Early Amer. toys, trains & firefighting vehicles raced past estimates at Noel Barrett's May 21 sale Trains made a strong showing at Noel Barrett’s May 21 ‘Something for Everyone’ auction, with a Lionel 408E standard gauge set topping out at $35,395.82.
News-Antique.com - Jun 30,2011 - NEW HOPE, Pa. – Prior to Noel Barrett’s richly varied May 21, 2011 “Something for Everyone” sale, some collectors speculated that the whimsical clockwork veggie man on the catalog cover might take the blue ribbon on auction day. While the cheeky, 16-inch papier-mache Halloween figure did surpass expectations to sell for $16,520 (all prices inclusive of 18% buyer’s premium); it was a modestly estimated Lionel train set that took the express journey to the top of prices realized.
The Lionel 408E standard gauge set with electric engine and twin Bild-A-Loco motors pulled four compartmented coaches identified as 412 California, 413 Colorado, 414 Illinois and 416 New York, the latter being an observation car. All of the cars – which were finished in tan and chocolate brown with cream window frames and peacock-blue accents – came with their original boxes. The set drew numerous competitors, with an Internet participant claiming the lot for $35,395.82. The bidder eventually drove six hours to Pennsylvania to collect his prize.
“It was an exquisitely rare train set in that particular color scheme. The selling price was a very nice surprise for the consignor and proved yet again that, in today’s marketplace for antique and vintage trains, it’s the collectors who call the shots,” said auction company owner Noel Barrett.
Trains proved to be the sale’s strongest suit. An American-profile Carette gauge 1 #2350 steam loco and tender featured in Paul Schiphorst’s book The Golden Years of Toy Trains had been entered in the sale with a $12,000-$15,000 range. But with energy to burn, it powered its way to a $29,500 finish.
Superbly hand painted and designed for illumination by candlelight, a Marklin Central-Bahnhof train station #2651 was outfitted with a table, chairs and benches. Its sumptuous details included etched and stained glass windows, doorway arches, a canopy and ticket-queue rail. Perhaps the best preserved of all known examples, the perennially popular German train station achieved $23,600 against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Toys with a firefighting theme “never suffer a shortage of interest,” Barrett remarked. A case in point was the salesman’s sample fire ladder wagon made by Seagrave Co., the oldest continuous manufacturer of fire apparatus in America – and still in existence. The 50-inch-long sample fire wagon from the 1890s included an array of ladders, fire axes, extinguishers, lanterns and fire buckets. It settled just short of its high estimate at $10,030.
A mechanical marvel replicating a spirit-powered fire pumper was described in Barrett’s catalog as “one of the most amazing…we have seen.” Fully functional, it included double-pump pistons, valves and a flywheel crafted from brass and iron, with nickel-plated wheel rims and other components. Estimated at $6,000-$7,000, it blazed to $8,260.
Early automotive advertising showed its muscle in the form of a self-framed Marathon Tires sign depicting two anxious couples in a red open tourer, navigating a narrow, craggy ledge. Retaining an original paper label on verso from the famed tin sign maker Kaufmann & Strauss, the 22¾ inches by 19¾-inch advertisement applied