because, truly, what could be more fun than that?

Tracy Leshay 
is the granddaughter of Milton Dinhofer.


ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE

Before Lakeside picked up Barrel of Monkeys, the game was called Chimp to Chimp. Photo by the author

These are the original links Marks brought to Dinhofer. With them are Dinhofer's original drawings that the links inspired him to create. Photo by the author


mechanical bankMatchboxJ. & E. Stevenscast iron 5 Dec 2014
Gray's auction features mechanical banks, Matchbox toys Dec. 10
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Punch and Judy mechanical bank manufactured by Shepard Hardware Co., circa 1884. Gray's Auctioneers image

CLEVELAND – Gray’s Auctioneers will disperse a lifetime toy collection as the opening segment of their Dec. 10 auction. LiveAuctioneers.com will provide Internet live bidding for the 746-lot auction, which includes fine and decorative arts.

James N. Seidelle, who was one of the inventors of the flight simulator, quietly built his superb toy collection over eight decades. He was charmed by the creative mechanical movements of the banks, collected the soldiers as a boy, and assembled a massive matchbox car collection.

Highlights from the sale include lot 19, a cast-iron Lighthouse mechanical bank, circa 1891, where a coin any size up to a quarter can be deposited into the house, but the tower takes only nickels and will open once the amount deposited reaches $5. Lot 1 is a cast-iron Magician mechanical bank manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Co., circa 1901. If a coin is placed on the table as the lever is pressed, the magician covers the coin with his hat and moves his head up and down. When he raises his hat, the coin has disappeared – deposited in the bank.

The toy collection consists of more than 200 lots, with many of the lots composed of 10 to 20 items. All the matchbox cars come with their boxes and many others are unopened in their original packaging. Many of the banks are in multiples and the toy soldiers come in all shapes and sizes. The auction takes place at 10 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 10, allowing for items to be shipped in time for the holidays.

Live, telephone, absentee and Internet bidding are available. Condition reports will be provided upon request.

For more information contact Serena Harragin at 216-458-7695, or by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

altView the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE

Magician mechanical bank manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Co., circa 1901. Gray's Auctioneers image

Lighthouse mechanical bank, circa 1891. Gray's Auctioneers image


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