One wonders what the late Malcolm Forbes would think of his sons' selling his collection of toy boats, soldiers and games. Probably that it was about time. He might possibly think the boys are just a little late - the fabulous collection has been on exhibition at the Forbes Galleries on 5th Avenue in New York for 25 years. The installation, in the rabbit-warren of spaces in the lobby of the Forbes Magazine building looks a little tired and out-dated. On December 17, 2010 the Forbes Collection of toys and games will go on the auction block at Sotheby's on York Avenue in New York City. The collection is estimated to bring in $3 to $5 million.
Malcolm Forbes was a legendary entrepreneur whose collection of Russian Faberge eggs helped make him a household name in the 1970s until his sudden death in 1990. According to Sotheby's press release announcing the sale, Malcolm was not the first in his family to admire and collect toys. B.C. Forbes, Malcolms' father, began the tradition of purchasing toy boats for Malcolm and his brothers. Malcolm continued the family tradition, when, in 1973, he noticed an antique toy boat at FAO Schwartz that was similar to the boats his father had bought him as a child. He was hooked. It wasn't long before his son Robert was hooked as well.
“It's clear to me that it was nostalgia more than anything else that sparked both the toy boat and toy soldier collections - the warm embracing memories of the endless fun we had with them,” stated Forbes in an article for Art & Antiques in 1989.
The toy boat collection is considered by collectors as one of the finest in the country according to Sotheby's. The collection is strong on sports, luxury, naval, and commercial toy boats - most being made during the Golden Age of Toys - 1870s through the 1950s. Examples of every major toy boat maker in the Nuremberg area of Germany - manufacturers such as Mäklin, Bing, Fleischmann and Carette are all represented.
Andre the Giant
The largest boat in the collection and one of the expected top lots of the sale, according to Sotheby's is the one-of-a-kind French cast-iron gas-powered gunboat (est. $200,000 to $300,000), a replica of a battleship known as Andre the Giant. This unique boat is 47 inches long with zinc and bronze details.
In 1983, Forbes purchased from Sotheby's for a record-setting (at the time) $28,6000 - the Märkin produced “Luisitania” ocean liner ($100,000 to $200,000). The prototype for this ocean liner was sunk by a German submarine in 1915 and helped coalesce popular opinion that led to the US entering World War I.
Other boats for sale are a Venetian-style canal boat, several Noah's Arks and working submarines. An original box of Titanic Soap (“Guaranteed to Sink”) will also be on the auction block.
Forbes son, Robert said, “My brothers and I concluded it best that others now have a chance to own them, collect them, and maybe even wind them up on a pond or pool and watch them go.”
Richard Courtenay Knight
Also being sold on December 17 are the collections of antique toy soldiers. The Forbes family sold a large part of the collection soon after Malcolm Forbes death. What was left are thousands of soldiers, marching bands and fox hunts from leading manufacturers such as Britains, Mignot, Heyde and Elastolin. Cowboys and Indians, Kings and Queens and the amazing knights made by Richard Courtenay will also be offered for sale in lots of 250.
The earliest homemade Monopoly board game, complete with a set of rules will be offered for sale, making the total number of toys offered in the Forbes sale 7,500.