They had found fame not least through his books, such as Collecting Tin Toys (1987), which reflected his ethos.
Aaron Dean of the Adam Partridge (20% buyer’s premium) saleroom in Macclesfield, where nearly 230 lots were on offer, said Tempest was interested in the research possibilities as much as owning the individual toy.
“He wasn’t in it to make money but he was in it for the enthusiasm and the history,” added Dean, “so he would sell it on to the next collector at private deal or auction but what it made was sort of irrelevant – he had his time with it, had learnt from it, then he would find something else to research. That’s how he operated.”
Tempest had a wide-ranging enthusiasm for toys of all types stretching back a century, encompassing classic early French and German makes (many from the manufacturing hub of Nuremberg) through to Japanese robots.
That interest included games and collectables – also available in this auction – and jigsaws, scientific instruments, musical instruments, phonographs and books, not to mention coins and pocket watches going into another Adam Partridge sale this month.
This toys and collectables section notched up a total just shy of £65,000 with every Tempest lot sold. The Tempest name doubtless added a certain cachet, while most estimates pitched at modest levels brought an enthusiastic bidder response.
Dean – who also had the sizeable task of checking the clockwork mechanisms pre-sale ready for condition reports – said: “It really was a super sale and so much fun to complete for the vendor. Jack’s family were exceptionally pleased with the sale and that every lot sold.”
So pleased in fact they arrived at Dean’s house on the Saturday after the auction to present a big bunch of flowers as a thank you. Tempest, who lived locally, was well known to the saleroom and a personal friend of Partridge himself. When he died his family consigned the collection.
Originally a Jacquard designer for the textile industry, Tempest’s toys expertise was all self-taught because, as Dean added, “he had just a genuine enthusiasm from childhood for such things. His knowledge developed organically, he became quite an authority on it and, as the family said to me, he would very often buy something, spend a lot of time researching it and write about it as well, obviously sometimes going in those books, and then often would sell things on – a ‘working collection’ I suppose is the best way to describe it.
“The collection brought a lot of people to the room. A lot of enthusiastic collectors, some of whom we knew, some never seen before, which was lovely. We had some great phone bidders and an awful lot of interest online worldwide – US, France, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand all bidding.”
Research race is on
Despite the copious research, it is somewhat ironic that the top lot remains a mystery – although that does also reinforce the fact that Tempest had such a wide-ranging collection involving minor as well as major manufacturers.
Offered in a single lot was a tinplate clockwork Lehmann Tut Tut car but it was the toy racing car accompanying it that caused a stir. The Tut Tut is relatively common at auction and often makes around £200-300, so it was a shock when the final price for the pair was £5000 against an estimate of £80-120.
The catalogue described the red car, which was marked II.N.13, as ‘incomplete and with rubbing and tarnishing to the decoration throughout and with some surface marks to the back of the vehicle. This vehicle also has solder repairs to the back’. The mechanism of this car was not working.
Dean said: “This was purchased by a private collector from London who knew Jack well. The collector knew many of the pieces in the auction but did not know that Tempest owned this particular red racing car.
“He explained to me that the red car is a ‘very interesting German made race car which I have never seen before’. He also said that other collectors have not seen this example. He is thrilled to have it and it is currently with his conservator having some sympathetic repair work before being added to his collection.”
Dean had also found in the collection, separate from the car, a tin lid which he realised showed the red car II.N.13 and included it with the lot. That lid had a title Automobil-Unfall Automobile-Accident Motor car Accident, showing the red car pranged from behind – with driver and passenger thrown out – by a car looking a bit like the Tut Tut.
The buyer “believes that the tin lid which accompanies this lot and illustrated the car is not from a box but may be a promotional/advertising backdrop for use in a toy shop with the car standing on a platform in front of it”, added Dean.