Giant trove of toys to be sold by Sotheby's

Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:02am EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A collection of more than 35,000 toys, including rare and valuable miniature trains, is to be sold by Sotheby's in a single lot and could fetch tens of millions of dollars. The auctioneer has given up an entire floor of its New York headquarters to showcase items from the Jerni Collection throughout January and February, although there is only space for one fifth of the items.

The collection will be sold as a single lot and in private, and is expected to fetch well in excess of $10 million. Some industry estimates value the toys at up to $50 million.

"Of all the collections I have seen in over 40 years in business, The Jerni Collection is by far the largest and most extensive with hundreds of rare examples I've never seen before," said Joe Freeman, a renowned toy expert and restorer. Sotheby's described the items, mostly dating from 1850-1940, as the most important collection of top-quality European and U.S. toys and trains ever assembled. It was gathered over 50 years by owner Jerry Greene, who visited thousands of toy fairs and shows in the process.

"The collection has been my abiding passion but it is now time for everyone to enjoy and appreciate these wonderful objects," he said in a statement.

"I hope they bring as much joy to others as they have brought to me."

The toys and trains come from every major European and U.S. manufacturer active during this period, including Maerklin, Bing, Ernst Plank Carette and Rock & Graner, and chronicle the "golden age" of European toy manufacturing.

The collection includes depictions of actual rail stations, bridges and buildings, many of which were destroyed in the World War One and Two.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)