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Old Sturbridge Village has a remarkable collection of early American objects - the furniture, tools, clothing, toys, decorative arts and other artifacts of life in rural, inland New England during the period 1790 to 1840.

Old Sturbridge Village regularly hosts Collectors' Forums in order to focus on this collection, bringing together curators, experts, collectors and the public to examine a large sampling from the collection and learn about new scholarship and perspectives on the collection. This annual event is being held in conjunction with the opening of our new exhibit, Kindred Spirits: A.B. Wells, Malcolm Watkins and the Origins of Old Sturbridge Village.

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In describing what awaits bidders on March 27-28 when Bertoia Auctions presents Part II of the fabled Max N. Berry Collection, gallery associate and auction coordinator Rich Bertoia offered an analogy from the motion-picture world.

“When they do a sequel in Hollywood, it’s never as good as the original, but the follow-up to Part I of Max’s collection, which we auctioned last November, will be a blockbuster.”

The auction of just over 500 lots is devoted exclusively to selections from Berry’s extraordinary lifetime assemblage of rare mechanical banks, early American tin and horse-drawn toys, as well as his incomparable sub-collection of bell toys and premium-quality penny toys. Additionally, the lineup will be peppered with other toys that captured Max’s fancy over the years, like hand-painted German tin toys, a Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy and other comic character rarities. “If it appealed to Max, he bought it – but it had to be something really special for that to happen,” Bertoia said.

Almost 200 mechanical banks are entered in the March event, many of them with provenance from some of the all-time great bank collections. A number of pieces are of a caliber so high, they just don’t show up at auction more than once in a 20-year stretch, Bertoia said. “This will be one of those very unusual sales where even advanced collectors can find some of those near-apocryphal banks that have eluded them for so long,” he said.

A top highlight is a Stevens Darky Kicking Watermelon bank, one of only three known to either Bertoia’s or their experts who were called in to assess and catalog the collection (Oliver Clark, Russ Harrington and Mike Caffarella). A visually compelling design, the bank was formerly held in the Stan Sax collection and will be auctioned with a $200,000-$300,000 estimate.

Another high-profile bank is Berry’s Jerome Secor Freedman’s Bank, which has a rich trail of provenance, starting with its purchase in 1939 from dealers in Mexico. The buyer, who paid $8 for it, was a pioneer collector and prominent banker from Fostoria, Ohio, named Andrew Emerine. From Emerine, the African-American-themed bank passed to another legendary collector, Mosler Safe Company president and CEO Edwin H. Mosler Jr. After Mosler, the bank’s next owner was Stanley P. Sax, whose collection was auctioned by Bertoia’s in 1998. It was at that auction that Max Berry acquired the Darky Kicking Watermelon, and it instantly became one of his most treasured possessions. It is entered in the March 27-28 auction with a presale estimate of $150,000-$200,000. All existing receipts and other written provenance will convey with the bank.

Other top-notch cast-iron banks set to cross the auction block include a red-version Mikado, which is expected to sell for upward of $75,000; and an Organ Grinder and Bear, possibly the only extant example with a movable arm on the grinder, $10,000-$12,000. Another possibly unique survivor is a Zig-Zag bank of cast-iron, tin and cloth, with a crossover Santa theme.

“The Zig-Zag bank has a very clever action,” said Bertoia. “You put a penny on top of Santa’s head, the coin zig-zags down, and a jack-in-the-box springs up. There should be hands up in the air all over the auction room for this bank. It’s a favorite with collectors.” Zig-Zag is estimated at $125,000-$175,000.

Three extremely desirable lead banks are found in the Berry collection, including two that were designed by Charles A. Bailey: A Chinaman in Rowboat, estimate $80,000-$90,000; and a Cat and Mouse in beautiful condition. A third lead rarity, which was patented in 1905 but whose manufacturer is unknown, is the Blacksmith bank. It will be offered together with a 1940 photo of its designer, Ohioan Fred Plattner, then age 80, seated and holding the bank.

An array of wonderful tin banks includes an Empire Cinema, $15,000-$20,000; a colorful, hand-painted William Weeden Ding Dong Bell, $60,000-$75,000; and two more Saalheimer & Strauss Mickey Mouse banks that complete the coveted four-bank series that was introduced during last November’s sale.

Horse-drawn cast-iron toys have always been particular favorites of Max’s, especially the very early productions. His collection includes several variations of Spyder Phaetons, both by Hubley and Kenton, that typify luxury auto travel of the early 20th century. The selection also includes an elegant Pratt & Letchworth Barouche, $10,000-$12,000; a fleet of Hubley Circus wagons and bandwagons; a Kyser & Rex Cage Wagon with a bear, lion and other animal figures, $8,000-$10,000; and a very rare Kenton Uncle Sam nodder horse-drawn toy, $6,000-$8,000. A 28-inch-long Pratt & Letchworth Caisson drawn by four horses is the only example known to Bertoia’s. “It’s in jaw-dropping condition,” Rich Bertoia said. “We expect it to sell above $50,000.”

