WILLIAM S. ‘Bill’ Bertoia, antique toy authority and founder of Bertoia Auctions in New Jersey, has died at the age of 52, after battling with cancer.

Born in Buenos Aires, Bertoia emigrated with his family to New Jersey in the early 1960s when his father Hector – now a prominent art glass dealer – was working as a model designer at the Millville Glass Company. Bertoia junior developed an early appreciation for glass but it was a quick profit made on a tin toy which laid the foundations for his future profession.

One of the first dealers to sell regularly at antique toy shows during the 1980s, a seminal period for the toy-collecting hobby, Bertoia landed a break in 1986, when he was asked to catalogue the sale of the Atlanta Toy Museum. He subsequently worked on the sale of Philadelphia’s Perelman Museum collection and by the early 1990s had moved full-time into antique toy auctions, introducing marketing concepts that served as a model for toy auctioneers who followed. “He pioneered the style of selling that involved big sales of big, individual collections, with full-colour, hardbound catalogues,” said Andy Ourant, former head of Skinner’s toy department.