DENVER, Pa. – Once found at saloons, hotel lobbies and oceanfront boardwalks all across America, antique coin-op machines are quaint reminders of an era when radio, television and video games were still mysteries of the future. For mere pocket change, turn-of-the-century fun-seekers could enjoy an entire afternoon of entertainment. By simply dropping a penny, nickel or quarter into the slot of a coin-operated machine, they could have their fortunes told, watch primitive motion pictures, listen to rhapsodic tunes from a mechanical band, or try their luck at any number of gambling devices or games of chance.
Featured: Superlative circa-1904 Caille Bros. 5-cent Roulette floor model slot machine with seven coin-slots, estimated at $200K-$300K
Morphy’s in Denver, Pennsylvania, has catered to collectors of antique mechanical music, gambling and vending machines since opening their doors in 1997. Their next big coin-op specialty sale, which also includes antique advertising, general store, soda fountain and soda pop collectibles, is slated for November 3-5 and features more than 1,600 choice lots. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers. While it only takes pocket change to operate the machines, it might take a walletful of Benjamins to bring home some of the rare beauties entered in the auction. Many are fresh to the market.
A spotlight-stealer manufactured around 1904, a Caille Bros. 5-cent Roulette floor-model slot machine (shown at top of page) presents in a rich quartered-oak cabinet with nickel-plated iron castings and seven coin-slots. This marvelous, untouched original example has been in the same collection since its purchase from The Las Vegas Club in the 1970s.
“Original machines of this caliber do not come to auction often, and this one is the finest original Caille Roulettes we have seen. It deserves the description ‘best of the best,’” said Morphy’s CEO Tom Tolworthy, a coin-op expert who also cataloged the November 3-5 auction. The stately Caille machine is expected to make $200,000-$300,000.
In addition to top-of-the-line rarities, desirable slots will be available at more accessible price points, such as a pre-Caille 5-cent “Puck” floor wheel upright slot machine. In great working order with an appealing wheel facade, it plays and pays very well. Estimate: $12,000-$20,000.
A Mills Novelty Co., musical upright slot machine with an eight-way coin head was produced between 1900 and 1902 and has so many interesting details, it begs closer study. Housed in a beautiful dark-stained quarter-swan oak cabinet, it is finished with carved details and decorative nickel-plated cabriole claw-foot legs and iron castings throughout. Estimate: $12,000-$24,000
Curious about the future? Perhaps a consultation with Roovers “Madam Zita” would be in order. The 1-cent fortune-teller machine features a highly detailed Madam Zita automaton dressed in original period Victorian clothing. The figure is one of few known that are original and in flawless working order. Zita still takes pleasure in going through her succession of actions: turning her head, grabbing a fortune, pulling a lever and dispensing the card down a chute to the customer. Overall a wonderful example, with keys, Madam Zita foresees an auction-day selling price of $25,000-$50,000.
Although not as “experienced” as Madam Zita, International Mutoscope’s circa-1954 “Mystic Swami” – which is similar to Mutoscope’s “Zelda” – is also in the fortune-telling business. When a coin is inserted, the turbaned, eccentrically dressed Swami becomes animated. His head and eyes lower as his hands move slowly over a crystal ball; then a fortune card is dispensed. Swami is housed in a beautiful turquoise cabinet with lively art depicting a mystical man playing a horn and “charming” an entranced vertical snake. Professionally restored and in perfect working order, it is estimated at $15,000-$20,000.
A spectacular turn-of-the-20th-century timekeeper, Steinle’s Automatic Wonder Sandusky Clock is visual marvel to behold. Based on the Nuremberg Clock in Germany and built over a 20-year period by German immigrant Frank Steinle, the 12ft-tall automated clock was designed with five themes: the races of man, the four periods of life, angels, patriotism, and religion. In need of restoration, as it has not been run since the 1980s, this amazing creation also contains a pipe organ designed to play popular tunes. The auction estimate is $20,000-$40,000.
Music machines can be seen at every turn of Morphy’s spacious gallery, much to the delight of collectors. A circa early 1920s Mills Deluxe Violano-Virtuoso with dual violins boasts a beautiful North American quartered oak cabinet with glass panes through which the automatic violin-playing machine can be viewed. The Violano-Virtuoso, designed for Mills Novelty Co., by a brilliant young inventor named Henry Sandell, was designated one of the greatest scientific inventions of its age. It’s easy to see why. The two violins play simultaneously and flawlessly, producing a thrilling sound. Estimate: $40,000-$80,000. Also vying for attention is an AMC Co., Station Box with drum, castanets, mandarins playing on bells, and dancing dolls. Estimate: $7,000-$15,000
Displaying stunning artistry, a Komet “Victoria” upright coin-operated disc music box which is accompanied by 10 discs (21 5/8in size). With its trademark Komet-logo front, carved columns and original etched glass, this early entertainer is estimated at $5,000-$15,000.
From the modern era, a circa-1942 Wurlitzer “Victory” jukebox with gorgeous Art Deco styling has three slots to accommodate nickels, dimes or quarters. Its original cloth grille, glass and other panels are intact, and the selection area even retains original song tags for such pop classics as Please Mr. Postman, Lonely Teenager, Sh-Boom and others. Estimate: $4,000-$8,000
A top highlight of the antique advertising section is a large, 98¼-inch-wide reverse-painted glass sign for the legendary Rock Island Railroad. Decorated with mother-of-pearl and other “jewel” inlay, the impressive historical artwork is marked for the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Rocky Mountain Limited Railroad, and Engine No. 1101. Truly a museum-quality antique that take pride of place in any railroadiana or antique advertising collection, it has an auction destination of $20,000-$60,000.
Nearly every imaginable beverage of America’s past, whether beers, ales, whiskeys or soft drinks, is represented in the opening-day session. Vividly illuminating the selection is an authentic circa-1908 Coca-Cola-made lamp shade of multi-hued glass with the soft drink brand’s name in trademark flowing script. The oversize shade measuring 21 inches in diameter is similar to an example held in Coca-Cola’s Atlanta archives. Graded a strong 8.5 out of 10, this stunning shade is estimated at $3,000-$10,000.
Morphy’s Nov.3-5, 2022 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction will start at 9 a.m. EDT on all three days. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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