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Thus ran the promotional material for this Märkin set, offered by toy dealer extraordinaire Jeffrey Levitt in the 1980s when it reportedly sold to a Japanese collector for $1.5m, and shortly to be appearing at Barry Potter Auctions in the Midlands.

Levitt ran ‘Mint and Boxed’ a transatlantic antique toy business with millions of dollars of stock and a client list of Hollywood actors and top businessmen, but connoisseurs of Jeffrey’s eventual conviction for defrauding the British government and high street banks of almost £12m, and a subsequent four year jail sentence in the 1990s will
also know, perhaps, that the provenance of this ‘Tsar’s Train’ was an audacious hoax. Levitt had acquired the photograph from a library, superimposed the image of the train and domestically aged the ensemble.

According to Levitt, when the royal family left Paris they had “too much luggage”, so the 5ft 5in (1.65m) Märklin set was “left behind with the general manager of the Crillon Hotel in Paris.” So that’s why it never showed up in the Russian state archives. From then on the story became more believable, with the general manager dying in 1989, his granddaughter finding the train in his country chateau and contacting Mint and Boxed. After the company went into liquidation in May 1991 (winning a posthumous, Queen’s Award for Export) Sotheby’s were given the honour of disposing the stock on behalf of the creditors, where the set was bought by the present vendor.

Regardless of its false provenance, this was among the finest pre-war sets produced by Märklin and its notorious history is expected to augment its value at Barry Potter’s Rugby salerooms on October 12, where it is expected to fetch £10,000-15,000.