Breker powering up for science/tech/toy auction Nov. 11

Breker science

Konrad Zuse’s futuristic cityscape, 1991. Auction Team Breker image


COLOGNE, Germany – Power and motion are the themes of Auction Team Breker’s sale of Science, Technology and Toys on Nov. 11. From hand-turned physical demonstration instruments to early electrical devices, steam-powered models, all manner of mechanical toys and monumental spring-driven musical boxes, the auction includes something for every collector. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

Konrad Zuse’s futuristic cityscape of 1991 (above) paints a picture of a world pulsing with energy in hues of orange and electric blue (estimate: €8,000–€15,000 / $9,400–$17,600) – a fitting image for the inventor of the first programmable electro-mechanical computer. Born in 1910, Zuse studied architecture and engineering at the Technical University of Berlin-Charlottenburg. He began designs for the very first self-programming computer as early as 1934, leading to the “Z1” in 1938, the “Z2” in 1940 and his breakthrough – the “Z3” – 1941.

Zuse described his profession as representing the “ideal combination of artist and engineer” and his artistic work is witness to his deep-seated interest in architecture, mathematics and space as a concrete as well as an abstract property.

The 200-strong section of early calculating machines, combining precision mechanics with striking visual designs, is highlighted by a stunning, circular Mercedes “Gauss” stepped-disc calculator (below), 1905, by Christel Hamann of Berlin (est. €7,000–€10,000 / $8,200–$12,000).


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Mercedes ‘Gauss’ calculator, 1905. Auction Team Breker image


Another work combining technology and artistry is a linden wooden sewing machine sculpture (est. €8,000–€12,000 / $9,400–$14,000) by New York-based Japanese artist Fumio Yoshimura. The simple, pared-down lines of Yoshimura’s work, which he described as representing the “ghosts of the original objects,” is reminiscent of the Pop Art era.


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Linden wood sewing machine by Fumio Yoshimura, circa 1972. Auction Team Breker image


Le Cochon Electriseur (The Electrifying Pig) electric shock machine is part of a remarkable collection of figural penny arcade machines produced in France and Germany at a time when the slogan “Electricity is Life” could be found on electric-magnetic medical devices. These devices claimed to cure all manner of maladies from mild aches and pains to asthma, obesity, insomnia and paralysis (est. €20,000– €30,000 / $23,500–$35,200).


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Le Cochon Electriseur (The Electrifying Pig) arcade coin-op device, 1898. Auction Team Breker image


On a brighter note, the Stork Chocolate Vendor by MUM-Automaten GmbH of Dresden is another rare machine in Auction Team Breker’s sale (est. €20,000–€30,000 / $24,000–$35,000.


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Stork chocolate vendor, 1905. Auction Team Breker image


Fresh from the toy chest comes a large-scale Ride-in Morgan Model Car with its original internal combustion engine (est. €3,500–€5,000 / $4,100–$5,900).


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Ride-in Morgan 1:2 scale child’s car with 1-cylinder engine, circa 1970. Auction Team Breker image


The sale is rounded off by an exciting range of early office antiques, highlighted by a rare miniature Trebla (“Darling”) typewriter by Sullivan & Co. GmbH of Berlin (est. €2,500 – €4,000 / $2,900 – $4,700) and an American “M-209 B” Cryptographic Machine of 1944 (est. €700 – €1,200 / $820 – $1,400).