Published: December 2, 2008
A rare bowfront violano music player, made around 1910 by the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago, and professionally restored in excellent playing condition, soared to $137,500 at a three-day multi-estate sale held October 10‱2 by Showtime Auction Services at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. The violano, serial #195, is one of only 20 still known to exist. The violano had a midi player with wireless system that permits the user to operate it from 90 feet away. Included were three Mills rolls and four midi albums.
The sale, which saw 2,340 lots cross the block over the course of the weekend, featured all three versions of the Mills violano. It might be the first time in auction history that all three Mills violano versions were offered in the same sale.
The featured collector of the sale was Sandy Rosnick, the founder of the Antique Advertising Association of America (AAAA) and a dedicated collector of country store tins in many categories. A top earner from his collection was a rare Mohawk Chief cigar tin with just some minor scuffs and scratches. It once contained nickel cigars, but now sold for $1,800.
A strong crowd of more than 400 people packed the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds. The Friday session was held for in-house bidders only. On Saturday and Sunday, phone and absentee bidding was brisk, while about 2,500 registered bidders participated online. In all, the auction grossed around $2.2 million.
Other high flyers at the sale included a paper sign advertising Buffalo Brewing Company of Sacramento, Calif.; it depicted a nude Indian maiden on the back of a buffalo, in a period walnut frame, which hammered for $45,100. A Brunhoff light-up Coca-Cola advertising sign, inviting patrons to “Lunch With Us” and depicting a fountain glass, fetched $12,650.
An oil painting by the German-born American artist Edmond Osthaus (1858‱928) realized $44,000. The hunting scene, depicting two Irish setters and a pointer, measured 24 inches by 36 inches.
A Watling Cupid trade stimulator, coin-operated with gum vendor, was in excellent condition and with keys, went for $38,500. Also, a limited-production exact replica of a Mademoiselle Zita fortune teller, manufactured by Mike Gorski, in excellent working order, hit $17,050. The original was made by Roovers Bros Mfg, Brooklyn, N.Y., around the turn of the Twentieth Century.
A “Happy Jap” coin-operated gum vendor, circa 1902, went to a determined bidder for $39,000. A wonderful example of gray stoneware pottery†a 4-gallon mechanical butter churn with no chips or cracks –†made $3,000. The piece, 35 inches tall, was made by Jos. Hamilton Mfg of Greensboro, Penn.
Still in remarkable condition, a Buster Brown Shoes tin sign, depicting Tig pulling Buster in a big shoe, measuring 40 inches by 24¾ inches, made by American Art Works Lithographers of Coshocton, Ohio, climbed to $20,900. It was followed by a Boyce Moto Meter die-cut tin flange sign, two-sided, measuring 21½ inches by 18¾ inches and with a bullet hole and a few bb dents, that brought $18,700.
A child’s sled intended as a Christmas present for a little boy in Pennsylvania in 1893 who died before the holidays was retired to an attic. Still in original excellent condition, with a beautiful hand painted rendering of the Finger Lakes in New York, wood with iron runners and geese head pulls, coasted to $5,775.
All prices given include the buyer’s premium charged.
Showtime Auction Services’ next big sale will be held the weekend of March 27′9, also at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.
For more information, www.showtimeauctions.com or 951-453-2415.
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