Review by Marty Steiner, Photos Courtesy Bruneau & Co.
CRANSTON, R.I. – In a pitched series of battles fought not in interstellar space but rather at a Cranston, R.I., auction, four of the top eight lots, including the highest, were Mego 1979 figures. A group of three 1979 Mego Micronauts: Centaurus, Kronos and Lobros, drew a $3,500 win, nearly tripling the $800-$1,200 catalog estimate. Bidding warriors from all around the planet took part in Bruneau Auctions’ first sale of Andy Yanchus’ lifetime collection of models, figures and toys. Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Yanchus had been project manager for Aurora Plastics from 1965 to 1975, and a staff colorist for Marvel Comics from 1976 to 1992. He curated a collection of fine and rare models, toys and comic books and Bruneau considered his collection one of the most comprehensive to come to auction to date. All 225 lots sold, with slightly less than half – 110 – exceeding the knowledgeable estimates.
From 1976 to 1980, Mego produced its version of Takara’s Microman series as its 3¾-inch-tall Micronauts. This Mego series inspired Marvel Comics to create its Micronauts comic books which were published from 1979 to 1986.
Other Mego Micronauts lots included two groups of three (Antron, Membros and Repto) in third place at $2,625 and Baron Karza, Andromeda and Megas in sixth at $2,250. Another group of ten Micronaut figures also brought $2,250, in eighth position.
Yanchus frequently would gather figures of a specific series into a bagged archive and create a typed inventory of that group. One such group of more than 50 WWF (World Wrestling Federation) Superstars produced by LJN Toys pinned a $3,000 bidder, eliminating the $300/500 bidding odds. This was the second highest winning bid in the sale.
Many of the lots in this sale were related to the Star Wars characters both from the movies and the various television episodes. A rarely seen 1985 Polish bootleg version of first generation Star Wars Prune Face drew $2,500, fourth highest in the sale, and doubling its $800-$1,200 estimate.
Advance bidding frequently provides some indication of the ultimate sales results. One observation from the advance bidding was the high interest in the Kenner Star Wars items. Eighteen lots of Kenner Star Wars characters, most in their original plastic bubble on card packaging. Three lots of Kenner’s Droid series based on the television series C-3PO, Sise Fromm, and a group of six other characters each brought $1,500 with $200/400, $500/800 and $300/500 estimates. Fifteen additional Kenner Droid lots brought prices ranging from $281 to $1,174, with all topping their catalog high estimates.
A dozen robot lots were sold. An Italian Popy brand diecast robot, Daltanious, topped this group at $750 and a Japanese Popy Gotchaman Palma followed at $438. At $594, a 1986 European Bandai Robo Machine Bismarck performed well over its estimate of $200/400. Others ranged upward from a 1974 Marui key-wind Mechaborg for $138.
Tokyo-based Takara created Microman, a science fiction toy line of 3¾-inch-tall action figures along with sets of vehicles and other accessories. Topping 13 lots offered was a 1980 Power Up Set at $2,250, overpowering the $300/500 estimate. Ten unused Microman toys comprised a $1,125 lot as did a pair of 1979 Rescue and Acroyear. Both lots bested $300/500 estimates.
Among the smallest toys in this sale was an eight-piece group of Lesney matchbox Mobile Action Command Rescue Unit vehicles for $250. Perhaps the most unusual offerings were two lots from Japan’s Lakeside Toys. Four hand puppets based on Gerry Anderson’s 1964 British TV series Stingray, with rubber heads and fabric bodies that cover the hand, in original factory sealed packaging, sold for $1,500, tripling the high estimate of $500. Also, at $1,500 and based on the same series was Lakeside’s Aquaphibian Terror Fish tin friction toy.
Yanchus was widely known for his involvement in the model kit world. All of the kit offerings in this sale were in sealed, original packaging boxes. A Lincoln International group of five kits (four rocket craft and one automobile) drew $500 on its low estimate but enough to break into the top 20 lots. Close behind at $469 and within estimate was a pair of 1968 Tamiya kits with Apollo 1 and Jupiter 2.
Bridging Yanchus’ two careers was a lot of 18 Marvel Comics Super Heroes gumball toys. Among these were six Marvel Mini Books. All for a-not-so-mini $1,174 price.
A lot containing water guns and cap guns shot down its $200/300 estimate with a resounding $1,125 winning bid.
Travis Landry, Bruneau’s director of Pop Culture, who was responsible for the cataloging of the sale, described Yanchus as, “an exceptional gentleman who curated a magnificent collection of fine and rare models, toys and comic books over his lifetime.” He added, “Truly one of the most comprehensive collections to come to auction to date.”
Marvel comics announcement of Yanchus’ passing noted in its October 2021 press release, “During his 17-year career at Marvel, he contributed to several ongoing titles…He turned his hobby building plastic modeling kits into a successful career at Aurora Plastics Company in 1965. He became Aurora’s project manager for their hobby kit line. In 1976, he shifted gears, becoming a staff colorist here at Marvel.”
Like a Fourth of July celebration, most of the fireworks took place toward the end of the auction. The last lot of the sale generated all but a few of the top dollar lots with three-fourths of the last 100 lots exceeding the realistic catalog estimates. Many of those doubled, tripled and few even quadrupled those estimates.
When asked to reflect on overseeing the breakup and distribution of this lifetime collection literally across the world, Landry commented, “We were very happy with the auction. The Japanese diecast, robots, Microman and Micronauts performed exceptionally well. They are rare in any condition, so to have toys like that in unused condition drew a lot of bidders. A good portion of the robots went to Europe, Italy in particular. We had a healthy mix of domestic and international bidders. We felt good about the disposition of these items.”
Those successful bidders in this sale have purchased more than just a kit, action figure or toy. They bought a piece of history, which may not be a rare example of that specific item but is part of a lifetime active participant in the history of the toy industry that designed and produced the item.
The next installment of the Yanchus collection will focus on his comic books.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, 401-533-9980 or www.bruneauandco.com.