The red goose that lays the golden eggs - antique mascot helps collection sell for $2m
Donal Markey's collection extended from classic cast iron toys into antique advertising and folk art
As we've previously noted, Donal Markey's collection of antique toys, banks and Americana was a great success with an 1890s Ives cast-iron cutter sleigh with articulated walking horse skimming to $86,250.
Antique advertising also garnered very pleasing above-estimate prices. Made around 1920, a figural cast-iron string holder depicting the long-necked goose mascot for Red Goose Shoes was an eye catcher with its bright crimson-painted body, yellow bill and feet, and green base.
Entered with a $2,500-$3,000 estimate, it brought home the bacon at $17,250. Another advertising lot that kept the bidding paddles airborne was a circa-1870 milliner's sign with the designer's name and a different fancy hat painted on each of its sides. Estimated at $3,500-$4,000, it sold to a LiveAuctioneers bidder for $11,448.
Not far behind in the prices realized, a painted optometrist's sign offering "Spectacles and Eyeglasses" and emblazoned with the image of a pair of eyes peering through framed lenses made $10,925.
Bertoia's gained a new category of bidders thanks to the many fine examples of 19th- and early 20th-century folk art in the Markey collection. An extraordinary hand-carved, self-framed picture incorporating a hand with the calling card "Made by J.P. Brown Invalid," proved hard to resist, with its naïve animals, flowers, fruit and butterflies.
The 13½-inch by 17½-inch creation was bid to $21,850 against an estimate of $3,000-$4,000. A colourful circa-1910 child's tramp art chest with opening drawers, porcelain knobs and painstakingly carved embellishments also ignored expectations by selling for $10,925 - more than triple its high estimate.
Other auction highlights included an 1890s J. & E. Stevens Swan Chariot with original wood box, $21,850; a "three sailors" painted-wood folk art whirligig, $9,775; and a circa-1920s painted-wood Monopoly game board, $23,000 against an estimate of $3,500-$4,500.
A cast-iron woman seated at a sewing table, with rear lever to activate head and hand motions, was described in Bertoia's catalogue as having "unbelievable casting" and being one of "very few known." Estimated at $8,000-$10,000, it had no trouble stitching up a top bid of $23,000.
The overall high estimate for the sale had been set at $1.2m, and according to Bertoia, Donal Markey's family members were "overwhelmed and in shock" over the final total of $2,067,688.50. "One of Don's daughters, Michelle Markey Porter, had flown in from Minneapolis with her husband and four children. They sat on the front row," Bertoia said.
"They had based their auction expectations on insurance values and never dreamed the collection would make even a million dollars, to say nothing of two million."
Donal Markey, who passed away on March 22, 2010, was a close, longtime friend to Jeanne Bertoia and her late husband, Bill. To honour Markey's memory, the auction was organized as a festive social event, including a beautiful catered lunch on Friday afternoon, a wine and cheese party on Friday evening and lunch during the Saturday session.
"It's a small way of thanking people for taking the time to come to our sales," said Bertoia.
"Our gallery was full for the entire two days. People had travelled from all over the country to attend. There was such a fun and friendly vibe the entire time, it felt like being at a busy antique toy or bank convention.
"Everyone had a 'Donal story,' and so many of them were funny stories. The only person missing from the event was Donal himself, and I know he was smiling down upon us."
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