Art-glass lamps, Bakelite jewelry and a spectacular array of antique toys, banks and advertising await bidders in Morphy’s Dec. 11-13 sale
DENVER, Pa. – Morphy Auctions’ remedy for chilly weather is a Dec. 11-13 Winter Sale of 2,900 lots of antique toys, banks, trains and antique advertising, enhanced by the warmth of superior-quality Austrian art-glass lamps and the cheerful colors of vintage Bakelite.
“With each successive auction we’ve expanded our reach into fine and decorative art, bringing in new categories that we know are of interest to antique toy collectors,” said Morphy’s chief operating officer, Dan Morphy. “In most toy collectors’ homes you’ll find beautiful antiques of all types. These collectors have an appreciation and eye for quality and artistic design, and they like to incorporate objects such as art glass and framed early advertising signs into their interior décor. Knowing this, our team makes a concerted effort to obtain consignments of fine and decorative art for our sales.”
The December auction features more than 20 single-owner Austrian art-glass lamps, including a superb figural Peacock lamp whose draped bronze base dramatically replicates a peacock’s showy tail feathers with inset jewels. Adding to its magnificence is a Mont Joye enameled-glass shade with quintessential Art Nouveau butterfly-and-dragonfly motif. Estimated at $6,000-$8,000, the 18-inch stunner is in excellent working condition, as are all of the lamps from this collection.
The lamps’ consignor spent 30 years pursuing the Austrian rarities, which were made in the two decades immediately following the turn of the 20th century. “These lamps have always flown under the radar,” the consignor said. “Not too many people know what they are. They’re very unusual and of incredible quality. From a design standpoint, they were ahead of their time and are now rarer than Tiffany lamps – that’s something that attracted me to them.”
Other lamps the consignor singled out for special attention include a circa-1915 bronze alligator with jewels inset on its back (estimate $5,500-$6,500), a circa-1915 bronze frog and toadstool lamp ($2,000-$2,500), and a second peacock-theme bronze lamp with variegated green marble base and reticulated shade with inset peacock-feather motif.
From the same consignor comes a collection of more than 150 rare and exquisite Bakelite bracelets, necklaces and brooches. A rare, googly-eyed jack-o’-lantern scarecrow brooch with pumpkin head and painted-wood body trimmed with original “ragged” hemp hands and feet, is described by the owner as “my best piece of Bakelite.” It is expected to fetch $5,000-$7,000.
Two Bakelite designs by Martha Sleeper are expected to finish near the top of their category. Both a necklace replicating cigarettes and a necklace incorporating “cigarettes” and “matchsticks” carry a presale estimate of $1,500-$2,000. Other eye-catchers in the beautifully varied collection include a black and cream “bow tie” bracelet ($2,500-$3,000), and a multicolored “bow tie” bracelet ($750-$1,000).
Bakelite jewelry is far from underappreciated, but few may realize how small the production runs were. “This type of jewelry would be made in a short series for high-end department stores like Saks or Bonwit Teller,” the consignor said. “A piece might have cost $5 to $7, which was a lot of money in the mid 1930s. If the jewelry sold, the store would order more. If it didn’t sell, you never saw it again. It really is American folk art, because no two pieces are exactly alike. From 15 feet away, five pins of the same style might look identical, but up close, they were very different and reflected the artistry of the person who might have been working on them on any given day.”
Moving into other categories, more than 400 lots of antique advertising and general store items will be offered in the sale. A top lot is an oval Yuengling Brewery baked-enamel sign promoting porter and ale. Other signs to be auctioned cover such desirable categories as gasoline, tobacco, fishing, soda pop and shaving products. Tobacco pocket tins include a crossover favorite that incorporates a motoring theme: the Taxi Crimp Cut tin.
Toys, banks and trains are always the centerpiece of a Morphy’s quarterly seasonal sale. The Winter event includes 150 mechanical banks, with top lots including a circa 1888-1898 Kyser & Rex Butting Buffalo, Stump Speaker, Magician, a football-theme Calamity bank, Paddy with the Pig, Mason, Picture Gallery and many more. An array of still banks, and more than 100 pieces of figural cast iron – primarily desirable examples of figural doorstops – also will be offered.
