x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pint-sized ships under the hammer

The Life: A tiny toy boat is expected to fetch a big price when it goes under the hammer this weekend.

The Marklin Chicago paddlewheeler may fetch $250,000. Photo courtesy Dick Claus
The Marklin Chicago paddlewheeler may fetch $250,000. Photo courtesy Dick Claus

The individual parts may be tiny, but together they unmistakably make up a miniature ship.

Yet what the 31-inch-high Marklin Chicago paddlewheeler lacks in size, it makes up for in price.

With an estimate of US$200,000 (Dh734,590) to $250,000, the toy, which was made at the turn of the 20th century, is the most expensive lot in an auction of antique boats to take place on Saturday in the United States.

Owned by Dick Claus, the renowned toy collector, the ship is one of hundreds of pieces he amassed over decades that are being auctioned off in a two-part sale.

"I'm 80 years old. I'll be 81 in a couple of weeks and I'd rather have the money," Mr Claus says. "Not only that, but we have been thinking about moving for some time and it's just one less big clutter of things."

The first 210-lot instalment, which was held in May, is understood to have attracted a buyer from the UAE, as well as many other toy collectors from Europe.

It achieved sales of $1.8 million, about $500,000 more than the estimated high. It may seem like a lot of money, but Mr Claus admits he has spent millions on the extensive collection over the past three decades.

"For the longest time, I had a collection of clockwork trains and I maintained those until a couple of years ago," he says.

"I think there's such a thing as a collector gene. Once you're a collector, you have to collect something."

The Chicago paddleboat, which Mr Claus bought for more than $100,000 in 1997, is expected to break a record when it goes under the hammer. If it makes its estimate, or more, it will present a good return. "But you have to understand auctions. In the last auction one third of the pieces sold for less than I paid for them. You get this balance when you have an auction. Some sell for more and some for less," he says.

Other items for sale in Saturday's auction, which is being held by Bertoia Auctions in New Jersey, include a paddlewheeler penny toy, which is expected to fetch $400 to $500, and a Marklin Jolanda yacht, which could sell for $30,000.

gduncan@thenational.ae