NEW YORK – After gobbling up trophy real estate and impressionist paintings, the Japanese may have a new yen – antique toys.
USA TODAY has learned that a Japanese company is paying $1.5 million for a toy train once given to Czar Nicholas II. The private sale eclipses the previous record price paid for an antique toy, $1 million paid in September by a German industrialist for an 1880s tin fire wagon.
Both Sales are by London-based firm Mint & Boxed, one of the world’s leading antique toy dealers – $40 million in annual revenue. Its chairman, Jeffrey Levy, confirms a deal should be wrapped up next month with the Japanese buyers, whom he wouldn’t identify.
The czar’s for-car train is made of tin and brass and is 5 feet, 5 inches long. The engine is alcohol-fueled. The roofs lift off the two hand-painted coaches, revealing several figurines made of sawdust and glue. It was made in 1905 by Marchlin of Goppingen, Germany, creator of some of the finest tin toys ever.
The train was presented to the last Russian Czar during his state visit to Paris in 1905. There was no room for the train in the royal family’s luggage, so it was left with the hotel manager. It was never sent for. The late manager’s daughter discovered the train in an attic last year. Levy bought it earlier the year, reportedly paying close to $1 million.