An extensive selection of more than 100 German tin wind-up toys will be available, including limos and other autos, 15 penny toys (including woman pushing girl on sled), a large Bing ocean liner with original box, a circa-1930 boxed Marx “Red the Ice Man” ($2,000-$4,000), and a fine early Doll et Cie. Ferris wheel ($1,500-$2,500). Among the 100+ tin character toys are many coveted examples of Disney and Popeye animated stars. Collectors are sure to seize the opportunity to bid on a set of four Japanese-made Popeye tin “waddlers” with their colorful original boxes. The grouping includes Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy and Mean Man (a k a Brutus/Bluto).
More than 200 lots of cast-iron automotive toys are waiting in the wings. Standouts by Hubley include a Royal Circus van transporting animals, a Penn Yan speedboat, and a virtually spotless Say It With Flowers motorcycle van. The latter toy, which retains its original box, was once part of the Perelman Museum’s collection. Morphy Auctions’ general manager, Tom Sage Jr., described the motorcycle as “the nicest, cleanest cast-iron toy I have ever seen – it’s dead mint.” The lot is estimated at $30,000-$50,000.
Morphy’s new Toy Train division, under the supervision of TCA member and train authority Ken Post, makes its debut with an excellent 35-year single-owner collection of toy trains and accessories. Post described the approximately 600-lot grouping as “a wonderful collection with which to end 2008, and surely one of the year’s best. It will appeal to both pre- and postwar train collectors.”
Post predicts the top lot may be the Lionel No. 423E standard-gauge freight set produced in the early 1930s, estimated at $14,000-$18,000. “This is one of the larger sets issued after the stock market crashed in 1929,” Post said. “It’s a 7-car set, which Lionel didn’t normally do. The cars in the set are in boxes from various years, and their journals (in a life-size train, an axle part that rests on the bearings) are of both brass and nickel. This was a set that Lionel probably put together to move along their unsold stock.”
Another train highlight is the postwar Lionel O-gauge Sears promotional set centered around a 2347 Sears Chesapeake & Ohio GP7 locomotive – one of the top 10 Lionel postwar rarities. It is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.
The rarest of all complete postwar Lionel paper accessories is the submarine base. The example in this sale is expected to emerge from the bidding waters at $4,000-$6,000.
Yet another important Lionel lot is the No. 840 accessory powerhouse. The standard-gauge unit is complete with steps, water tower and smokestacks, and comes with all original inserts, original box and labels. Very hard to find, it is entered in the sale with a $5,000-$7,000 estimate.
To satisfy the growing popularity of vintage Star Wars toys, Morphy’s will sell 300 graded action figures on their original cards. Entries span the universe of beings and spacecraft inspired by the genius of George Lucas’ film universe.
Marbles continue to hold strong appeal with enthusiasts who view Morphy sales as de facto collector conventions. “We continue to see very buoyant prices on antique and vintage marbles in our sales,” said Dan Morphy, who singled out an onionskin “Clown” marble, so named for its festive colors, as a contender for top marble lot in the Dec. 11-13 sale. “It is similar to one that we sold in a previous sale for close to $15,000,” said Morphy. “This one is smaller in size and is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.”
Coin-operated machines to be auctioned offer appealing variety this time around, Morphy said. Within the December selection are two Wurlitzer jukeboxes, a circa-1900 Watling (Palmer Cox) Brownies tabletop nickel slot machine ($15,000-$17,500), and a few well-detailed baseball-theme machines.
A division of Geppi’s Entertainment Auctions & Publications, Morphy Auctions will hold its Winter 2008 sale Dec. 11-13 at the Adamstown Antique Gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517 (on the Adamstown antique strip). Auction sessions commence at 12 noon on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 11 and 12; and at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13. 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 or by chance only. An exception is Wednesday, Dec. 10 – the gallery will be open to previewers all day during normal business hours. On all three days of the auction, the preview will begin one hour earlier than usual, at 8 a.m.
All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through eBay Live Auctions.
A hardcover, fully illustrated color catalog may be purchased for $45 postpaid ($50 postpaid to overseas addresses). An electronic version of the catalog may be viewed in its entirety online at or www.morphyauctions.com or www.liveauctioneers.com. For additional information, call 717-335-3435 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.