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Hoge’s 15 by 8in Popeye rowboat, made in 1935, is the most sought-after of all toys replicating the punchy cartoon sailor. This is believed to be the only example ever offered at public auction that retains its original box, oars and rudder. It will be offered with a reprint of the original Hoge toy catalog featuring the toy. Near-mint condition. Estimate $5,000-7,000.
SOLD Hoge Popeye the Sailor Mechanical Rowboat with box, $27,500.
This classic 1930s velvet Mickey Mouse doll still has its Steiff paper label and exhibits a Mickey Mouse Walt Disney stamp under its foot. This is the 9in, red painted-mouth version. Excellent condition. Estimate $1,500-2,000.
SOLD Large Steiff Mickey Mouse doll, 19in to the top of its ears, $7,150
Extremely rare and very desirable both to collectors of cast-iron doorstops and vintage Halloween items, this 13-7/8 by 8¾in doorstop made by Littco Products of Littlestown, Pa., depicts a little girl in her trick-or-treat costumer, holding a jack-o’-lantern. From the Jan and Watt White collection, this is the very example pictured in John and Nancy Smith’s reference book on doorstops due out this fall. Excellent condition. Estimate $7,000-10,000.
SOLD Halloween Girl doorstop, Littco Products of Littlestown, Pa., $38,500.
This framed, full-color embossed tin litho sign features a late 19th century beauty turn of the 20th century beauty in a Kabo Corset, featuring “no brass eyelets.” Measures 18½ by 24½in. Excellent condition. Estimate $5,000-7,000.
SOLD Kabo Corsets Sign, $11,000
One of the all-time great Disney tin toys, this is Distler’s early 1930s Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy. Its lithography is bright and clean, and it is in all-original condition, retaining the often-missing small dancing Minnie. Excellent-plus condition. Estimate $5,000-7,000.
SOLD Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy with Minnie Mouse dancer, Distler, 1930s, $13,200.
Known as the Mickey Finn Rope Pull or Caille Tug-o’-War, this amazing 6ft tall penny arcade machine was issued around 1906 by Caille Brothers of Detroit. Made of cast iron on a wood base, it measures an opponent’s strength from the pounds of pressure registered when the rope is pulled. When the measurement dial reaches 750 pounds, a devil’s head pops up in the small window above Mickey’s face. This model is unique, in that no other coin-operated strength-testing machine operate by means of a rope. There are, perhaps, 15 surviving examples. Estimate $20,000-30,000.
SOLD Mickey Finn Tug-o-War Strength Tester, $46,750
A mere 17 months and several million-dollar sales later, Morphy Auctions was officially purchased by Steve Geppi’s Diamond International Galleries. Then, over this past Labor Day weekend, the company chalked up yet another significant milestone: its first $2 million sale.
The statistics backing the 2,100-lot, no-reserve auction were impressive: more than 3,000 left bids, more than triple that of any previous Morphy’s sale; and a record number of Internet and phone bids. “On Wednesday night, the night before the opening session, it was crazy,” said Morphy. “I hadn’t counted on so many people leaving phone bids that night. My staff had left around 5 p.m., and I had stayed to get a few things cleaned up when the phones starting ringing. At one point, they were ringing five and six lines at a time. A couple of my employees happened to drive past the gallery and noticed my car was still there, so they stopped to see what was up and ended up working the phones till 10:30 that night. Finally, after a 15-hour day, we had to call it quits.”
The opening session on Sept. 1, featured antique advertising, soda fountain, apothecary and barber shop items, jukeboxes and coin-ops. A 1950s “Serve Yourself” light-up Coca-Cola fountain sign with original etched glass, in near-mint condition, dashed its $300-500 estimate to bring $4,400 (all prices quoted are inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium, 20 percent on Internet purchases); while a 21in wide, two-sided, oval leaded-glass sign advertising Edison Light Co. shed light on its rarity by selling for $5,500, more than four times its high estimate.
Unquestionably one of the finest advertising lots in the sale was an 18½ by 24½in embossed tin litho sign for Kabo Corsets. Wood framed, the fabulous central image was of a quintessential 19th century beauty wearing a voluminously plumed hat and waist-pinching corset. Its entry in Morphy’s sale represented the first time an example of this sign had appeared on the auction block. Estimated at $5,000-7,000, it cinched a winning bid of $11,000.
It was also during the opening session that the top price of the entire three-day sale was achieved. One of the most talked-about lots, the Mickey Finn figural cast-iron, rope-pull Tug-o-War strength tester, made by Caille Bros. of Detroit, features a standing boy – Mickey Finn – dressed in knickerbockers, his head emblazoned on the circular coin-slot gauge. Across the top of the gauge that measures the weight the user is capable of pulling are the words Can you raise the devil? At the 750lb level, an evil-looking devil’s head pops up on the nickel-in-the-slot arcade machine. Exhibiting outstanding original park paint, the Mickey Finn, one of only 15 known examples, tipped the scales at $46,750.
