Published: September 12, 2006
Athenaeus by the Seventeenth Century English writer Ben Jonson, with his signature and writings in the margins, sold for $5,775 at a three-day estate sale conducted by Philip Weiss Auctions this summer.
“This book would have been valuable without Jonson’s signature, but the fact that it was signed and had notations in the margins made it extremely desirable to collectors,” said Philip Weiss, owner. It was a standout lot in a sale that saw more than 2,000 items change hands over the course of a long but happy weekend.”
The first session, Friday, July 14, featured 400-plus lots, mostly vintage posters and advertising items. Session two, Saturday, July 15, saw more than 800 rare books change hands. The third session, Sunday, July 16, also featured more than 800 lots, most of them toy soldiers, trains, toys and dolls.
This copy of Athenaeus was published in Lyon, France, in the late 1600s. It comprised two volumes in one large-size folio, which was calf rebacked with new endpapers. An engraved portrait of Jonson was included. Both volumes had been signed by the author, with his usual motto, “Tanquam Explorator,” in the upper right corners.
Leaping forward a few centuries, one of the most intriguing items to come up for bid was a 4 1/2 –by-7-inch photo of Harry Houdini, signed by the legendary magician and illusionist, $2,860. He wrote “My Birthday” next to the date, “April 6, 1922,” and signed his name vertically along the side in a bold hand.
A first-edition of Picasso Toreros by Jaime Sabartes, 1961, hammered for $2,420. What made the volume all the more valuable was the fact that it came with four original lithographs by Picasso himself. The plates and lithos were in outstanding condition; only the front hinge was showing some wear.
An Art Nouveau poster from around 1890–1900 titled “Grands Magasins de Pygmalion – Exposition de Jouets” went for $3,740. The poster, measuring 46 1/8 by 33 1/4 inches was linen backed and depicted children in bonnets and marching regalia, walking in unison.
A pair of original “Gertie the Dinosaur” drawings by Winsor McCay, done sometime in the 1920s, was a crowd favorite, finally selling to a determined bidder for $2,200. Both were drawn on 5 by 6 1/2 inch letterhead from the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn, N.Y. One had been previously folded and showed a horizontal crease.
Vintage dolls are a staple at Philip Weiss sales, and this one was no exception. Leading the way was a Kestner 20-inch Gibson Girl, #172, circa 1900, $3,850. The doll, in excellent condition, featured a bisque shoulder head on pin-jointed body with bisque hands. She had an old lady dress, blue sleepy eyes and a blonde mohair wig.
One of the stars of the Sunday session was a set of three Buddy L airplanes, with hanger (circa late 1920s), which sold for $1,760. The steel-pressed planes all showed some edge and corner wear, with scuffs and scratches, but the Buddy L name is so coveted among collectors it almost did not matter. The hanger measured 20 by 7 ¼ inches.
A black Mickey Mouse clock radio made by the Emerson Radio Company in the 1930s garnered $1,100. The price was buoyed by the presence of silver cutouts, depicting Disney characters, as well as the scarce Emerson Radio Mickey Mouse pinback button. A fan of Mickey Mouse collectibles submitted the winning bid.
Rounding out the toys category were two items of interest: a J.&E. Stevens Co. Jonah and the Whale mechanical bank, circa 1880–1890, in perfect working order and with about 90 percent of its original paint, $3,080; and a large-scale pressed steel race car from the 1940s, motorized, 18 inches long, with no engine but a great early design, $2,090.
All prices quoted include a ten percent buyer’s premium. For information, www.philipweissauctions.com. To consign an item or a collection, 516-594-0731.
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