This rare Märklin toy, the so-called Fidelitas clown caravan, proved the highlight of the sale of Part I of the Donald Kaufman collection conducted 'without reserve' by Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, New Jersey on March 19-21.
Made by pre-War Germany's premier toy manufacturer around 1909,
the 3ft 2in (96cm) long Fidelitas features seated clowns with a
variety of props - a hoop, a bouquet of flowers, and the curious
sign that gives the toy its name.
Kaufman, aged 78, has been collecting toys for 50 years,
although many of his higher profile acquisitions were made
following the sale of his stake in the family business Kay-Bee Toys
in 1981. His Märklin clown caravan had been bought at Bertoia a
decade ago for $30,000.
It has some replaced elements - including a leg, a hand and the
sign carried by the figure at the rear of the train - but ranks
among less than ten complete examples known (the individual
carriages were also sold separately by Märklin and survive in
Estimated at $30,000-40,000, it sold to a European collector at
$90,000 (£66,200) plus 15 per cent buyer's premium.
One blogger described the Kaufman collection - which could
provide Bertoia with as many as five sales - as "a procession
of toys worthy of a ticker-tape parade". With many strong prices
posted for early German, French and American 'connoisseur' toys,
Part I brought a total of $4.2m (£3.1m).
By Roland Arkell