Curtis & Linda Smith’s exquisite antique toys exceeded loftiest expectations at Bertoia’s, closing at $1.27M

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Many of the California couple’s rare and beautifully-preserved toys boasted provenance from legendary collectors of the hobby’s earliest days; some were important book examples

Carpenter (American) cast-iron Tally Ho horse-drawn coach. All original, including the removable figures. Size: 26in long. Finest example known. Provenance: Curtis and Linda Smith collection, Bob and Jackie Stewart collection, Bernard Barenholtz collection. Finished as top lot of the sale at $120,000 against an estimate of $50,000-$75,000
Carpenter (American) cast-iron Tally Ho horse-drawn coach. All original, including the removable figures. Size: 26in long. Finest example known. Provenance: Curtis and Linda Smith collection, Bob and Jackie Stewart collection, Bernard Barenholtz collection. Finished as top lot of the sale at $120,000 against an estimate of $50,000-$75,000

VINELAND, N.J. – Part I of a remarkable collection of antique toys and banks amassed over half a century by the late Curtis Smith and his wife, Linda Smith, passed into the hands of a new generation of stewards on March 16, 2024 at Bertoia’s. Highly refined and exhibiting a level of condition and originality that was nothing short of breathtaking, the select assemblage was offered at a 195-lot boutique auction that totaled $1,270,000 inclusive of buyer’s premium.  

As had been predicted by Bertoia Auctions’ president, Michael Bertoia, the top lot of the single-owner Signature Sale was a large and impressive Carpenter (American) cast-iron Tally Ho horse-drawn coach. All original, including its removable, often-missing figures, the dashing 26-inch-long vehicle was described by Bertoia as “the finest of all known examples.” Prior to joining the Smith collection, it held pride of place in the Bob and Jackie Stewart collection, and the Bernard Barenholtz collection. It sold at Bertoia’s for $120,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $50,000-$75,000.

Unapologetically patriotic, a circa-1880 Uncle Sam clockwork velocipede had been researched by Bertoia’s and was determined to be one of only two surviving examples. The Uncle Sam figure that is central to the toy was dressed in its original cloth jacket and “American Flag” striped pants. Considered an American classic by those in toy-collecting circles, it is pictured in two esteemed reference books: American Clockwork Toys by Blair Whitton and American Tin Toys by Bernard Barenholtz. It was owned, consecutively, by each of the authors before passing to the Smith collection. Its bidding run at Bertoia’s ended at $90,000 against an estimate of $40,000-$60,000.

At the auction preview, one of the most popular and closely-studied toys was an Althof Bergmann (American) clockwork Circus Roundabout with a delightful array of animal and human performers. Measuring 17 inches in diameter and in pristine condition, it had been discovered in Pennsylvania at some point during the last couple of decades. It is believed to be the only known example of its type and is unquestionably one of the finest early American clockwork toys ever to reach the marketplace. It was chased to $84,000 against an estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

Another premier Althof Bergmann production that drew potential bidders’ attention at the preview was a Sheep Herder platform toy with figures of a herder, four sheep, a dog and a goat. Scrupulously hand-painted and measuring a full 14 inches long, it was described in Bertoia’s catalog as being of “museum grade,” with a notation that “it has survived the last one and a half centuries with nothing more than a minor repair to the ankle of the shepherd.” It rounded up $36,000 against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000.

Curtis Smith had a special fondness for firefighting toys because of their intricate detailing. A prized piece in the Smith collection was a 14-inch-long German horse-drawn fire pumper of hand-painted tin with two painted-wood horses, and a composition fireman figure at the reins. It obviously had been well cared for by its successive owners, as it retained both its original rubber fire hose and hand lever for pumping water. In excellent condition from one end to the other, it raced past its $15,000-$25,000 estimate to settle at $33,600.

The auction opened with a circa-1890s George Brown clockwork hoop toy with a suffragette theme. It consisted of a cloth-dressed William Goodwin girl figure with a hand-painted composition head, pushing a wheeled vehicle with a suffragette balance-figure carrying an American Flag at its center. The toy is the actual example pictured in the aforementioned reference American Clockwork Toys, and its line of ownership prior to joining the Smith collection includes both the Max Berry and Blair Whitton collections. It doubled its high estimate to finish at $30,000.

The parade of early American playthings continued with a Hull & Stafford painted-tin clockwork train engine identified by the name Magic. It displayed the immediately identifiable details denoting a Hull & Stafford production, i.e., star-embossed tinplate rear wheels and front wheels with an appealing heart design. The jaunty, highly colorful train engine ended its auction journey at $12,000 against an estimate of $2,500-$4,500.

A Merriam tin double horse-drawn Express wagon – with beautiful stenciling to the sides of its red cart, a bright yellow interior, and red accents to the horses’ saddles – presented in near-mint condition. The impressive 18.5-inch-long transportation toy handily exceeded its $3,000-$5,000 estimate to land a winning bid of $11,400.

A set of eight Steiff (German) velvet cat skittles also charmed its way into the winner’s circle. Steiff collared each of the feline figures with a brass bell that would chime if the pin was struck by either of two included wooden balls. This desirable early set sold for $14,400 against an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. 

Linda Smith had a special interest in rare pre-1900 German squeak toys, which came in many forms and differed from later “squeakers” because their action was initiated by compressing a bellows in the toy’s base, not the toy itself. A favorite from Linda’s prized squeak-toy collection is known as “Large Dog with Puppies” and includes in its design hand-painted composition figures of an adult dog and two pups. When the toy’s bellows are compressed, the brown puppy’s mouth opens as though it is emitting a high-pitched bark. This deluxe toy in very fine condition collared a winning bid of $5,100, more than twice the high estimate. 

Part II of the Curtis and Linda Smith collection will be offered later this year at Bertoia’s. Watch for details about the sale on Bertoia’s website, To discuss consigning to a future auction at Bertoia’s, please call 856-692-1881 or email [email protected]. All enquiries are kept strictly confidential. 


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 March 16, 2024 auction exclusively featuring the Curtis and Linda Smith antique toy collection, visit

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