Collectors worldwide cleared their calendars for Bertoia’s $2.5M sale of John and Adrianne Haley’s antique toy and bank collection

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Marklin clockwork ‘Battleship France’ sailed to top of prices realized at $78,000; while a stunning Shepard Hardware ‘Uncle Sam’ mechanical bank more than doubled its high estimate at $72,000

Marklin (Germany) clockwork ‘Battleship France,’ circa 1902-1907, with numerous cannons, lifeboats and masts. Retains original wood box/crate in which it was found together with (included) museum-quality lead sailor figures in like-new condition. Book example featured on Page 200 in David Pressland’s ‘Great Book of Tin Toys.’ Near-mint condition. Sold at upper end of estimate for $78,000
Marklin (Germany) clockwork ‘Battleship France,’ circa 1902-1907, with numerous cannons, lifeboats and masts. Retains original wood box/crate in which it was found together with (included) museum-quality lead sailor figures in like-new condition. Book example featured on Page 200 in David Pressland’s ‘Great Book of Tin Toys.’ Near-mint condition. Sold at upper end of estimate for $78,000

VINELAND, N.J. – For 50+ years, starting in the 1970s, John and Adrienne Haley were the go-to source for Americans seeking high-quality European antique toys. The well-connected Yorkshire couple tracked down and shipped literally thousands of German, French and British antique toys and banks to grateful buyers across the Atlantic, where such pieces rarely turned up. Those acquisitions became prized holdings in what are now regarded as legendary collections. On May 18, Bertoia’s turned the tables and auctioned the toys and banks of most interest to the Haleys’ customers: John and Adrianne’s own private collection. The 340-lot sale – which literally needed no curation – confirmed what the hobby had always suspected – that John and Adrianne adhered to the same lofty standards when purchasing their own toys as the ones they resold to their most-particular customers. The auction totaled $2.5 million dollars, with many lots defying their pre-sale high estimates.

A fleet of majestic German-made ships found the auction waters warm and welcoming. One of them, a circa 1902-1907 Marklin clockwork Battleship France, sailed to the top of prices realized. An imposing 25-inch-long craft with an exaggerated superstructure, numerous cannons, lifeboats and masts even retained its original Marklin wood box. The spectacular toy had been stored together with a supply of museum-quality lead sailor figures which conveyed as part of the auction lot. The imposing, near-mint vessel, which is featured on Page 200 of David Pressland’s classic Great Book of Tin Toys, reached the upper end of its estimate range, dropping anchor at $78,000. 

It was also a fair-weather day for a circa-1890s Ernst Plank steam-and-sail ship. All original, with a hand-painted hull and matching lifeboats, the toy could be powered by a live steam engine with a single oscillating cylinder or employed as a sailboat. As was typical of Plank’s early ships, it came with a wooden carrying case designed to protect the toy’s fragile sails and rigging. Like the Battleship France, the Plank steam-and-sail ship is featured in Pressland’s Great Book of Tin Toys, on Page 59. It sold for $48,000 against an estimate of $9,000-$12,000.

Three of the top highlights in the automotive category were Pressland book examples, as well. A Gunthermann (Germany) 10-inch lithographed-tin windup open phaeton had survived for well over a century with its four original hand-painted passengers intact. An extremely rare and sought-after larger-scale toy, it cruised to $32,400 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000.

The second of the three, an early Bing (Germany) 8-inch hand-painted tin clockwork lorry, displayed a rich red, yellow and gold color palette. Everything on the toy was original, including the striped cloth curtains and composition driver. It appeared to be in unplayed-with, near-mint condition. Dozens of bidders pursued the lot, with the winner paying $21,600 against an estimate of $6,000-$8,000.

Likewise, several dozen bidders chased the third vehicle featured in Pressland’s book: a super-colorful Bing deluxe double-decker windup omnibus. Every one of its artful angles was emblazoned with eye-catching lithographed advertisements for “Heinz Spaghetti With Tomato Sauce,” “Dunlop Tyres,” “Bird’s Custard Powder” or “The Daily Sketch,” a British tabloid newspaper founded in 1909. Measuring 12 inches long, the bus sported lead wheels with rubber tires and even retained its original passenger figures for a breezy ride in the upper deck. Against an estimate of $6,000-$8,000, it ended its run at $15,600.

The Haleys’ bank collection consisted primarily of rare cast-iron mechanicals. Over their many years of collecting, John and Adrianne would upgrade whenever the opportunity arose to do so, resulting in a first-class assemblage that wowed bidders on auction day. A stunningly beautiful Shepard Hardware 12-inch-tall Uncle Sam mechanical bank was described in Bertoia’s catalog as the “finest known example” of its type. In near-mint condition, it is the very one shown on Page 252 of Dan Morphy’s Official Guide to Mechanical Banks. Against an estimate of $20,000-$30,000, it sold for an astounding $72,000. 

Another big-ticket bank was the whimsical Germania Exchange made by J&E Stevens. Depicting a smiling goat holding a beer mug, perched atop a black-striped keg, this delightful production was noted in the catalog as being “one of the nicest examples [Bertoia’s has] ever seen,” with “great color and thick paint.” Prior to being acquired by the Haleys, the Germania Exchange resided in another esteemed collection, that of Wally Tudor, a trailblazer of the bank-collecting hobby. Entered with a $40,000-$60,000 estimate, it surpassed expectations to settle at $66,000.

Also seen in the pages of Morphy’s Official Guide to Mechanical Banks, a J&E Stevens “Novelty Bank” dazzled with sharp primary colors on all four sides of its mansard-style construction. While not as large as other featured banks, standing 7½ inches tall, this architectural gem in near-mint condition was in demand and garnered a substantial $13,200 against an estimate of $6,000-$9,000.

As they added to their collection, the Haleys chose not to confine themselves to any one type of toy or bank, but rather would focus on rarity, condition and eye appeal. A hand-painted Marklin gauge 3 GNR passenger car fit the bill nicely on all three counts. Measuring an enormous 17½ inches long, it could be compared in size to any other German toymaker’s gauge 4 train cars. Marked “G.N.R.” (Great Northern Railway) and “Corridor Car” on its sides, the coach’s interior, revealing seats and lavatory fixtures, could be viewed by lifting the roof. In excellent condition, it rumbled past its $8,000-$12,000 estimate to claim a winning bid of $31,200.

Another example of John and Adrianne’s appreciation of multiple toy categories was the group of nine large Erzgebirge (Germany) carved and painted-wood marching soldiers. Each of the 6½ inch-tall figures reflected a specific duty, including flagstaff bearer, bugler, leader, or soldier with pack and rifle. Entered with expectations of reaching $2,000-$3,000, the unit advanced to a well-deserved $7,200.

After the sale, Bertoia Auctions’ president and principal auctioneer, Michael Bertoia, remarked: “From the moment we packed up the Haleys’ collection, I knew there were pieces that would probably set new world records. It’s rare for a collection to come along that has such a concentration of high-quality pieces, and that can only come from decades of effort. The Haleys put in the time to create a magnificent collection, and the buyers stepped up for the opportunity to take home a toy or bank they knew they might never have the chance to bid on again.” 

Bertoia Auctions is currently accepting high-quality toys, banks, holiday antiques and collectibles for their future sales. Michael Bertoia, welcomes the opportunity to discuss the consignment process with collectors, whether they have a single piece or an entire collection. All enquiries are kept strictly confidential and there is never any obligation to consign. Tel. 856-692-1881 or email [email protected]. Keep up with Bertoia’s online at

All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of buyer’s premium as stated on Bertoia’s website To view the catalog and prices realized for Bertoia’s May 18, 2024 auction, visit

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