Day two, on Sept. 2, included close to 700 lots of tin toys, Britains soldiers, vintage Halloween items and around 100 rare marbles. Within the marble group were Christensen flames, Akro Agate corkscrews and a coveted box of 50 Peltier marbles – including variations known as tigers, zebras and bumblebees – which sold for $1,568. Many bidders chased the rare sulphide marbles, each of which contains a small, inbedded figure. Fetching the highest price was a rearing horse sulphide, with very fine detail to the horse’s mane, eyes and hooves. It sold at the top of its estimate range, for $3,850.
Among the American clockwork toys, an Ives 10in Old Black Joe walker encouraged spirited bidding to finish at $4,760, more than tripling its high estimate. Another black-themed toy, a Linemar Ham & Sam musical duo was offered unboxed with a $500-700 estimate, and achieved $1,232. Identical money was paid for a rare Marx Chicken Snatcher, estimate $300-500.
Original boxes attracted premium prices, such as $2,016 bid for a Marx Funny Fire Fighters set (est. $300-500) and $1,456 for a Marx Uncle Wiggily “krazy kar” (est. $300-500). A boxed Joe Penner and His Duck soared to $1,792, more than triple its low estimate; and a 7in tin friction Linemar Disney Airplane with images of Mickey Mouse and Pluto on its colorful box made $1,232.
The perennially popular strongmen Superman and Popeye showed no signs of weakness. A Marx Superman turnover airplane toy estimated at $500-700 was hotly pursued to $2,016 (est. $500-700), taken by an Internet bidder; while a similarly estimated Linemar Juggling Popeye and Olive Oyl cashed out at $1,568.
Pressed steel automotive roared, with a 1933 Steelcraft private label series Southern Dairies milk truck delivering the goods at $2,240. A 27in 1930s-vintage red and black Buddy ‘L’ wrecker with headlights sped off to an absentee bidder for $10,450 (est. $3,000-4,000).
The Friday session concluded with a red-hot selection of early Halloween candy containers, party favors, decorations and other related material. A very rare 16 by 7in American chalk statue of a man in a Halloween dunce cap, holding a jack-o’-lantern, lived up to its presale predictions several times over, bringing a remarkable $4,950 against a $700-1,000 estimate. Another top performer in the category was a rare, German-made 1930s mechanical black cat squeaker with molded paper mask. The whimsical toy with cloth body and wood feet took in $3,080, more than twice its high estimate.
Incredible prices were registered in the third session held Saturday, Sept. 3, which featured the auction’s centerpiece: part one of the Gary Selmonsky comic character collection (note: more comic character rarities from the Selmonsky collection will be offered in Morphy’s Spring Sale, March 30-31, April 1). Described by Morphy’s co-founder Tom Sage Jr. as “one of the very best collections of its type, both in terms of rarity and condition,” the Selmonsky toys knocked down celestial prices from the get-go. “They were the best prices for comic character toys that I’ve seen in 10 years. To me, it was an indication that comic character is on the rise.” A complete quartet of Knickerbocker Katzenjammer Family cloth dolls, circa 1925-1930, hammered $6,160; and an especially large (19in to the top of its ears) Steiff Mickey Mouse in orange velvet shorts and shows and yellow velvet gloves, with original tag, scampered to $7,150 (estimate $2,000-3,000).
Carl Lobel, the expert consultant who cataloged the Selmonsky toys, had predicted success for the character dolls, and remarked after the sale: “One can always anticipate high prices for great boxed Popeye toys or a very desirable Mickey Mouse celluloid in a rare box, but auction fever and high prices are seldom seen when the heart of the collection is more esoteric and the true rarities are lanterns, candy containers, dolls and other ephemera.”
Bidding wars broke out over many of the tin and celluloid character toys. A 10½in, early-1930s Betty Boop celluloid whirligig identified on its lithographed box label as “Jolly Betty” was a favorite, dancing all the way to $8,250. Another whirligig, a Japanese-made, early 1930s celluloid carousel featuring a squatty-bodied, long-billed Donald Duck trampled its’ $2,000-3,000 estimate to waddle away at $6,160.
A world auction record was set by an early 1930s-vintage, Japanese celluloid Mickey Mouse Cowboy on Pluto rocker toy. Accompanied by a wonderful box with naïve artistry depicting the actual toy, it galloped away at a world record auction price of $10,450. A 6in German celluloid Mickey Mouse with metal spring tail and flat celluloid ears that wiggle was another success story. Accompanied by a wonderfully illustrated box and retaining its original key, it brought $9,900, more than double its high estimate.
