Donal Markey's antique toy collection could 'sleigh' the opposition at Bertoia

The late Donal Markey was one of an elite circle of illuminati who bought and sold the rare antique toys 25 years ago that are now considered masterworks of their category.

Markey's own immaculate personal collection of antique toys, folk art, and mechanical and still banks is now headed to auction in a March 25-26 sale organized by Bertoia's, the firm his old friend the late Bill Bertoia co-founded. More than 1,000 lots will be presented in the two-day auction, with Internet live bidding.

The common thread in all of Markey's collections was colour, especially reds, various shades of green, and yellow. Multicoloured pieces were his favorite.

 "Every item Donal bought was for display. He lived with all of it in his home, and the cardinal rule was that it had to have colour and visual appeal, whether it was a clock, a whirligig or a framed mirror - and the condition had to be as close to perfection as possible," said gallery associate Rich Bertoia.

Ives Cutter sleigh toy
Ives Cutter sleigh toy

Donal Markey's name was always closely associated with mechanical banks, and we'll devote some time to looking at his bank collection soon. But for many there is a different highlight to the sale.

From the moment Markey discovered American antique toys, they became his passion, and he set his sights on acquiring only the finest horse-drawn cast-iron examples. His collection contains one of the very best: an Ives Cutter Sleigh listed at $30,000-40,000.

Ornately detailed and precisely cast, the 1880s toy measures 18 inches long and features embossed pink seating. Very few Ives Cutter Sleighs exist. "This one is the crème de la crème," Bertoia said. It should make an excellent investment.

Also to be auctioned is the ultimate example of a Pratt & Letchworth 4-seat brake, ex Hegarty collection, estimated at $25,000-$35,000. Bertoia will hold the auction in its native New Jersey.


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