Published: January 24, 2023
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Freedom Auction Company
SARASOTA, FLA. — Advertising, signs, coins, firearms and more crossed the block at Freedom Auction Company on January 14. Although no sale total was disclosed for the 838-lot sale, owner Brian Hollifield put the sell-through rate at approximately 95 percent. More than 6,000 bidders were registered and there were four online platforms employed.
The group of tobacciana in the Joseph J. Hruby collection was top lot, achieving $15,325 and going to a private collector in Pennsylvania. Hruby’s collection was billed in the Guinness World Record Book as the largest collection of cigar bands in the world. More than 250,000 examples were sold in the auction among 25 lots.
Hollifield provided some biographical information on Hruby, who was born in 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio. “In the early 1920s, a local pharmacy ran a contest offering a prize to whoever could collect the most cigar bands. Joe found the street gutters a treasure trove of discarded cigar bands and was fascinated by the variety of bands he discovered. His collection had begun, and he completely forgot to enter the contest! Over the 80 years that followed, Hruby developed correspondences with other cigar band collectors around the world while working full time for 50 years in the offices of the Nickel Plate Railroad and then its successor, the Norfolk & Western Railway. During World War II Hruby served in the US Army in Europe. Upon his return he continued mostly “trading” bands with other members of the many cigar band clubs and publications that were so popular at the time. It was not uncommon for Hruby to be cited and referenced in newspapers, periodicals and books. In 1988, Hruby earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest cigar band collection. At the time of Hruby’s death in 2005, his collection had grown to more than 200,000 different cigar bands dating as far back as 1895 and almost that number of extra bands. Quite an achievement for a gentleman who never smoked a cigar!”
An extremely expensive toy for children of wealthy families in the Roaring Twenties, a 1929 Nash fendered pedal car by Steelcraft even had an optional fog light and fender-mounted horn. With separate headlights and license plate — even a “boy” driver and accessory flags — the 36-inch-long car was propelled to $2,500.
Vintage slot machines — especially those with sleek Art Deco styling — are a favorite of man caves. This sale offered several, led by a Jennings Standard Chief, which realized $2,500. The unit in original paint and case finish had been serviced and was fully functional and included its key.
A 1940s Mills Black Cherry 5-cent slot machine also had been serviced and was fully functional. Including original Mills keys, original paint and case finish, it paid out $1,500.
Another Mills machine, this one a 1939 Jewel Bell 25-cent slot, went out at $1,000.
Extremely difficult to find, a Buddy L red Baby International Harvester truck pulled in $2,500. Circa 1927, the 24-inch-long truck was in restored condition with working steering, polished aluminum wheels.
Also by Buddy L was an outdoor train with tender and cattle cars and caboose. Selling for $938, the set was in original condition with some chipped stickers remaining. The engine had some black paint enhancement. And the original two cattle cars had one in good used condition while the other was a corroded original. The engine measured 25 inches and the tender was 20 inches.
Advertising in the form of vintage signs is always a staple element of such sales and this was no exception. A vertical self-framed Goodrich Tires sign, 18 by 78 inches, made an attractive presentation and earned $1,875.
There was also a rare porcelain Jenney Super-Aero sign in the form of an original, new old stock, unmounted gas pump plate. It advertised Jenney Super-Aero aviation fuel and was bid to $1,625.
A rakish Wolf’s Head Motor Oil sign sold for $938. The two-sided porcelain sign featured good gloss with minor scratching and wear. It was marked A-M, dated 1970 and measured 30 by 23 inches.
Two other notable lots in the sale would make for compelling shelf-display in any den. One was a salesman’s sample of a ball hog oiler, something you don’t find every day. It’s not a device to lubricate bowling balls but a mechanical device employed on farms to be used by hogs to provide relief from insects and offer skin protection. This 3½-inch-high example was very sculptural and rolled to $1,500. The other was a difficult-to-find Universal Frankenstein tin toy battery op with box and remote, which trampled its $700-$1,100 estimate to finish at $2,250. The highly sought-after toy by Marx Toys, made in Japan, came with its two-page instruction sheet. Alas, in spite of new batteries, the controller did not operate the toy. So it stood silently menacing at 12¾ inches high.
Currency highlights included a roll of 20 uncirculated Morgan silver dollars, 10 each of 1885 and 1886 coins. They brought $1,375. A huge collection of certified US gold dollar coins, more than 200, sold for the same amount. They covered the 2007-2015 years and included presidential and Sacagewea examples.
Any Boomer of a certain age would appreciate the 1960s Schwinn Stingray fastback bicycle that sported the original glitter banana seat and all components. The fresh estate find was all original and sped to $938.
Gun collectors chased a Gebruder Merkel Suhl shotgun, a three-barrel combination gun in 16 gauge and 9mm, to $875.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next sale, devoted to circus memorabilia, is slated for February 5. For information, 941-725-2166 or www.freedomauctions.com.
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