Toys Come to Life at Bonhams & Butterfields in February

. February 9, 2008

Strong interest in Bonhams & Butterfields’ monthly SoMa Estates auction on February 10-11 is expected as the international auction house brings to the block a famous toy collection — likely the largest toy collection in the San Francisco Bay Area. The two-day sale, which will take place on Sunday, February 10th and Monday, February 11th, will feature more than 1,000 examples from the Mitch Bell and Gerald Sabine collection, offered alongside automotive toys and models from the Bill Harrison Collection.

The Bell/Sabine toy collection was featured in several movies and local Bay Area television events, and was also displayed in the San Francisco International Airport for as long as a year. The exceptional grouping of items has garnered attention from collectors and members of the trade – the lots will certainly appeal to the inner child in everyone. Rather than playground haggling of children, salesroom bidders are expected to vie for the many rare and excellent condition toys.

The collection boasts toys from all over the globe, including Japanese windups, British clockwork vehicles, German Mercedes racecars and American-made dime store soldiers. A Schuco 1060 Fire Construction toy, manufactured in Germany between 1965-67, is being offered in its original box with instructions and battery pack (est. $1,500/2,000). A pressed steel Turner Lincoln sedan from the 1930s has been estimated at $1,750 to $2,250, while a collection of boxed foreign buses from various Japanese manufacturers in the 1950s includes buses marked Greyhound, Trailways and other companies. The lot is estimated to bring $500/750. A German articulated Ferris wheel from the early 20th century is estimated at $750 to $1,000.

From the estate of Bill Harrison come hundreds of scale model cars and trucks, including Wiking models from Germany, boxed Marklin toy cars, Matchbox Toys and die-cast metal Dinky Cars from England. A Norev Collection of 1:43rd scaled plastic vehicles from themed 20th century cars manufactured in France includes: Citroen, Simca, Lancia, Peugeots, and other important marques. This lot includes more than 15 vehicles, and is estimated at $250-350.

Toys offered within Bonhams & Butterfields’ SoMa auctions have enjoyed recent success within the collectibles arena, with an exceptional Bay Area collection of marbles headlining one of the Fall 2007 sales. A grouping of Christensen “Flames” marbles were knocked down at an impressive $6,300 after a round of heated bidding, and a colorful collection of “Oxbloods” brought $2,160. “These very grown-up prices underscore the considerable market for toys and collectibles at B&B auctions,” said department director Christine Larson.

The two-day sale will also include a wide variety of collectible and decorative objects aside from toys. To be featured are American and European paintings, furniture and decorative arts, books and manuscripts, and Native American and Asian works of art. Catalogs will be available online for review and purchase at

Category: Auction News

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