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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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Stephenson's to auction John Dieterly collection of toys, trains on May 8

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – Stephenson’s Auctioneers, estate specialists based in Bucks County (suburban Philadelphia), Pa., will open its doors to welcome…

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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.


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

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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.


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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Noel Barrett to auction fine toys, carousel animals, trains & advertising Dec. 5-6
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Rare Marklin locomotive with tender and two cars produced in 1902 to replicate famed Stephenson’s Rocket, which was in service from 1829-1840, est. $25,000-$35,000. Noel Barrett image

CARVERSVILLE, Pa. – Recent reports of a massive, wild-eyed dragon in the quaint village of Carversville, Pennsylvania, haven’t been a cause for alarm. Locals know that such sightings typically lead straight to Noel Barrett’s gallery, where unusual Americana and toys are gathered for auction around this time each year. The 6-ft-long carved wood dragon – actually an early double-sided, three-dimensional trade sign – is one of a bevy of fabulous advertisements to be presented along with antique toys and novelties in Barrett’s Dec. 5-6 auction in New Hope, Pa. Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

“There’s such a wide variety of material in this sale. It includes many, many rare items from long-held private collections,” said Barrett. “It’s always a thrill when we dig into a collection and find pieces we’ve never seen before. There’s a lot here to excite collectors of antique advertising and toys, even those who’ve been at it for decades.”

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Auction Team Breker to sell tin toys, early computer Nov. 15
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One of more than 70 tin toy motorcycles that will be sold by Auction Team Breker on Nov. 14-15. Auction Team Breker image

COLOGNE, Germany – In May 2013 Auction Team Breker set a new world record for selling a 1976 Apple I computer for $671,400 (516,500 euros). The Apple I is the iconic first product of today's most successful technology company, yet its inventor Steve Wozniak might be surprised to discover that a MAC computer that existed 18 years before Apple Inc. was founded is being offered by Auction Team Breker at its Nov. 14-15 auction of science and technology which will also include fine toys and automata.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide Internet live bidding. M.A.C. is the acronym for a Mechanical Analogue Computer built by the English firm Air Trainers Link Ltd. of Aylesbury in 1958. Capable of solving a range of complex equations, this early flight simulator was the first tape-controlled computer system in the world. Input and output data was presented on a moving paper recorder. Although kits were also offered for the technically ambitious, a glance at the complex machinery of shafts, levers and pulleys explains why its case was the size of a large wardrobe (64 x 77 x 24 inches) – a far cry from today's compact Mac products. This example is believed to be one of only two still in existence. The other is one at the Science Museum London. Auction Team Breker estimates the early computer at $13,500-$27,000 (10,000-20,000 euros).

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‘Serious’ array of toys, pop culture in Morphy’s Sept. 6-7 auction
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Baravelli (Italy) circa-1966 boxed Batman Rocket Gun. Est. $1,000-$1,500. Morphy Auctions image

DENVER, Pa. – The first Toy & Pop Culture Auction produced by Morphy’s under the supervision of specialist Tom Miano will be held over the weekend of Sept. 6 and 7, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. Miano, founder of Serious Toyz, is now a member of Morphy’s team and heads the Pop Culture department. He called on his many longtime customers and connections within the toy community to create a fantastic 1,271-lot lineup of items that includes:

• 400 lots of slot cars

• Spy toys and collectibles, including an extremely rare James Bond Thunderball gun in box, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. Illya Kuryakin gun set in box, original movie posters, and much more

• Superhero items including a rare Baravelli Batman Rocket Gun in box, and one of only two known examples of a 1942 DC Comics promotional ashtray, plus a grouping of scarce Green Hornet items

• Die-cast Dinky vehicles, including a highly sought-after Gift Set #990 in box

• Beatles items, including a record player in beautiful condition, a boxed Big Six Guitar, a factory-sealed box of Hair Pomade, a Yellow Submarine production animation cel, and more

• Approximately 50 Japanese tin cars, including coveted examples by Marusan, Isuzuki, Alps, Bandai, Yonezawa and many others

• A nice assortment of original 1960s/’70s rock concert posters and record store displays for Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Elvis Presley and many more

• An extremely rare MIB example of Remco’s "Hamilton Invaders" Playset, a boxed Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea set, a rare Frankenstein figural candle, and many other sci-fi/monster lots

• TV character collectibles, including many rare and hard-to-find items from The Munsters, Addams Family and many other ’60s TV favorites

• A collection of ventriloquist toys including Charlie McCarthy, and characters made famous by Paul Winchell, Shari Lewis and others

• A large group of unfired Western cap guns, including boxed examples of a Kilgore "Long Tom" and a Nichols Stallion 41-40, as well as cowboy and Western items from Hop-a-Long Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke and others

• Toys and collectibles for cartoon favorites from Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Harvey, United Features, Warner Bros and many others, including toys, figures, animation production cels and more

• Space toys: rare tin battery-ops, ray guns and robots; plus space character toys from Lost in Space, Star Wars, Star Trek, and more

• Tin battery-ops in boxes, including a Marx Kooky Spooky Tree and NBC camera truck

• Many other types of toys and pop-culture collectibles, including board games, dolls, model kits, retail displays, movie posters, advertising, gas station premiums and much more

For additional information on any item in the sale, call 717-335-3435 or email 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.


Usagiya (Japan) early 1960s Fiat friction car in original box, one of two color variations of this model to be offered. Est. $50-$100. Morphy Auctions image

The Beatles record player, 1964, one of only 5,000 produced. Est. $2,500-$4,000. Morphy Auctions image

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