Published: June 24, 2008
Condition was everything at Morphy’s $2.6 million spring toy auction, with a battle royale waged for premier examples of early American toys and folk art. The April 4‵ sale was topped by a spectacular circa 1885 William Demuth & Co. smoking Punch cigar advertising figure, which blazed past its presale estimate to knock down $207,000.
Exquisite craftsmanship, eye-pleasing original paint and humorous subject matter combined to make the 18-inch zinc counter display of a cigar-smoking Punch character the sale’s blue-ribbon lot. The figure was described in Morphy’s catalog as being the “best example of only a few known.” Enhanced by its provenance through the L.C. Hegarty collection, as the beautifully preserved figure went to $207,000, Dan Morphy, chief operating officer, said, “It’s just great.”
“We were especially pleased with the early American bell toys,” Morphy said. “Some came with provenance from the L.C. Hegarty collection. Those toys were in great demand.” Standouts in the group included a Merriam 15-inch cast iron and tin depiction of a boy standing on a belled platform pulled by a horse. In near-mint condition, it achieved $47,150.
Morphy reported the “strongest turnout ever” for antique and vintage marbles. “There were six marbles that brought more than $5,000 apiece,” Morphy said. The star of the category was a 17/16 -inch Indian Mag Lite marble with deep cobalt-blue coloration and crisp outer bands in a rainbow of colors. In near-perfect condition, it rolled to $9,200.
Several examples of the coveted Kyser & Rex Roller Skating mechanical bank have come to auction over the past few years, but †with provenance from the L.C. Hegarty and Stanley Sax collections †this one was in excellent condition. With appealing action that propels skaters around the rink after a coin is deposited, the circa 1880s money box glided easily to $184,000.
A wonderful selection of rare figural skittles (ninepins) sets was offered: a set of nine Steiff animal skittles with three original striped-wood balls sold for $18,400 against an estimate of $1/2,000. Following closely behind was a frog set comprising seven smaller frogs in formal attire, housed inside a larger toad container on metal wheels. It leaped past its estimate to land at $17,800.
There was no stopping a Carpenter cast iron Tally-Ho coach pulled by a four-horse team. Exhibiting incredibly bright original paint, the 27-inch-long American classic ran full speed ahead to finish at $86,250. A Hubley 1930s Indian cast iron motorcycle with original policeman and sidecar passenger sped past its predicted selling price of $2/3,000 to settle at $16,100. The toy was a rare variation, exhibiting cast iron as opposed to pressed steel wheels.
European tin was especially buoyant; among the top lots in this section were a boxed 10-inch Lehmann Snick Snack (man walking two playful dogs), which sold for $22,425, and a very scarce Lehmann windup tinplate swing with cloth-dressed doll, which more than doubled its high estimate at $11,500.
With $2.6 million gross against an overall high estimate that had been set at $2/2.3 million, Morphy said, “People say the economy is soft, but that’s just not the case from our vantage point. Collectors are hungry for good, clean merchandise that’s fresh to the market. If it’s rare and in really nice condition, the money is definitely out there for it.”
All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
Morphy Auctions, a division of Geppi’s Entertainment Auctions & Publications, will conduct its fall sale September 11‱3. For more information, 717-335-3435 or www.morphyauctions.com .
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