Pedal cars draw “insane” prices at Wisconsin toy-museum auction
If toys are for kids, there must be a lot of wealthy preadolescents out there. Last weekend’s auction of the mammoth pedal car collection from Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum in Fountain City, Wisconsin, brought some eye-popping results, even for those who’ve been immersed in the hobby for years.
Twenty-one of the 600 or so pedal cars listed sold for five figures, and nine for at least $21,240 (including auction fees). You could score some sweet classic automobiles—with running engines and room for passengers—for that kind of coin.
Hank Davis, who has collected pedal cars for more than 40 years and writes about them for AutoMobilia magazine, says the Elmer’s auction “brought insane money compared to real values.” He theorizes that a combination of factors gave bidders a jolt of adrenaline once the auction started.
“I think folks wanting to own a piece of the [Elmer] Duellman history, combined with the stock market being in the crapper and the overall increase in automotive collectibles, created the perfect storm,” he says. “Mecum Auctions also helped with super marketing.”
Davis says a pair of 1930s G-Man Cruisers exemplify sales that easily exceeded current market prices. One of the pedal cars (in original condition) sold for $23,600, while the other (in restored condition) went for $11,200.
“The G-Man Cruiser pedal cars normally would bring $10,000 and $6000 in the condition they were in,” he says, “but they brought more than twice as much.”
The furious bidding was clearly infectious, as over 80 percent of the cars that crossed the block sold for $1000 or more.
The top sales were astonishingly high. A Duellman-commissioned, custom 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird pedal car—wearing Limelight Green paint, an image of the Looney Tunes Road Runner character, and “Elmer’s Auto Salvage, Fountain City, Wis.” on the front fenders—claimed the top spot, selling for a whopping $59,000. (In case you’re wondering, that’s just a fraction of what an actual 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Super would cost. One in #3, or Good (daily-driver) condition carries an average value of $338K.)
Three other pedal cars that expert sheetmetal fabricator Jerry Anderson built for Duellman also brought big money. A 1970 Richard Petty Plymouth Superbird sold for $47,200, followed by a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona for $37,760 and a 1969–70 Dodge Charger Daytona for $29,500.
Davis says the Super Birds and Daytonas are special, “but just because they’re a little more unique doesn’t make them worth the kind of money that buyers shelled out for them. As I’m sure you know, at an auction it only takes two.”
Other pedal cars that sold in excess of $20K included a 1927 American National Lincoln, $25,960; a 1934 Packard 5 in 1 (dump truck, tow truck, fire truck, delivery truck, and field ambulance), $23,600; a 1920s Steelcraft Spirit of St. Louis (Charles Lindbergh) airplane, $22,420; and a 1930s Gendron Fire Tower Truck, $21,240.
Duellman’s collection also included plenty of real cars, and they also brought high results—likely for many of the same reasons that fueled the pedal car bidding. For instance, the top seller was a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS with a big-block 396 V-8, which rocketed to an astonishing $242,000. That was nearly five times its high estimate of $50K, more than twice the value of a Chevelle SS 396 in #1 (Concours) condition (which this wasn’t), and more than three times the value of one in #3 (Good) condition.
A black 1958 Chevrolet Delray with 454 V-8, purchased by Duellman in ’58, went for $99,000, almost three times its high estimate of $35K.
A 1973 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron, which Duellman purchased new, sold for $44,000, three times its high estimate of $15K.
According to Mecum, the Duellman auction brought in $8.5 million in total sales for just over 2000 items. The top-selling motorcycle was a 1940 Indian Four for $99,000, while a 1947 Harley-Davidson FL Knucklehead sold for $55,000. Also notable, a 1929 Ford Snap-On wooden tool box found a new home for $35,400.
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