Toy boats on the block at Bertoia Auctions

This clockwork paddle wheeler, the "Providence," from the Claus collection is expected to bring $110,000 to $130,000 at auction on Saturday in Vineland.
This clockwork paddle wheeler, the "Providence," from the Claus collection is expected to bring $110,000 to $130,000 at auction on Saturday in Vineland.
Posted: May 12, 2012

Like their life-size counterparts, self-propelled toy boats can be an expensive hobby.

To see just how expensive, take a look at some of the sea craft that Bertoia Auctions will offer beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday at the gallery in Vineland. At least 18 of the more than 150 vessels that dominate the 210-lot sale are expected to bring five-figure prices and at least one has a six-figure presale price estimate.

The fleet was assembled by Richard T. “Dick” Claus, a 30-year collector who lives in the Philadelphia area and at age 80 is planning to downsize, according to Bertoia associate Richard Bertoia. Saturday’s sale is the first of two planned for the collection, with a second scheduled for the fall.

Claus, the author of the 2005 reference book “The Allure of Toy Ships: American & European Nautical Toys from the 19th and 20th Centuries,” not only went after the best-known models of the last century, typically high-profile ocean liners and battleships, but also specimens of more obscure categories. Two Maerklin vessels, a Brooklyn Series II battleship, and a live-steam-powered “Kaiserina Augusta Victoria” ocean liner, should each bring $90,000 to $120,000.

But the top presale estimate is for a less dramatic ruler of the high seas, a clockwork-powered paddle wheeler, the “Providence,” made by Maerklin around 1901 with painted curtains in the cabin windows and its skipper on the foredeck. It has a presale estimate of $110,000 to $130,000 according to the auction catalog, also accessible at www.bertoiaauctions.com.)

Other ocean liners with five-figure presale estimates include an early 20th century Maerklin “Amerika” ($10,000 to $12,000); a circa 1915 Maerklin clockwork “Germany,” ($18,000 to $25,000) and a rare 1875 Rock and Graner steam-powered paddle wheeler, “Kaiser Wilhelm,” ($20,000 to $25,000). Other warships in that price range include a circa 1914 Maerklin “Baltimore Series” live steam battleship and a boxed clockwork “New York Series” battleship circa 1905 (each $50,000 to $60,000).

But the collection includes other toy boats besides those best-suited as playthings for gold-plated bathtubs. Along with the models of luxury liners of the early 20th century, the sale offers more affordable vessels. A 6-inch-long boxed Arnold ocean liner — made in the 1950s in the U.S. Zone of occupied Germany at a time when most post-World War II playthings came from Japan — has a presale estimate of $400 to $600. It’s one of a half-dozen Arnold ships in the sale.

Also on the affordable side are “penny toy” vessels that actually run across the floor on wheels, and a dozen trolleys. Most of both categories are in the three- or low four-figure range, although a boxed Issmayer trolley set, including trolley wire poles and track, should bring $8,000 to $12,000.

In addition to big vessels, Claus also collected submarines and torpedo boats, notably a clockwork Bing with its original box, made around 1908 ($10,000 to $15,000); speedboats and other sporting vessels, including a lithographed tin eight-man rowing sweep with coxswain ($10,000 to $12,000); even workaday vessels. A Maerklin dredging ship with an accompanying steam engine made about 1909 has a presale estimate of $16,000 to $18,000.

The collection also includes coastal guns; soldier and sailor sets, notably an early 1900s artillery set featuring wheeled cannons and a crew of sailors overseen by an officer with binoculars ($2,500 to $3,000); and a 17-inch-long Maerklin Zeppelin with pulleys on its top so it can travel on a string ($8,000 to $10,000). Novelties in the sale include a tin plate “sinking” battleship made around 1914 that comes with a wood torpedo which, if it hits an amidship target, splits the vessel in half ($800 to $1,000), and a French biscuit tin shaped like the ill-fated Normandie ($1,200 to $1,500).

Another ship in the sale whose prototype has seen better days is a 15-inch Japanese lithographed tin clockwork model of the SS United States. It has a presale estimate of $500 to $700.

Preview: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 11 and 9 a.m. to sale time May 12 at the gallery at 2141 DeMarco Dr., just off Exit 35 of Route 55. For further information call 856-692-1881 (verified by iams)

Candy shop contents in Franklinville Another significant South Jersey sale will take place beginning at 8 a.m. May 14 in Franklinville, where Bob Brooks Auction Sales will liquidate the contents of Weber’s Candy Store, a fixture at 16 S. Laurel St., Bridgeton, for more than 120 years. Established by William Frederick Weber, the son of a German immigrant who settled in the Cumberland County seat when it was still BridgeTowne, the family ran the store until October, when the fourth generation “Fred” Weber decided to retire.

Store items in Brooks’ sale include a circa 1940 nut cabinet; five eight-foot, slant-front candy cases; two standard copper chocolate melter pots dating to around 1920; a salt water taffy cutter; a circa 1870 peanut roaster; and dozens of Whitney Glass ribbed candy jars, as well as the circa 1900 Weber’s Candy Store sign.

Among more decorative items: advertising signs, including a 1915 tin “Hires Drinks” by Harry Morse Meyers, a porcelain “Huylers Bonbon Chocolate,” a porcelain “St. Paul” insurance sign, and a Hershey’s chocolate tray dating to around 1940. The auction also features antique and Victorian furniture, including several Ware chairs, decorated crocks, and Civil War memorabilia.

Preview is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 12 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 13at the gallery on Route 47, one mile north of Route 40. For further information, call 856-694-2960.

Contact David Iams at daiams@comcast.net.

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