THROUGHOUT this month, Sotheby’s New York are devoting an entire floor of their York Avenue headquarters to what they call “the largest and most comprehensive collection of magnificent quality European and American toys and trains ever assembled”.
The entire collection (the items on view represent a mere 20 per
cent of more than 35,000 objects included in the collection) is
available for private sale through Sotheby's as a single lot priced
at an undisclosed eight-figure sum.
The Jerni Collection, a homage to the Golden Age of toy making,
has been amassed by Jerry Greene, 67, a Pennsylvania music
executive whose company Collectables Records specialises in the
reissue of golden oldies.
Greene, whose father was a toy-train dealer, began collecting at
the age of 18 by putting a sign in the window of his record store
The pieces date from roughly 1850-1940 and, although half are by
Märklin, together they form an encyclopaedic collection of toys and
trains from every major European and American manufacturer. Greene
is understood to own every one of the 150 or so hand-decorated
tinplate stations Märklin ever made.
"Assembling this collection has been a 50-year journey for me,"
said Mr Greene. "I put it together piece by piece, and my quest for
the highest quality trains and toys took me to thousands of toy
fairs and shows.
"The collection has been my abiding passion… I collected
everything I could." He added that he hoped the collection will
"The fun is in the search. I want to sell it, so that I have a
clean basement. After this, I will collect something else."
American toy specialists have waxed lyrically over the quality,
condition and range on offer (it is the first time any portion of
the collection has been on public display).
"Of all the collections I have seen in over 40 years in business,
the Jerni Collection is by far the largest and most extensive, with
hundreds of rare examples I've never seen before," noted Joe
Freeman, renowned toy expert and restorer.
Sotheby's are tight-lipped on the price tag for this remarkable
archive, but it hasn't stopped a number of educated guesses.
Pennsylvania toy auctioneer Noel Barrett said: "I think $40m to
$50m is a very comfortable number. It's beyond anything I've ever