Two rather different toy sales went under the hammer early last month. October 4 saw Christie’s South Kensington (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) put some 465 lots predominantly devoted to dolls under the hammer while six days later Bonhams & Brooks (15/10% buyer’s premium) offered an even bigger, more general 630-lot mix of playthings ranging from Dinkys and lead figures to dolls, soft toys and tinplate.
Bonhams’ mammoth sale netted £95,000 with reasonably strong selling rates in the 70s by lot and value. As those statistics suggest, this event comprised largely mid-range material, (only around ten entries fell into the four-figure category).
Christie’s smaller doll fest had a greater proportion of grand material to offer as was reflected in their higher total of £241,640. Selling rates here were also in the 70s. A number of the day’s top prices (and the more expensive failures) derived from an 80-lot consigment from the massive Aute collection of dolls formed by several generations of a Spanish aristocratic family residing in Manila in the Phillipines. Leading the list, for example, were two Aute collection Bébé Bru bisque heads. One numbered Bébé Bru No 13, standing 2ft 4in (71cm) high with fixed blue eyes and wearing a brown mohair wig came in at an upper estimate £8000. The other, smaller at 2ft (61cm), with blonde wig, blue eyes and a gold silk frock and matching bonnet, realised £7500, a price that was double the estimate.
The sale also contained a small section devoted to dolls’ house chattels and decorative toys, although this did not produce any results of the calibre featured in the auctioneers’ May sale when a rare hand-carved and painted farm sold for no less than £18,000.
One unexpectedly popular entry in this part of the sale was a selection of gilt decorated black lacquer miniature furniture and accessories for the Japanese girls’ festival which fetched £2200 against predictions of £200-300.
At Bonhams’ sale, a couple of dolls’ houses made it to four figures. The Windermere Dolls’ House was as much a model as a toy, a half-timbered Elizabethan gabled edifice built by David Henry Beckett between 1919 and 1928 and kept on public display in the Lake District town. Constructed from oak and furnished by Mr Beckett with many well-detailed pieces, it was offered with his detailed diary of its construction and sold for £1700.
The highest prices in this event were for some 28 series Dinky delivery vans, all from a vendor who had collected them in the 1930s (along with some civilian lead figures offered beforehand). There appears to be no shortage of demand for these most desirable of die-casts, for it was less than two weeks since a large selection had gone under the hammer in CSK’s sale of the Remy Meeus collection from Belgium.
These examples weren’t quite as pristine as the Belgian collector’s, (most were condition guided Good) and prices were not quite as high. But like M. Remy’s vans, they all left their estimates behind as specialist collectors and dealers pursued them.
Top of the list at £2400 was a Meccano van finished in yellow followed closely at £2300 by another yellow van advertising Hornby Trains.