Toy story: Antiques seen fetching millions

Thu Sep 24, 2009 3:03pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More than a thousand antique automotive toys will go on the block this week as Donald Kaufman, whose family founded KB Toys, auctions off his private collection.

Kaufman, who began collecting toys in 1950, is among the world's top antique toy collectors, with roughly 7,500 pieces focusing mainly on tin and cast-iron vehicles such as cars, planes, boats and trucks.

The entire collection is being auctioned in a series of sales taking place over the next few years, giving collectors and enthusiasts a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, according to Jeanne Bertoia, owner of Bertoia Auctions in Vineland, New Jersey, which is handling the auctions.

"He was one of the strongest buyers at all the antique toy auction houses and he just really bought the best," Bertoia said. "When his paddle went up, people in the audience would say 'oh darn, Don's in the house'."

The first auction of Kaufman's toys, held in March, raised $4.2 million. The second auction will take place on Friday and Saturday and is expected to bring in roughly $2 million to $2.5 million, Bertoia said.

One highlight is a rare boxed example of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on a motorcycle dating from the early 1930s, which Bertoia estimated at $40,000 to $60,000. She noted, however, that because this is an absolute auction, every lot must sell, even if the offer is lower than estimated.

"In any big auction there's always opportunities for bargains," Bertoia said. She guessed that overall prices for antique toys are now about 15 percent softer than they were before the recession.

This week's auction will include an array of early 20th-century luxury toy cars, many of which are still in their original boxes.   Continued...

<p>A rare boxed example of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on a motorcycle dating from the early 1930s is shown in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Bertoia Auctions</p>