As the list below shows, toy’s by German tinplate Märklin are highly prized among collectors. The two most expensive tinplate toys ever sold by Christie’s were also by Märklin, with those produced by another German firm, Bing, closely following. The William and Mary doll is also the most expensive doll ever sold at auction. So without further delay, let’s get our most expensive toys out and have a play…
Ten of the Most Expensive Toys Ever Sold at Sotheby’s
10 – Tinplate riverboat by Marklin, German, c.1910 – Price Sold: £15,400
Wiki Info: Gebr. Märklin & Cie. GmbH or Märklin (MÄRKLIN or MAERKLIN in capital letters) is a German toy company. The company was founded in 1859 and is based at Göppingen in Baden-Württemberg. Although it originally specialised in doll house accessories, today it is best known for model railways and technical toys. In some parts of Germany and in Sweden, the company’s name is almost synonymous with model railroads.
9 – Tinplate spirit-fired fire-engine by Marklin, German, c.1902 – Price Sold: £18,700
Wiki Info: Märklin is responsible for the creation of several popular model railroad gauges or scale, noteworthy exceptions being N scale and Wide gauge. In 1891, Märklin defined gauges 1-5 as standards for toy trains and presented them at the Leipzig Toy Fair. They soon became international standards. Märklin followed with 0 gauge (by some accounts as early as 1895 or as late as 1901), H0 scale in 1935, and the diminutive Z scale, 1:220, in 1972 — smallest in the world for decades — under the name Mini-Club (the scale of Z was assigned after the product line was introduced). Mini-Club was invented as Märklin’s answer to Arnold Rapido’s introduction of N gauge.
8 – Tinplate limousine by Marklin, German, c.1987 – Price Sold: £18,700
Wiki Info: Märklin also produced numerous other toys over the years, including lithographed tinplate toy automobiles and boats. From 1909 until well into the 1950s they sold a range of alcohol-burning model steam engines. These were very educational toys, and could be linked to dynamos to provide lighting. In the late 1990s and Märklin purchased the assets of Trix in January 1997, thus adding N gauge to their scale lineup.
7 – Automaton of a pumpkin-eater by Gustave Vichy, French, c.1870 – Price Sold: £22,000
Info Source: Gustave Vichy was born in 1839 to a Parisian watch and clock maker Antoine Michel who, along with his wife, set up the Vichy company in 1862 with the aim of building and selling clocks, mechanical objects and toys. In 1866, Gustave took over the company and dedicated his time almost entirely to developing automata while his wife, a seamstress, dressed the figures.
6 – Tinplate brake by Gebruder Bing, German, c.1902 – Price Sold: £23,100
Wiki Info: Bing or Gebrüder Bing (“Bing brothers”) was a German toy company founded in 1863 in Nuremberg, Germany by two brothers, Ignaz Bing and Adolf Bing, originally producing metal kitchen utensils, but best remembered for its extensive lines of model trains and live steam engines. Ignaz is also known for his discovery and development of the Bing Cave, a show cave in Germany.
5 – Bisque character doll by Kämmer & Reinhardt, German, c.1909 – Price Sold: £24,200
Wiki Info: Franz Reinhardt and Ernst Kämmer mainly produced ” character dolls”, thus breaking new ground in toy design. The logo was registered in 1886. In the early years the company was active in a small building in the castle alley, but not very successful. After the local competitor Heinrich Handwerck but had died in 1902,
4 – Charles II oak baby house on stand, English, c. 1675 – Price Sold: £25,300
Wiki Info: A doll is a model of a human being, often used as a toy for children. Dolls have traditionally been used in magic and religious rituals throughout the world, and traditional dolls made of materials such as clay and wood are found in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. The earliest documented dolls go back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. The use of dolls as toys was documented in Greece around 100 AD. They have been made as crude, rudimentary playthings as well as elaborate art.
3 – Gauge I armoured trainset by Marklin, German, c.1902 – Price Sold: £26,400
Wiki Info: Märklin released its first wind-up train with carriages that ran on standardised track in 1891, noting that railroad toys had the potential to follow the common practice of doll houses, in which the initial purchase would be enhanced and expanded with more accessories for years after the initial purchase. To this end, Märklin offered additional rolling stock and track with which to expand its boxed sets.
2 – Tinplate Gauge I ‘Rocket’ by Marklin, German, c.1909 – Year Sold: 1984 – Price Sold: £28.050
Wiki Info: Today, Märklin manufactures and markets trains and accessories in Gauge 1, H0 scale, and Z scale. In 1994 Märklin acquired a Nuremberg based model train manufacturer Trix. Today Trix is another brand of Märklin Holding and covers N-scale and DC-operated H0 scale. Märklin’s older trains are considered highly collectible today, and Märklin’s current offerings enjoy premium status among hobbyists.
1 – William and Mary wooden doll, English, c.1690 – Price Sold: £67,000
Wiki Info: The earliest known European dollhouses were the baby houses from the 16th century, which consisted of cabinet display cases made up of individual rooms. Dollhouses of this period showed idealized interiors complete with detailed furnishings and accessories. The cabinets were built by hand with architectural details, filled with miniature household items and were solely intended for adults. They were off-limits to children, not because of safety concerns for the child but for the dollhouse. Such cabinet houses were trophy collections owned by the few matrons living in the cities of Holland, England and Germany who were wealthy enough to afford them, and, fully furnished, were worth the price of a modest full-size house’s construction.