Mama Katzenjammer and her naughty offspring, Hans and Fritz, made an encore appearance in the form of a trio of very rare cardboard Halloween lanterns. With original paper-insert eyes and mouths intact, the circa 1915 lanterns fashioned as the characters’ heads achieved $6,600 (est. $1,500-2,000).
A much-anticipated highlight of the session was Selmonsky’s 1935 Hoge Popeye the Sailor Mechanical Rowboat, which was offered with its extremely rare box. The only all-original boxed example ever to appear at auction, it rocketed to a final selling price of $27,500 (estimate $5,000-7,000). Also finishing in the five figures was a superb Distler Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy featuring a diminutive dancing Minnie Mouse atop the barrel organ. Estimated at $5,000-7,000, the excellent-plus toy was captured for $13,200.
An extensive selection of mechanical banks was included in the third session, with many achieving outstanding prices. An 1899 J. & E. Stevens Chief Big Moon made $8,800; and a 1904 football-themed Calamity bank by the same manufacturer scored a goal at $22,800. A rare red and blue Union Army colors variation of Stevens Co.’s Artillery mechanical bank fired a salvo at $19,800; and an 1890 J. & E. Stevens Girl Skipping Rope, estimated at $15,000-20,000, crossed into big-money territory via the Internet, at $34,800.
The sale closed on a high note, with over-the-top prices realized by cast-iron doorstops, bookends and novelty items such as bottle openers and doorknockers. Of the latter subcategory, the most expensive lot was a depiction of Sarah W. Symonds’ cottage in Salem, Mass. In near-mint condition, the elaborately detailed door rapper answered one bidder’s call at $1,870 (est. $500-700).
Two doorstops set world auction records in the sale. A highly prized 18in Judd Co. West Wind Girl estimated at $3,000-4,000 inspired a flurry of bids that stopped at $23,100. More than doubling the previous world record for a cast-iron doorstop at auction, a super-rare Littco Products Halloween Girl depicting a trick or treater holding a jack-o-lantern made an astonishing $38,500 against a $7,000-10,000 estimate.
After the sale, Dan Morphy phoned the consignors of the majority of the doorstops, Jan and Watt White. “They said they had watched the auction on eBay Live and were celebrating. They were very happy with the prices and thanked us for the job we had done in advertising and marketing the collection.”
Morphy credited his “hard-working staff” and auctioneers Brent Souder and Dave Conley with the success of the sale, whose official total was $2,020,000. “I consider myself lucky to have one of the finest auction house teams in the business. All our staff members work together very well to run a smooth, professional sale and produce an outstanding auction catalog. Some days they’re here 14 or 15 hours, and I don’t have to ask them to stay. They’re devoted.”
Morphy said he was particularly pleased with the number of absentee bids. “It’s a sign that people have confidence that we’ll execute those bids ethically and competitively. One left bid was for a maximum of $25,000, but the bidder ended up getting the item for $2,200. That’s what brings back the customers.”
Another factor Morphy noted was that the sale had attracted a “long list of new, high-end buyers who were previously unknown to us. Many of them were young buyers, which means there is new blood coming into collecting … something the future of the antiques trade depends upon.”
Morphy Auctions’ Winter Sale will be held Dec. 8-10 at the usual location, the Adamstown Antique Gallery in Denver, Pa., on the Adamstown strip. Headlining the general antiques event is a 40-year collection of art glass lamps and objets d’art (including designs by Tiffany Studios, Pairpoint, Steuben and Handel), as well as syrup dispensers, a 20-year collection of Fisher-Price toys, Santas, belsnickles and other holiday-themed antiques; an 80-year marble collection, more than 20 Icart lithographs and another heaping helping of figural cast-iron doorstops, doorknockers and bottle openers.
Contact: (717) 335-3435
Morphy Auctions’ no-reserve Fall 2005 sale will take place Sept. 1-3 in the saleroom area of the Adamstown Antique Gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517 (on the Adamstown antique strip). Auction sessions will commence at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1 and Friday, Sept. 2, and 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3. The entire inventory may be previewed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. any day leading up to the sale except Wednesdays, which are by appointment only. On all three days of the auction, the preview will begin at 8 a.m.
Bid in person, by phone (please arrange in advance), by fax, absentee, or via the Internet live as the auction is taking place, through LiveAuctioneers.com in association with eBay Live Auctions (www.liveauctioneers.com, www.ebayliveauctions.com).
Contact: Tel. (717) 335-3435, Fax (717) 336-7115