NEW HAMBURG, Ontario, Canada – In Miller & Miller’s online-only Music Machines, Clocks & Canadiana auction, held March 20, four of the top five lots as clocks in a sale that grossed $418,065 Canadian ($331,625 US). All prices to follow are in Canadian dollars and include buyer’s premium. Online bidding was provided by LiveAuctioneers. The 646-lot auction featured four outstanding collections: the Cathy and Gerry Koolen collection of Dutch clocks, tower clocks and music machines; the Robert Russell collection of Canadian Pequegnat clocks; the John Wine collection of fine Canadian furniture; and the Ben Lennox collection of rare, fresh-to-market items ranging from early historic trade signs to rare seltzers.
Top-lot honors went to a French Paul O’Dobey wire tower clock made in 1899 and restored in 2007. The clock featured a three-train rack, snail strike mechanism and pinwheel remontoire. It originally came from a monastery and featured an “angelus strike,” sounding twelve times on a small bell to signal the monks to prayer three times a day. The clock changed hands for $11,800.
Two clocks each posted prices of $7,080. One was a Nathan Hale Vermont banjo clock, made in America in 1840. The 8-day, time only clock had a movement similar to Willard, with tabs on the corners. The other was an English William Potts & Sons tower clock from 1899, with gravity escapement, original dial and electro-wind (no modification to movement, manual wind intact).
In addition to clocks, Canadiana and music machines, the catalog also boasted pottery and stoneware, folk art, advertising and trade signs, toys, breweriana, paintings, fine art and more. A collection of game pie dishes — 16 dishes in all, by makers that included Gerbing & Stephan, Wedgwood, Staffordshire and George Skey — brought a combined $12,744 for the collection.
“A game pie dish is just an old piece of pottery until someone knows that these unglazed dishes were intended to emulate pastry during the flour shortages of the early 19th century,” said Ethan Miller of Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. “The collection brought twice what we had expected.”
Miller said the American-made Birge & Fuller “Wagon Spring” clock from the 1840s was another object that told a story and brought high dollars as a result. “The maker wanted the benefits of a compact brass spring driven movement without those clunky weights,” Miller said. “Unlike in Europe, the brass springs were not available. A patented “wagon spring” fusée style movement was the compromise – American ingenuity at its finest. It ended up bringing $3,540.”
Ethan Miller did note that some news was disappointing. “Canadian furniture and wooden trade signs performed well, but we saw evidence that the market for clocks overall is down,” he said. “Though Koolen tower clocks exceeded all estimates, the Pequegnat clocks fell short in many cases. Advertising remained red-hot, while signs shattered estimates.”
A Wurlitzer Model 147 military band organ, made in America in 1916, very rare and including an assortment of Style 150 music rolls, finished at $5,605. “The Wurlitzer Band Organ sold well under estimate,” Miller observed. “This thundering crowd-pleaser has all of the bells and whistles. It might have performed better before outdoor gatherings for parades were cancelled.”
In the Canadian furniture category, a Drumbo (Ontario) painted pine sawbuck table from the 1830s, pictured in Howard Pain’s book, The Heritage of Upper Canadian Furniture, gaveled for $7,080; while an 1830s Quebec one-door commode, with full mortise and tenon construction and having paneled sides and door, brought $5,605.
A Wellesley (Ontario) painted pine “Schrank” wardrobe made from painted pine in the 1850s, featuring a subtle fern motif in the door panels, achieved $5,605. Also, a Canadian Niagara Falls Railway Suspension Bridge wood sign from the 1880s (“Travel over and back for 10 cents”) sold at $4,720.
Clocks from Canada included a Pequegnat “Barley Twist” variant hall clock from the 1920s housed in a quarter sawn oak case and featuring 8-day weight-driven time and strike movement ($4,720); and a 1930s Pepsi-Cola neon clock made exclusively for the French-Canadian market, with a hand-painted dial featuring Pepsi’s early “double-dot” logo and lighted dial ($4,425).
An early 20th-century Seth Thomas No. 2 railway clock in a walnut case, reportedly from the Grand Trunk Railway station in Stratford, Ontario, Canada but made in the U.S., commanded $3,540. On to Dutch clocks, where a B. Eijsbouts tower clock made in 1905 for a church in Meliskerke, The Netherlands, cast steel with brass pinions, 40in tall, realized $4,720.
A Dutch Zaanske Klok wall clock, made between 1690-1725, in a walnut case with barley twist columns, rope drive time, strike and alarm, crown wheel escapement and heart-shaped spokes, rose to $3,835. Also, a Dutch animated tall case Klok clock made in Amsterdam in 1770, with plated movement, quarter striking, moon dial and date aperture, made $5,900.
Absentee and live bidding was provided by LiveAuctioneers.
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