Old Town Auctions Nov. 16-18 no-Internet sale features quality toys, advertising, coin ops

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Old Town Auctions has taken a contrarian approach with its auctions by rebuffing the idea of Internet Live bidding. Now its official, says Old Town co-owner Matt Protos: “Our sales will not feature live Internet bidding through eBay or any other provider. The overwhelming response we’ve received from buyers is that they don’t want it, and we’re giving them what they want.”

Approximately 1,600 lots are expected to be offered in the company’s Nov. 16-18 auction, with toys, antique advertising and coin ops on days one and two, and a mixed selection on day three that includes Americana, Civil War, architectural, animation art, dolls and estate items. Old Town will welcome off-site bids lodged through traditional channels: absentee or “left” bids, live phone bids as the sale is taking place, or bids faxed/emailed prior to the auction. Protos elaborated on the decision he and business partner Keith Spurgeon made to bypass the Internet. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we like an auction to be run? The answer was, we like the excitement – and the transparency – of a live auction. We offered an old-school-style, no-Internet auction to the bidders who came to our previous sales, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.” Old Town’s May 11-12 no-Internet auction exceeded expectations by a wide margin, grossing more than $500,000.

One thing that will be changing, however, is the venue where Old Town holds its auctions – the Next Dimensions Events Center. Located at 132 Old National Pike in Hagerstown, it is conveniently located about one hour from both Baltimore and Washington D.C., at the intersections of I-70 and I-81. Protos said he expects the new venue to be well received by auction-goers, since it is part of an upscale, climate-controlled dining and catering facility. “Bidders will be comfortable and well accommodated,” he said, “with a nice selection of food available on site. And those who attend can bring their laptops along – the building has a high-speed wireless connection.”

This time around, Old Town’s auction inventory will not focus on any one particular collection. “While it will be last call for clowns from the same collection we featured in the May sale, there will be quality items from many collections,” Protos said. Over 50 clowns and circus-related toys will be offered, with some true rarities to entice specialty collectors.

Around 20 Lehmann wind-ups will lead the tinplate section, which also includes a boxed example of Martin’s Waltzers, both versions of Powerful Katrinka, a Marx Spic ‘n’ Span, a boxed Kid Samson by B&R, and an extensive assortment of Japanese tin cars and airplanes. A sizable selection of German, Japanese and Marx tin wind-ups will be up for bid, as will German limos by Carette and Gunthermann.

Armchair truckers will get their fill in this sale, as it features 250 to 300 pressed-steel and tin trucks. Most of the toys are from the 1930s through 1950s and were made by such manufacturers as Marx, Wyandotte, Lincoln, Buddy ‘L’ and Keystone. Most are in excellent condition. Worthy of special note within this group are the 75-80 tow trucks and a Keystone Ride-on Bus (in restored condition). Other wheeled items of interest are pedal cars, including an excellent, all-original 1938 Ford and an all-original Gendron Pioneer racer; a circa-1875 child’s “boneshaker” tricycle in beautiful original condition with original saddle, and a rare early Steelcraft American tricycle with sidecar that came from a Maryland collection.

There are two life-size animated fun house figures from the 1930s in the sale. One is a hula girl, and the other is known as Laffing Sal. With inner workings by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. of Germantown (Philadelphia), Pa., and a papier-mache figure made by Old King Cole, this classic carnival novelty emits a raucous laugh. An example of Laffing Sal sold for $50,000 in an auction a few years ago. Another coveted addition to the Old Town sale is a 1934 Ford panel truck that once made deliveries for a Harley-Davidson dealership. Its H-D identification is still on the truck.

Old Town has distinguished itself with past sales of extremely rare comic character toys – a field in which both Protos and Spurgeon are well versed. Highlights in the November auction include a near-mint/boxed prewar Japanese Mickey Mouse Cyclist with running Pluto, tin and celluloid, distributed by Borgfeldt; a boxed Popeye Express, a near-mint/boxed prewar Japanese Donald Duck whirligig, and a crisp Chein Popeye Heavy Hitter along with an equally nice Popeye Funny Firefighter. Also in the character-toy section are a boxed Smoking Popeye – one of 20 battery ops in the sale – other Popeye toys and Disney-themed Emerson radios. One of the radios is a Syroco Snow White model, while the other is a black Art Deco style with a Mickey Mouse motif. A desirable crossover piece with equal appeal to collectors of comic character, Disney, advertising and petroliana is the circa-1940 tin litho Mickey Mouse Standard Gas Co. sign.

Many other collecting categories will take their turns in the spotlight: Western toys (watch for the boxed Hoppy pogo stick), boxed and loose Britains figures, pull toys (Fisher-Price, Gong Bell, etc.), a model 21/24 reduced-size Schoenhut Circus set, and several space toys, including a boxed Flashy Jim robot.

A grouping of 20 dolls dating from the turn of the 20th century through the 1950s includes some examples with bisque heads and others that are made entirely of composition. Dolls with an American-Indian theme include store-display-size Skookums of both a squaw and brave, and a dozen Indian kachina figures.

Advertising collectors can expect to see Old Town’s usual assortment of excellent-quality Coca-Cola items, a few early syrup dispensers, a rare wind-up version of Marx’s black banjo player store display, and the pièce dé résistance – a circa-1910 tin, cast-iron, oak and glass Hot Peanuts wagon. “It came from a California collection and is really beautiful. It has never been fired up,” said Keith Spurgeon. “It has the original, labeled can for the gas that would be used to heat the peanuts. It’s quite ornate and was made by O.Y. Bartholomew of Vineland, N.J.” Spurgeon explained that the wagon was one of two identical examples originally purchased by a woman in Texas. “She bought two at the same time so she’d have a spare in case the other one wore out. The one in our sale is the one that was never used, since the other one never wore out.”

Two of the most exciting entries in the sale are the Baranger point-of-purchase motion displays known as Wooden Soldiers and Honeymoon Rocket. Each is in superb condition and retains its original shipping crate. The Wooden Soldiers example has an action that simulates soldiers marching forward and sideways, with turning legs. The Honeymoon Rocket is a crossover model that is much in demand with space toy collectors. When activated, the moon spins, the rocket tilts at different angles, and the bride and groom turn their heads and gaze at each other.

While toys and advertising will dominate the Friday and Saturday sessions, Sunday will be the day for discovery, with a mixture of Americana, Civil War items (including guns a bass drum, letters and documents), architectural elements (including a carved figural fireplace mantel), circa-1910 carousel panels, folk art, firefighting memorabilia, dolls, toy soldiers, a small selection of furniture, vintage televisions and radios, and other estate items.

Full-color catalogs for this fun-filled auction will be available in mid-October for $22 postpaid in the United States, $28 overseas. Phone bidders who wish to book a line are asked to make those arrangements at least five days prior to the sale. Those who wish to fax in absentee bids or request a phone line may obtain the necessary forms online at www.oldtownauctions.com.

Auction sessions will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16; at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17; and at 12 noon on Sunday, Nov. 18. The preview starts at 2 p.m. on Friday, 8 a.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. on Sunday. There are no fewer than 10 hotels/motels in Hagerstown to accommodate those attending the auction.

For additional information or enquiries about sale lots, call Keith Spurgeon at 781-771-3998 or e-mail [email protected] Hundreds of illustrated key lots (which are updated regularly, so keep checking back) as well as consignment information and prices realized from previous sales, may be viewed online at www.oldtownauctions.com.