Auction start time 9AM
Morphy’s to host the largest-ever auction of antique and vintage marbles on Dec. 3, featuring the Paul Baumann collection
Marbles are essentially miniature works of art in glass, and the number of collectors who are drawn to them just keeps on growing, said Dan Morphy, whose Pennsylvania auction house has become a virtual collectors’ clubhouse for the specialty hobby. On Dec. 3, his company will conduct its largest-ever offering of marbles – a total of 762 lots. As has become the custom, the event is likely to attract a throng of collectors from several states, all keen to see what sorts of fresh finds have come out of collections for this particular sale.
“We’ve had collectors come from as far away as California to attend our marble sales,” Morphy said. “Those who can’t attend in person – including the many Europeans who collect marbles – are always quick to sign up for phone lines or to bid via the Internet.”
Morphy – himself a longtime buyer and seller of marbles – believes the Dec. 3 event may very well gross in excess of $300,000, noting that several marbles are poised to reach $20,000 apiece.
The renowned Paul Baumann collection is the auction’s centerpiece and comprises the first 430 lots of the sale. The collection was started in the summer of 1952, when Baumann was a mere five years old. Baumann’s parents were antique collectors who enjoyed prowling through shops, but they worried about their son’s short attention span and wanted to think of a way to keep him occupied. The solution Paul’s dad devised was to give the boy a portion of his own marble collection, with instructions to keep an eye out for similar types of marbles during their shopping expeditions.
“That was what sparked a lifetime of marble collecting and expert scholarship on the subject,” said Morphy. “Paul was way ahead of his time. He wrote a book about marbles that was released in 1969 and has been reprinted several times, with 44,000 copies sold in all. That’s unheard of for what was such a narrow specialty for so many years.”
One of the most highly prized pieces in the Baumann collection is a 2¼ inch diameter onionskin peacock lutz marble with mica. Its medley of colors includes purple, orange, yellow, blue, pink, red, green, turquoise and baby blue; and as described in the auction catalog, it contains “large chunks” of mica and lutz. The consignor purchased the marble over 50 years ago at a high-end antique show in Chicago, paying $75 for it. Its surface is in “fabulous” condition, and overall, the marble is graded 9.7 to 9.8. In the Dec. 3 auction, it is estimated at $10,000-$20,000, which Morphy described as “a very nice return on the consignor’s investment.”
The only Christensen Agate No. 00 Guinea Marble boxed set Dan Morphy has ever seen is another highlight of the sale. The box contains 13 blue guineas and 12 clear specimens. The set was found in a trailer in Cambridge, Ohio, and belonged to John Early, a marble grader for the Christensen Agate Company. In 9.6 condition, it is estimated at $9,000-$12,000.
A rare and beautiful amber glass latticino swirl marble, 1 5/8 inches in diameter, has 14 equally spaced birdcage latticino bands just beneath its surface. “This marble is extremely rare to find in this size and condition,” said Morphy. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000.
Another rarity is the 2¼-inch single-pontil end-of-day marble with two opposing red and white panels and other opposing panels of turquoise and white, and turquoise, yellow and white. Graded 9.8 to 9.9, it is cataloged with a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.
Many collectors pursue sulphide marbles, which contain suspended figures of animals, people, numerals, fantasy characters or objects of various types within the glass. The Dec. 3 sale features a wonderful sulphide with the figure of a court jester, or possibly a Punchinello or Punch character [from Punch and Judy], seated with outspread legs. “This is one of the best figures we’ve seen in a sulphide,” said Morphy, who estimates it will sell for $2,500-$3,500.
The sale contains not only rare, early marbles exhibiting the creativity of past generations of artisans, but also a fine assortment of contemporary designs, with desirable examples by Matthews and Beetem.
“We expect an exciting day of bidding on December 3rd,” Morphy said. “Provenance from the Baumann collection adds a premium to any marble, and collectors are well aware of that. Paul is one of the most respected and most knowledgeable collectors in the marble hobby. Morphy’s is greatly honored to be auctioning his collection.” Morphy’s marble auction featuring the Paul Baumann collection will take place on Saturday, Dec. 3, commencing at 9 a.m. Eastern time. All forms of bidding will be available, including live at the gallery, by phone or absentee, and live via the Internet through Morphy Live (sign up at www.morphyauctions.com) or LiveAuctioneers.com.