The Märklin ‘first series’ tinplate toy ’HMS Terrible’ which took £76,000 at Special Auction Services.

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This exceptional 2ft 1in (62cm) spirit-fired, steam-propelled model of the British battleship, which was involved in the relief of Ladysmith in 1899 and served in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, was made at the height of the Göppingen factory's creative genius c.1904. Save some minor replacements and the absence of the lifeboats, it was in exceptional condition.

It was pictured in David Pressland's 1976 book The Art of the Tin Toy and appeared in the 2010 Toy Boats  exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. The vendor, a pioneer of toy collecting in the UK who died last year aged 91, was also filmed firing her up for a run on Hampstead Ponds as part of a 1972 BBC programme titled Ron McCrindell's Toys.

Special Auction Services had estimated it at £40,000-60,000, but on the day it sold to a  Belgium telephone bidder at £76,000.

While tinplate boats have made more in the US  (a Märklin model of the cruise liner the Lusitania c.1909 sold for $160,000/£106,650 as part of the Forbes collection at Sotheby's in December 2011), SAS toy specialist Hugo Marsh believes it is the most expensive single tinplate toy to be sold in the UK.

May 12 sees perhaps the finest collection of German tinplate boats go under the gavel when Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, Pennsylvania, sell the Richard T. Claus collection of nautical toys.