Published: May 25, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Rich Penn Auctions
WATERLOO, IOWA – As the United States cautiously steps out of the Covid-19 world, auctioneer Rich Penn knew that even though the pandemic has complicated every part of our lives, collectors are still out there and hungry for treasures to feed their collections. His answer was to assemble a rich treasure trove in the form of a three-day auction, May 14-16, at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center to sate the appetite of any collector. “All sales are crazy for different reasons,” Penn told Antiques and The Arts Weekly shortly afterwards, still dealing with the aftermath of details following a big sale with no reserves. It was “crazy” in a good way, however, selling 100 percent, he added, grossing in the region of $1.2 million, though numbers were not finalized yet at press time.
There were nearly 2,000 lots presented in the massive “buffet,” starting with about 500 lots of toys, including many from late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century makers. Buddy L toys provided the main course on May 14, including more than 250 lots for pressed steel collectors, with many meticulously restored. More than 150 lots of tin windup toys, along with more cast iron toys were presented.
There was a large selection of country store and soda fountain items, including a sizeable collection for Coca-Cola collectors, such as soda machines, porcelain, tin and cardboard signs, rare calendars, toys and novelties. Collectors of soda advertising were treated to some choice examples, while collectors of breweriana could bid on early trays, signs and more.
About 150 bidders competed in person in the convention center hall, while a total of 7,514 registered bidders duked it out online, on the phones and with left bids.
Vying for top lot status over the three days, each finishing at $17,220, were Michael Jackson’s owned and stage-worn “History Tour” glove – a white spandex glove overlaid to the back hand and fingers with rows of stitched flat back Swarovski rose crystals – and a rare Coca-Cola coin-operated vending machine, circa 1941, which would dispense a bottle when 5 cents was inserted. It was only produced for one year and had been professionally restored to working condition. In fact, nearly all of the soda vending machines offered were in restored condition, according to Penn, who said, “This is the largest and nicest collection of soda machines we’ve had the opportunity to market in more than a decade.”
Perhaps the most interesting collection offered over the sale’s three days was the Michael Jackson collection. The group of about 100 lots came from Jackson’s personally anointed “Maker of Dreams,” Rob Swinson. Swinson was the contract manager for building many of the rides in Jackson’s Neverland Valley as well as a longtime client of Rich Penn’s auctions through his collections of country store items and advertising. He was a close friend of Jackson’s and wrote a book memorializing his time and work at Neverland. While there, Swinson became good friends with Michael and was given many of the pieces that were offered at auction. The Michael Jackson glove was accompanied by a letter on MJJ Productions stationery dated February 20, 1998. From Rosemary Chavira in response to a request for an item from Mr Jackson, it reads, “Enclosed please find one of Mr Jackson’s crystal rehearsal gloves from the previous History World Tour performances.” The Penn sales, with nearly 2,000 lots, all without reserve, presented a rare opportunity to own many personal items that were stage-worn by the King of Pop, seven of which rose within the top ten lots on the second day.
Day one offered 700 lots, all without reserve, and the lineup included advertising, country store, Americana, toys, mechanical and still banks, cap guns, western toys, Native American textiles and pottery, coins, currency and gambling tokens and more.
The top selling lot on the first day was a circa 1959-60 Fender Sunburst Jazzmaster guitar, serial #50004, which was taken by 14 bids to $5,535. With a chocolate brown/amber “Sunburst” body, it featured rosewood finger board and three-layer tortoiseshell pickguard, original Fender shoulder strap and a later fitted case.
Next up in the day was a J&E Stevens cast iron mechanical bank, “Bill E Grin,” circa 1900, which rolls its eyes and sticks out its tongue when coin is inserted. With original paint and standing 4½ inches high, the bank deposited $4,613 into the consignor’s account.
Patriotism took hold in the next four highest selling lots. A Native American Navajo woven rug, circa 1930s, with a patriotic pictorial of buildings, sheep and foliage below two American flags flanking a bald eagle, was bid to $4,613. The same price was posted for a circa 1880 Civil War veterans 35-star American parade flag of printed cotton with inscriptions for “Bull Run / 71st New York Vol. INFT./ Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville/ Gettysburg.” It came out of the Dr Peter J. Keim collection. Keim’s collection also contributed a Civil War period 34-star American parade flag commemorating Kansas statehood, circa 1861, at $4,305 and another 34-star American flag with hand-sewn linen stars in rows of 7,7,6,7,7, on a wool bunting canton, hand-sewn wool bunting stripes and linen sleeve hoist, that brought $3,998.
