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Something of a Holy Grail among American collectors of Schoenhut toys, the boxed set of Teddy Roosevelt's Adventures in Africa that curiously turned up for sale in North Yorkshire on May 25. It sold for £14,000.

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Seventeen lions, 11 elephants, 20 rhinoceros, a Nobel Peace Prize and the funeral of King Edward VII later, he returned to the United States and re-entered politics in 1910.

Teddy's safari, with its entourage of 250 porters and guides, was big news in America - and the perfect fodder for journalists, cartoonists and toy manufacturers.

Albert Schoenhut, the Philadelphia toy maker and a name synonymous with articulated and painted wood circus figures, introduced Teddy Roosevelt's Adventures in Africa in 1909 and continued its production until 1911 or 1912.

The full series included Teddy Roosevelt himself complete with pince-nez, moustache and pith helmet; a clean-shaven figure carrying a camera believed to be Roosevelt's son Kermit (between the two of them they bagged 512 beasts); and other 8in (20cm) high figures thought to represent a naturalist, a guide, a doctor and a taxidermist.

Complementing these were stereotypical African natives, a menagerie of animals (of which the rhino, zebu, hyena, gazelle, deer, and gorilla were introduced for the first time with this line) and a box with a number of printed muslin backdrops that doubled as an African landscape setting.

Of all Schoenhut circus figures, the Teddy Roosevelt safari figures are perhaps the most difficult to find.

The series, made only for the home market, was short-run and in the United States, where toy prices are in an altogether different league, just the figure of Roosevelt on his own can command between $2000-6000 depending upon condition.

All this made it all the more surprising to see an apparently near complete set in its original box turn up for sale at Tennants of Leyburn, North Yorkshire on May 25.

Consigned from a local source, it included three of the hunters (Roosevelt, his son and the naturalist), two natives, seven animals and a series of accessories including a ladder, a table, three rifles, cooking vessels and a series of the printed backdrops.

Tennants' toy specialist Nick Lambert had hoped to see bidding pass £1000, but instead fielded bids from two American dealers on the phone and a British toy dealer in the room who finally parted with the winning £14,000 (plus 15 per cent buyer's premium).

The price was a house record for a toy at Tennants but, even given the weakness of the dollar, the investment will doubtless prove satisfactory.

The last boxed set of Teddy Roosevelt's Adventures in Africa to appear at auction brought $44,000 when the collection of the Washington Doll House and Toy Museum was sold by Pennsylvania specialist Noel Barrett in June 2004.

It now resides in the Toy and Miniature Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.

By Roland Arkell