Morphy Auctions’ Fall sale “skates” to $2 million

Oct. 27, 2006

DENVER, Pa. – Aggressive bidding on rare cast-iron mechanical banks from several consignors and holiday antiques from the prestigious Bob Merck collection brought

$2 million to the table in Morphy Auctions’ Aug. 31, Sept. 1-2 Fall sale. Top lot was a charming Kyser & Rex bank depicting roller skaters on a rink, which surpassed even the loftiest expectations at $132,000 (all prices inclusive of 10 percent buyer’s premium). One of the best examples known of this particular model, the bank depicting skaters in late-19th-century attire, two of them lying on their backs after taking a tumble, had been entered in the sale with a $60,000-$75,000 estimate. As was the case throughout the sale, Internet bidding through LiveAuctioneers played a significant role in the exceptional prices realized on premium lots.

Another bank highlight was a J. & E. Stevens Boy Robbing Bird’s Nest, with exceptional coloration on the floral-decorated tree stump, birds and limb-climbing nest-robber. In near-mint-plus condition, retaining its original wood factory box impressed with the words Tree Bank, and with provenance through the Weider collection, it flew past its $45,000-$60,000 estimate to sell over the phone for $77,000.

Antique advertising again proved its strength in the marketplace. A 1920s Coca-Cola bottle lamp display piece with original metal cap intact was destined to ignore its $5,000-$7,000 estimate, said Morphy’s chief operating officer Dan Morphy. “There was a great deal of interest expressed prior to auction day. It’s a very desirable item and was in very nice, 8-plus condition.” It topped out at $12,100.

Garnering cross-over interest from both tobacciana and baseball collectors, a matted 20 by 10 inch Tuxedo “Perfect Tobacco” ad knocked the ball right out of the park with a winning bid of $7,700 against an estimate of $300-$500. The advertisement featured a pictorial and “autographed” written endorsement from Walter Johnson, pitcher for the Washington Americans. In the ad’s text, Johnson describes Tuxedo as “the one tobacco that contains every desired element.” Bidders obviously agreed.

Vintage Christmas and Halloween items from the Merck collection could do no wrong in this auction. Morphy observed that a number of customers who have come to know his auction house through toy and bank purchases “are now finding new joy from holiday-themed lots.” He continued: “It is not a far leap for a collector to go from admiring an 1890 bank to an understanding that a 1905 Santa Claus figure is just a slightly different reflection of the same era.”

A floor bidder prevailed on the 25-inch belsnickel designed to reflect the holiday gift-giver in circa-1870 Pennsylvania-German style. With glass eyes, wooden teeth and a horsehair beard, the well-detailed figure held a toy sack and many miniature toys. It more than doubled its low estimate to bring $25,300.

Candy containers were very popular in this auction. A hatted, mustachioed “bobby” was clearly in control at $4,400; while a nicely dressed witch riding a mohair black cat with removable composition head and glass eyes flew off at $8,250, almost triple its low estimate.

Collectors dug deeply into their pockets to bid on a host of boxed antique Christmas games. Leading the group was a large and elaborate Parker Bros. Game of Merry Christmas, with outstanding graphics on the box lid. The 1898 game retained its original playing pieces, which added considerably to its cachet and helped boost its selling price to $6,600, more than twice the high estimate.

Boxed playsets continued their winning streak, with a Disney Zorro set estimated at $2,000-$3,000 galloping away to a new owner for an amazing $8,800. Post-war toy expert and Morphy Auctions co-founder Tom Sage Jr., remarked that there is never a shortage of bidders for playsets that are mint and sealed. “It’s rare to find them in that condition, so collectors won’t hold back in bidding when a really nice example comes along.”

Among the many other highlights in the sale were: a Whistling Jim cast-iron doorstop, $14,300; a boxed, battery-operated Kamen (Masked) Rider superhero toy from the late 1960s, $8,250; a Rehberger cast-iron David’s Moving Van with original decal and box, $7,700; and a lithographed tinplate penny toy of a zeppelin and hot air balloon carnival ride, $3,300.

Morphy Auctions’ Winter sale, to be held Dec. 7-9 with real-time Internet bidding through, features antique advertising and general store items, Americana, vintage and antique toys including 300 pieces of pressed steel from the Gene Degraw collection, more than 300 early clocks, art glass, figural match safes and antiques from many other categories. “Unquestionably, the highlight of the sale is a superb private collection of fine art,” said Morphy. “The 60 lots include highly important Pennsylvania Impressionist and other American and European artworks by such artists as E.W. Redfield, Robert Spencer, Andrew Wyeth, Guy Wiggins, Edouard Cortès and Daniel Garber. We are proud to be moving into the fine arts with this very prestigious collection.”

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