Many other exceptional cast-iron toys will be auctioned, including a circa-1870s Ives Washer Woman, three US Hardware sculls, and from Hubley: a Penn Yan motorboat, Static speedboat, and Surfer toy. Whimsical nodders, police patrols and fire-related vehicles will fill out the section impressively.

Max Berry’s fondness for American bell toys was always common knowledge amongst collectors, said Bertoia. “His is one of the most complete collections of its type, and it includes a number of toys with amusing themes – he was drawn to that type because the designs are so creative. They run the gamut from animals to people to comic characters, and are mostly of cast iron.”

The collection’s early American hand-painted tin “pull” bell toys create a virtual menagerie of animals – horses, dogs, sheep, goats, elephants and more. Also, there are many that depict ladies riding horses.

American hybrid toys of hand-painted tin with cast-iron wheels include J & E Stevens velocipedes, Althof Bergmann goat-drawn wagons, and an especially nice figure of a girl pushing a suffragette on wire wheels. The latter toy could reach the $15,000 range. Also, there will be many popular clockwork toys of the type pictured in classic antique toy reference books, e.g., Barenholtz.

Many years ago, Max Berry purchased a major collection of penny toys. He continued to build on to it, increasing not only its volume but also the breadth of subject matter depicted by the miniature tin artworks. Part II of Berry’s penny toy lineup includes two different styles of Bavarian Dancers, Girl in a Swing, Girl in a Gondola, Boy Catching Butterfly, a rare Rabbit Pushing a Basket, and a Roundabout amusement park ride.

In summarizing what lies in store on March 27-28 when Bertoia’s hosts the second exciting sale of Max Berry’s collection, auction company owner Jeanne Bertoia commented: “If you liked Part I, you’ll love Part II. And just as before, we’re making sure the auction is a fitting tribute to Max, who has done so much for the toy and bank-collecting hobby. Our gallery will be a hospitable setting where everyone can enjoy good food and conversation as they browse and preview one of the all-time great collections, which we are so honored to present at auction.”

The March 27-28, 2015 auction featuring Part II of the Max N. Berry collection of antique mechanical banks and toys will be held at Bertoia Auctions’ gallery, 2141 DeMarco Dr., Vineland, NJ 08360. A full house is expected.

All forms of bidding will be available, including absentee, phone or live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers. Please consult Bertoia’s website for preview dates/times and auction start times.

To contact Bertoia Auctions, call 856-692-1881 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Visit the company’s website at

About Max Berry:

A Washington resident, Max N. Berry has practiced international trade law since 1967. He represents industries and countries throughout Europe, as well as U.S. corporations and trade associations that export various products abroad. In addition, he has been active in national and local politics, and served on the Business and Finance Council for national parties.

Berry has also been significantly involved with nonprofit organizations in Washington and throughout the United States. A longtime patron of the arts, he has participated on the boards of many cultural organizations and recently served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian Institution. He is also on the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and serves/has served, as trustee to countless other fine art institutions.

Over the years, Max Berry has also been an actively involved member of both the Antique Toy Collectors of America and Mechanical Bank Collectors of America, for which he has served with distinction as pro bono legal adviser.

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Digging up forgotten treasure in grandma's dusty attic sounds like a tale too good to be true.

But for some, that dream has become a reality. The popular PBS television series "Antiques Roadshow" has earned some local antique owners a small fortune. From art to toys to clothes, people bring in all sorts of goodies to be professionally appraised by experts. Most leave in disappointment, but a lucky bunch have walked away with more than expected.

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 The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Washington, is celebrating the classic elegance of Scandinavian mid-century design with the exhibition “Danish Modern: Design for Living.” Organized by The Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa, “Danish Modern” features simple and sophisticated furnishings designed and crafted in Denmark in the 1950s and 1960s -- a particularly prosperous period for the style.

The exhibition includes household items such as toys, lamps, and serving pieces, as well as a swath of chairs. Celebrated for its form, function, and consideration for the human body, it’s no surprise that a plethora of iconic chairs originated during the heyday of Danish Modern design. The show at the Nordic Heritage Museum features Arne Jacobsen’s cocoon-like “Egg” chair, graceful “Swan” Chair, and stackable “Seven" chair as well as Helge Sibast’s spindly “No. 8” chair and Hans Wegner’s curvaceous “Round” chair, which was so popular during the middle of the 20th century that it became known simply as “the Chair.”

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