VINELAND, NJ – On March 11-12, Bertoia will auction, without reserve, Monique Knowlton’s Antique Toy Collection, a spectacular assemblage of comic book characters, German automobiles and American toys; as well as unusual Japanese space robots and toys.
Although never a regular at toy shows or auctions and probably unknown to most other collectors, Knowlton – a former international fashion model and owner of a art – comes from a world that focuses primarily on aesthetics. With her well-cultivated sense of quality and perfection, she came to appreciate the beauty of antique toys after seeing similar items compatibly integrated into art installations.
Knowlton remarked, “Even though the toys were very rare, if they weren’t in 100% condition, I wouldn’t buy them. I wanted perfect, original and functional things, and if I had the choice, I would always buy a toy that had its original box.
Michael Bertoia, President and Senior Auctioneer at Bertoia Auctions, recalled, “Monique has always been a great client for us. She is very detail-oriented and has a curatorial eye, which is expected of someone who operated a successful art gallery in Manhattan. She took our advice and looked for only the best examples. Whenever she had the opportunity to participate in high-profile sales like the Donald Kaufman series, she did not hesitate, and this is very clearly reflected in the collection she has built up over the years.
Among the most coveted classics up for auction is a 1926-27 J. Chein Felix Frolic estimated at between $12,000 and $18,000. The tallest lithographed comic character toy ever made, measuring 11 inches tall on a 13-inch by 4-inch platform, the Felix Frolic was also the first wind-up tin comic character toy to be authorized for manufacture in the United States. Fewer than a handful are known to exist. “Like all the other toys in the collection, Monique’s Felix Frolic is very strong on condition,” Bertoia noted.
Many other wonderful comic book character toys will join the Felix Frolic on March 11-12, including a Gunthermann Felix the Cat Merry-Go-Round, $15,000-$25,000; a Tippco Mickey and Minnie motorcycle (former Donald Kaufman collection), $25,000 to $45,000; and three other Mickey Mouse favorites: a Slate Dancer, $4,000 to $6,000; Distler Hurdy Gurdy, $4,000-$7,000; and a Mickey Pushing a Pram (England), $3,000 to $5,000.
Santa Claus will make a grand entrance driving two automotive rarities: a 10½-inch-long Fischer (Germany) Santa Claus car and a rare pre-war Japanese CK Santa Claus car. Each is estimated between $15,000 and $25,000. Knowlton’s fleet also includes a nearly new 20-inch Distler race car, priced at $12,000 to $18,000; a sleek circa 1935 Tippco Mercedes-Benz Autobahn Kurier, between $6,000 and $9,000; and a Karl Bub saloon-style saloon once owned by legendary Zurich toy dealer Peter Ottenheimer, who photographed it in his 1985 reference book Toy cars, 1890-1939. It is estimated between $4,000 and $7,000.
Other automobile highlights include a 20½-inch-long Karl Bub limo circa 1931 (former Kaufman collection), $3,000-$5,000; a Stock “Chaff Chaff” tourer (former Kaufman collection), $2,500-$3,500; and an ever-popular Atom Jet Racer from Yonezawa (post-war Japan), priced between $5,000 and $7,500. Other Japanese toys of note include a Linemar Popeye Mechanical Air-O-Plane, $4,000-$6,000; and a boxed 1910 Alabama Coon Jigger (former Kaufman collection), $3,000 to $5,000.
Cast iron toy fans will be delighted to see not one but two Hubley Surfer pull toys – a girl and boy version – estimated at between $10,000 and $15,000 each; and a similarly esteemed Hubley Popeye On Motorcycle. A Hubley “Static” speedboat comes with illustrious provenance, having once been part of the Bill and Lillian Gottschalk collection and, later, the Bob Brady collection. Its presale estimate is $5,000 to $7,500. A cast-iron Hubley Popeye doorstop, once part of Jeanne Bertoia’s flagship doorstop collection, is expected to fetch between $2,000 and $3,000. Among the first cast iron pieces in the sale is a delightful “Ding Dong Bell” Gong Bell toy, priced between $4,000 and $6,000.
Cast iron mechanical banks are also part of the Knowlton collection. In the group up for auction are a J&E Stevens Boy Scout bank, $2,500 to $4,500; a mother with child, $2,500 to $4,500; and a 13½-inch “Jolly” bank, $2,000 to $4,000.
A selection of traffic-stopping toy motorcycles includes several that sport a common theme: a boxed 9½-inch Tippco family cycle with sidecar (former Fred Tomlinson collection), $4,000-$6,000; a blue version of the same bike, $2,500 to $4,500; and a George Levy family cycle with sidecar, $2,000 to $4,000. German-born and a frequent visitor to European antique fairs and markets, Knowlton inevitably fell in love with the whimsical and beautifully crafted Lehmann toys. She then acquired boxed examples of some of the company’s most sought-after productions, such as a “Mandarin,” $4,000 to $7,000; and “Masuyama,” $4,000 to $6,000.
The Knowlton collection also includes many sought-after robots and space toys, led by a full lineup of Masudaya’s legendary Gang of Five – the big square mid-century batteries that could be described as the “boy band” of the toy hobby. . , as each member of the android quintet has their own unique look, action, and personality.
The oldest of the Gang of Five series in Monique’s collection is a 15-inch Radicon robot, featuring a pebble gray industrial metal finish and a separate remote control box. Manufactured in 1957, Radicon was the first radio-controlled toy robot. Made two years later, the Non-Stop Robot is also known to collectors as the “Lavender” Robot, due to its attractive pink-mauve color. Based on the same form as the Non-Stop Robot, the bright red Giant Machine Man Robot followed a specially ordered command and is, by far, the rarest of the Gang of Five. Next is the 1962 addition to the lineup, the Giant Sonic, or “Train” Robot, so named because of the “roaring” train sound it makes as it moves forward and backward. The latest to join the group was the 1964 Target Robot, which came with a toy dart gun and suction cup darts. Knowlton’s target robot comes with its original colorful box.
The robot and space toy offering continues with a Bandai Flying Spaceman “Superman” rocket cycle that is widely considered the finest of the few in existence. It last went on public sale in 2014 and will pass the auction block at Bertoia with an estimate of $12,000-$18,000. A boxed Nomura Radar Robot carries an estimate of $6,000 to $10,000, while a boxed Aoshin Chime Trooper is listed with an estimate of $5,000 to $7,500. An extremely rare Bandai Walking Batman with its original box is also expected to hit the $5,000-$7,500 range.
All forms of bidding will be available for Bertoia’s March 11-12, 2022 No Reserve Auction of the Monique Knowlton Collection, including live via the internet via Bertoia Live or Liveauctioneers. Live attendance is limited and by reservation only, with masks and social distancing required. Gallery previews are by appointment only. For more information, to reserve a place in the gallery, or to schedule a collection preview, call 856-692-1881, email [email protected], or visit the website from Bertoia: www.bertoiaauctions.com.