Cartoon art by Disney’s Carl Barks (1901-2000) provided comic relief, with Donald Duck appearing above and inscription “Our best Wishes Donald Duck & Clarence Nash” on lower left. Nash was the original character voice of Donald Duck. Signed by Barks on lower right and accompanied with a certificate of authenticity, the 11-by-8½-inch drawing on paper took $3,383.
Additional highlights on day one included a Sino-Tibetan room-sized Oriental silk rug, tightly hand-woven in an Isfahan design with scrolled florals and central medallion commanding $2,768; a rare World War II “Welcome Home” banner with a stylized eagle on crossed American flags from the Keim collection going out at $2,460; and a Native American Hopi pottery olla painted by Loretta Silas Poleahla with red and black polychrome bird motifs on a buff ground, signed on the base, also realizing $2,460.
Day two was ruled by the Michael Jackson memorabilia and rare coin-ops. The second highest priced Jackson lot was his “Billie Jean” stage-worn jacket that he wore while performing the first leg of the Bad tour in 1987. Covered in black sequins, the waist-length jacket was one of only five made for Jackson by Bill Whitten for the Bad tour. With a “Bill Whitten” red circle label on the inside, it earned $14,760. The jacket was given to Mo Morrow by Jackson in 1987 and was subsequently purchased by an acquaintance of Morrow, Christof Dioniso, then by the sale’s consignor. Accompanying the lot was a signed letter from Morrow, who worked on the Bad tour along with Benny Collins with details how the jacket was given to him by Jackson. Also included were two Michael Jackson World Tour 1987 VIP all access passes, a photocopy of a picture of Morrow and Collins with Jackson on the tour and a signed letter from Dioniso describing his purchase from Morrow in 1996.
Then there were the shoes that Jackson wore on stage for the History World Tour in 1997 at Wembley Arena-London. Autographed twice, the Florsheim Imperial black leather footwear with gilt buckles, size 9½ D, made $7,380. The right shoe was signed on its sole “My Shoes Michael Jackson Billie Jean” and the left sole was signed “All My Love Michael Jackson.” There were more stage-worn items, including suits, fedora and loafers, eagerly snapped by fans and collectors.
Among the day’s top selling coin-ops was a rare circa 1950 vending machine that for 10 cents would vend four flavored drinks – surprisingly with no Coke among them. They were plain and chocolate milk and orange and pineapple-orange flavored drinks. Restored to working condition, it left the gallery at $10,455. Fetching $9,225 was a coin-operated Orange Crush 10-cent vending machine, circa 1958. A coin-operated pinball machine combined games with celebrity. It was The Rolling Stones, 75 cent play machine released in 2011 that appeared to have never been on location. In excellent, playable condition, it racked up a final $6,150.
Cruising into day three, the sale offered more coin-op vending machines and coolers, plus choice automobilia porcelain, metal and light-up signs, clocks, thermometers and such.
In addition to the rare Coca-Cola vending machine mentioned above, bidders also thirsted for a rare 10 cent Frostie Root Beer vending machine from the 1950s, which sold for $8,610, a 5-cent Coca-Cola ice cooler, circa 1940s, the smallest coin-operated Coca-Cola cooler made, manufactured by Industrial Carton Coolers, Lincoln, Neb., which brought $7,380; and a sleek, blue 10-cent Pepsi-Cola vending machine, circa 1952-53, which also realized $7,380.
Rarer still than the coin-op vending machines that dispensed bottled drinks was a Galaxie soda fountain syrup dispenser. The circa 1960s free-standing machine measured 64 by 36 by 31 inches. It had a Scotsman premix ice maker, a cold plate for four soda brands and came complete with a light-up top sign. There was evidence of use and some rust, but that did not deter bidders from pushing it to $6,765.
The Coca-Cola brand was again represented by a 10-cent machine, circa 1958, that changed hands for $6,150, while a circa 1955 Pepsi-Cola 10-cent vending machine and a rare Dr Pepper soda fountain ice cooler, circa 1955, with embossed front, sides and lid, manufactured by Atlas Standard, circa 1940s, each sold for the same amount.
Among noteworthy porcelain signs, a large, vertical Atlantic Aviation Motor Oil painted metal sign with a wonderful airplane graphic and in its original wood frame, circa 1930, ascended to $6,765, while a hardware store paint sign for “Patton’s Sun-Proof Paint, Made in USA, ‘Has Given Service & Satisfaction Since 1855,'” found a buyer at $6,150.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Rich Penn auctions offer multiple bidding options, including absentee, telephone and live bidding online through LiveAuctioneers. The next sales are a car auction on September 17-18 and another country store and advertising sale November 12-14.
For information, 319-291-6688 or www.richpennauctions.com.
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