1977 Louis Marx & Co., PB84 Auction Catalog of Factory Collection Tin Toys

1977 Louis Marx & Co., PB84 Auction Catalog of Factory Collection Tin Toys

Many collectors of Marx tin wind-up toys are familiar with the history of this great American toy company. Historical outlines from their early beginning days in the 1920's through the company's eventual demise in the early 1980's are provided in Greenberg's Guide to Marx Toys, Volumes I, II and III. 

Now out of print, these three books are recognized as essential references for Marx toy enthusiasts. Maxine Pinsky, the author of all three volumes, states how in 1972 the Marx Company was sold to Quaker Oats for $51.3 million dollars. In 1975 under their ownership Quaker closed the Marx manufacturing plant in Erie, PA. The Erie plant had been the heart of tin wind-up toy production for Marx. The Erisco Wire Company purchased the plant in 1976. 

Erisco arranged for all of the sample toys stored at Erie, consisting of both Marx and non-Marx toys to be sold in a series of auctions in 1977. A division of Sotheby's in New York City called Sotheyby Parke Bernet, or PB84 became the primary auction house responsible for dispersal of the factory collection of tin toys. The "84" of PB84 refers to the street address, 171 East 84th Street. Over a three day period, sale #599 as it was known, sold off part of American toy manufacturing history. 

Pinsky referenced many of the toys listed in the Greenberg guides accompanied by their "PB number". This catalog is where those numbers originated. Pinsky used Marx catalog numbers listed by Parke Bernet. The actual corresponding lot numbers were not used, so to match up the catalog with Greenberg guides is not an easy task. Still, it provides an invaluable complimentary reference. 

Hundreds of toys were dispersed over 350 lots during the sell-off. A single lot contained as many as 23 separate toys, most with their original boxes, and all in unused mint condition. Prototypes and unlicensed toys were sold. Competition factory samples produced by Girard, Lehmann, Wyandotte, Distler, Hoge, Lionel, Arnold, Marklin, and many others all in new, unused condition were also sold. Whatever toys remained after the sale were hauled off to a landfill and buried. 

Original catalogs from this auction are indeed rare. This is only the third one I've found in the past 16 years. A far cry from the full color, hardback toy auction catalogs of today, the PB84 catalog consisted of a small 5½" x 8½" soft cover 80 page book with stapled spine and yellow glossy covers. Black and photos taken at the auction house show individual lots of multiple toys on display shelves. Approximately 1/3 of the toys were photographed.

Lot descriptions consisted of the manufacturer's catalog number, the actual toy name, and sometimes the year manufactured, and size. This information was provided only occasionally, or when the original box was available for identification.

Many, many lots were described only generically. For example, Lot 235 was "Twelve American and German Lithographed Tin Train carriages" or Lot 247 as "Sixteen Prototype and Production Spinning Toys". Unless a photograph accompanied the generic description, the actual toys sold will remain unknown. A three page list of estimates was provided as a centerfold to the catalog. The final price sold at auction was mailed separately several months after the auction ended. I've seen only one original of this mailer. However this copy has the final selling price of 264 lots written in pen just adjacent to the lot number. In other words this catalog was used by someone on the auction floor at the time of the sale.

Size: 5½" x 8½". 

Sold: Mar. 2007

Price Sold: $ 128


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Subject: 1977 Louis Marx & Co., PB84 Auction Catalog of Factory Collection Tin Toys

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