It's an extraordinary collection which has been built up over half a century, and rarely seen by anyone other than the owner and his family.

Donald Kaufman still loves his toys aged 78, but with no one interested in maintaining the collection after he's gone, he's decided to break it up himself.

So vast is the collection that it cannot sensibly be done in one auction, and will be sold in four or five auctions over two years.

The first 1,450 items were sold in March, in a sale which grossed $4.2m, and this week's two day auction in Cumberland County, New Jersey is expected to raise $2m.

Collectors appearing last time included Italians, Germans and Frenchmen, with bidders from Singapore and Japan on the phone with over 400 interested parties in total.

"There was no recession going on in [that] room," said Jeanne Bertoia, owner of the auction house.

This particular sale includes 1,000 pieces: puzzles, toy cars, space toys, airplanes and games, amongst others.

Kaufman isn't holding back any of his best or favourite items - every toy gun, board game and motorcycle (even the rare one with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the back from the 1930s) must go.

None of the pieces have reserves on them either.

Kaufman himself will be in attendance at each auction to see who each of the toys goes to.

Of course he knows many of the biggest collectors - one of the ways he built up his collection was by personal contacts.

Kaufman turned the family goods business into an empire of Toy Stores. Sadly, KB toys went to the wall during the recession, but its problems started a while after Kaufman had sold his shares for $62m.

This may be the first time some of them have seen him at an auction without mixed feelings though.

Over the decades all the serious collectors have picked up a rueful story about being outbid by Kaufman for a one of a kind piece they really wanted. He would sometimes turn up with a trailer for new purchases.

Perhaps the most remarkable piece is an 18 inch hand-painted fire engine made in 1912. It was made in Germany and now one of only five in the world. It's powered by steam and is estimated to sell for $50,000.

"Donald never bought a toy with the idea that it was going to make money," said his wife Sally Kaufman, who has helped him collect over the decades. "You never saw anybody who loved it more." 

Antique toys are very collectible. We've previously reported on the market for classic board games and Dinky toys.


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