I had been acquainted with Richard Wright through various antique shows we both exhibited at over the past few years, although I never purchased anything from him. He was also the doll expert on "Antiques Roadshow," which is where many people came to know him from. He was quite a colorful character, although I never realized just how colorful until he passed away this past March. Skinner auction house advertised the sale of the Richard Wright collection, and I wondered why he was parting with such extraorindary dolls and toys -- absolutely the best I had ever seen. I didn't know he had passed away until I made a Google search. There I found he had a sudden illness, and the Memorium I found online was fascinating. I knew this would be a tremendous opportunity to acquire some rare toys.
Auction day came in October, but not without problems. The first item I was to bid on was a fantastic early German papier-mache goat pull toy with papier-mache boy rider which up until now we had only seen in an obscure museum in East Germany. At the last minute I changed my contact telephone number so that my daughter would bid on my behalf, as I would be traveling to Iowa to be with my father during his upcoming surgery. As luck would have it, Skinner called me at my original telephone numbers I had given them -- not my daughter. When my cell phone rang it went straight to voice mail. The message was they were trying to contact me to bid on the pull toy, but by the time I reached anyone at Skinner's the lot had already sold. I was crushed! Now I needed to be certain that the same thing didn't happen with the remaining four lots I was registered to bid on. After several frantic phone calls I was on pins and needles, not knowing whether my daughter was now being contacted. However, all went well from then on and I was successful on winning the next four lots.
The first item I won was the super rare German squeaker above. The ugly man is beating the baby with a stick. In addition to squeaking when the bellow mechanism is pressed, the right arm moves up and down. It is an incredible piece. I especially love the handwoven basket on his back in micro-mini delicate weave. Andy and Becky Ourant, good friends of Richard Wright, were in charge of cataloging this auction, and Andy told me this piece had been in Richard's collection since the '80s, and he had actually purchased it from Becky at that time. I feel very fortunate to have won it.
Next up were a set of three soldiers on horseback, ca. 1850s. I am sharing this lot with Maria and Dieter, as we both wanted them. I have kept the white horse for myself, and Maria and Dieter get the two in black. For Erzgebirge collectors as we are, this lot is an absolute dream. I couldn't tell until I received them that the entire bodies of the soliders are fashioned from Brotteig (bread dough), a technique which indicates very early toys. The bodies of the horses are mostly of bread dough as well, except for the stick legs. Absolute rarities, and the condition of the bread dough is wonderful!
The third lot was another very early papier-mache German squeak toy. The dress and hairstyle indicate a ca. 1850s piece.
And as excited I am about all the other pieces, I was really thrilled to win this super rare German Halloween jester lantern, again a piece that has been in Richard's collection since the '80s. The quality and detail on this latern is unbelievable. It is made of a very heavy and thick papier-mache with Dresden trim around the cap and painted paper inserts for the eyes and mouth. There is a little cloth collar around the neck with white mohair locks of hair peeping out in the back and on the sides. Inside the lantern are the remnants of a white candle which had been burned many, many years ago. It is truly amazing there was no damage done, inside or out, from the flames. Andy told me Richard Wright pictured this lantern in one of his ads many years ago just as a "tease" -- he never ever intended to sell it. I feel fortunate indeed to now have it a part of my collection.
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