The Antique Toy Archive

“Mint & Boxed” buys the Peter Ottenheimer Collection

Antique Toy World, Aug 1987. By Jack Tempest

The fabulous collection of tinplate toys amassed over the last decade and a half by Peter Ottenheimer, the well known international toy dealer who operates from his famous shop on Neumarkt in Zurich, Switzerland, has recently been acquired for an unnamed sum by Jeffrey Levy of Mint & Boxed, London.

It is a collection considered to be of such importance that it has become the subject of the finely produced book entitled Toy Autos. The collection’s importance lies in the number of rare automotive toys it contains, in addition to the host of interesting novelty tin toys. The complete assembly of toys numbers about 450 items and range from a few, small, Elastolin accessory figures to a huge coup de ville manufactured in France by an unknown company and measuring around two feet in length!”

“It must be the best collection of Tin Toys in the world,” commented Jeffrey Levy. “It is a wonderful selection of classical toys, and I am delighted that Peter, whom I have known for many years, has decided to let me have them all, lock, stock, and barrel. I am not buying them for the sake of simply selling them, ad I suppose I may decide to add one or two to my personal collection. The remainder will be channelled, along with other fine examples of antique toys, to a new market which I have recently developed among wealthy investors who appreciate such superb toys as works of art. They recognize them as representative of a western culture and marvellous examples of an early European heritage. It is this section of the community, a new breed of collector, which my business, Mint & Boxed, is aiming to serve. In point of fact, I am opening new offices and showrooms in September in the city of London’s commercial center in order that Mint & Boxed will be able to deal with these new investors on their own territory!”

When I visited the Ottenheimer the tremendous job of packing was under way, under the supervision of Jeffrey himself. Representatives of a Swiss firm of fine art packers were working away, wrapping each numbered toy in tissue paper before placing them in boxes. The team hardly stopped, and the work took two days to complete before they were ready for air-freighting to London.

It would be impossible to describe every toy in the collection – even the book, Toy Autos, dealt with little over half the collection – but among the pieces being packed away was an interesting group of five Lehmann motorcycles, all in immaculate condition: Roon, Quex, Pilot, Halloh, and Echo. Quex is, of course, the Nazi version with the rider wearing the swastika armband. There is an excellent sub-section of tinplate motorcycle toys by various makers, too. Another particularly rare toy is the unusual Lehmann mechanical toy known as boxer – indeed, the products of this firm are well range of novelty toys.

All the famous European toy makers are represented in this great collection, from the mighty German firm of Marklin to the humble British manufacturer, Burnett. The automotive toys are there in all shapes and sizes, from early “old timers” (there is a particularly fine steam-powered automobile by Marklin), a number of splendid buses, a variety of vans, plus several rare early race-cars such as examples of the Gordon Bennet cars by Gunthermann. Other famous toy producers to be found in the collection are the german firms of Bing, Bub, Carette, Distler, Doll, Hess, and Tipp. From Franch there are toys by Citroen and JEP; Italy is represented by Cardini and Metalgraf; while the companies of Burnett, Chad Valley, and Wells provide the best of the British products. Some of the items remain unidentified, such as the huge and magnificent coupe de ville mentioned previously.

Peter Ottenheimer told me that he was pleased that Jeffrey Levy was taking the collection and stated that “there would be no tears” from him. In fact, he disclosed that he had already decided to start a new collection based on the post-war American limousine toys, the majority of which originated in the factories of the Japanese toymakers. “It will be a new interest and a new challenge for me to refill my now empty shelves,” said he with a grin, as regarded the packers busily moving the items from the showcases. “Already I have purchased quite a large collection of such toys, and they will help to make my empty showcases come to life once again!”

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