Malcolm Forbes's Toy Collection promises a million dollar playtime at Sotheby's

Malcolm Forbes is simply a legend in the world of collecting, with 19th century paintings, motorcycles, specially shaped hot-air balloons and Fabergé eggs just some of the items which he gather most keenly.

His most impressive collection, as we noted when profiling the publisher, was of autographs especially Presidential autographs. These included a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln, a letter by a young George Washington requesting to serve in the military.

However, it's Forbes's toy collection which is of primary interest this week, as it goes under the hammer at Sotheby's tomorrow - just in time for Christmas too.

The December 17 sale of the Malcolm Forbes Toy Collection presents the toy boats, soldiers, motorcycles and classic board games lovingly gathered over nearly four decades by legendary collector Malcolm Forbes and his sons.

Antique Monopoly
Antique Monopoly set

Each area of the collection is amongst the finest of its kind, boasting rare and important examples by the leading toy makers in the field - from a Märklin recreation of the Cunard Line's "Lusitania" ocean liner, circa 1912, to a rare group of Medieval Mounted Knights crafted by Richard Courtenay, to the earliest surviving handmade Monopoly game-set, circa 1933.

The auction also includes 19th century and American paintings depicting the joys of childhood.

The major portion of the sale will consist of a captivating array of sports, naval, commercial and luxury toy boats - arguably one of the finest collections of its type in the world. It reflects the best examples from the 1870s through the 1950s, which is known as the Golden Age of Toys, and includes examples from every major toy boat maker, many originating from the Nuremburg area in Germany, among them Märklin, Bing, Fleischmann and Carette.

The largest toy boat in the collection, 47" long, is the cast-iron French Gas-Powered Heavily Armoured Gunboat (estimated at $200/300,000), a replica of a 19th century battleship with a gas-powered engine and zinc and bronze details also known as 'Andre the Giant'.

A top lot of the sale, it is currently the only known example of its kind. Also among the featured lots is the Märklin recreation of the Cunard Line's 'Lusitania' ocean liner (estimated at $100/200,000), which was sunk in 1915 by a German submarine, helping to precipitate America's entry into World War I.

Andre toy boat
'Andre the Giant' toy boat

Classic toys marking a moment in history could be strong investments - or just make for an extremely expensive bathtime.

The collection of toy soldiers offered for sale are lead by two rare sets of finely detailed medieval heraldic model figures, handmade in Great Britain by Richard Courtenay: a group of 27 Early Courtenay Mounted Knights (estimated at $15/25,000) and a group of 13 Courtenay Mounted Knights (estimated at $10/15,000).

The Malcolm Forbes Collection also includes several early Monopoly game sets, one of the world's favorite board games. The group features the earliest Monopoly game-set handmade by Charles Darrow known to survive, in a circular shape (said to be in deference to Darrow's dining room table) with the original set of rules (estimated at $60/80,000).

The collection will sell tomorrow afternoon at 2pm in New York.


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