Published: February 13, 2018
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy of Morphy Auctions
LAS VEGAS – Morphy Auctions conducted a multimillion-dollar coin-op and advertising sales event on January 27-28. The 1,100-plus lot auction included the Jon Torrence collection, as well as selections of vintage music machines, advertising and other antiques. The sale realized $2.4 million. The gallery had about 100 people in-house bidding live, while online bidders numbered about 500.
This collection, curated by Torrence, Morphy Auctions’ coin-op and gambling department head, offered examples of machines from the late 1800s onward. Torrence is known throughout the collector’s world for his encyclopedic knowledge of vintage coin-op and gambling machines, outstanding professional networks and for building, leading and educating collectors’ communities on social networks, including Facebook and YouTube. Of the selections that were offered, about 30 had never come up for auction in the past, and many machines had no record of ever being sold.
Of the four antique gaming machines on offer, an early 1900s five-cent Caille Centaur Eclipse twin double upright slot machine beat the house with a $98,400 winning bid. Housed in a mahogany cabinet, it is decorated with a Centaur on one side and an Eclipse on the other.
Next up at bat in the parade of leading lots was a five-cent H.C. Evans Bat-A-Score Arcade Game, which despite being manufactured in 1948, was in near pristine condition. Considered by many elite collectors to be the holy grail of early postwar machines – only five examples are known – it reached $61,500. The curved glass cabinet serves to showcase an interior field with two animated manikin baseball players – a pitcher and a batter. The player is given ten pitches for every nickel and can receive up to 200,000 points. The objective of the game is to hit the steel ball into one of the five levels at the rear, the lowest level being a foul and the highest, a home run.
Also for a nickel, one could try perfecting one’s submariner skills with Keeney’s Submarine Arcade Machine, circa 1931. Housed in a cabinet painted in nautical World War II colors, this game puts the player in charge of a submarine that is constantly submerging in and out of the water, moving left and right, while a gun fires a stream of steel balls at the three targets. Only three known examples of this game are known and it realized $36,900.
Two machines on offer racked up a final price of $30,750. One was a five-cent Mills Two Bits Chicago musical upright slot machine, circa 1904, a floor model machine housed in an oak cabinet that both plays and pays with working cylinder music box. The other was a large five-cent Chicago Coin’s Midget Skee Ball arcade machine painted in bright orange with a brilliant display that lights up as the patron’s score increases. The manikin basketball player, dressed in blue, throws the balls to any of the six holes with points ranging from 1,000 to 10,000. One of Chicago Coin’s electromechanical machines, it was manufactured in 1949.
Arcade bowlers were not left out of the fun as a five-cent Supreme Bolascore Revamp arcade machine scored a strike at $27,675. There were many revamps to the H.C. Evans Ten Strike, and this arcade game was remodeled in the 1940s during World War II. Instead of knocking down traditional bowling pins, the player accumulates points by hitting a spoke on the rotary wheel that is motorized at the rear. Extremely rare, only two known examples of this game are in existence.
Additional sale highlights, each fetching a final price of $25,830, were a five-cent Sega Jumbo arcade machine, a five-cent Chicago Coin’s four-player Derby arcade game and a five-cent H.C. Evans Ten Strike classic arcade machine.
According to Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions, “The Torrence coin-op collection is simply in a class by itself, and we are extremely proud to have had the opportunity to offer it to enthusiasts from all around the world. The accompanying book, which stands on its own as an ultimate authority reference book, is a must-have for anyone interested in antique and vintage coin-op machines. It also captures this collection and moment in time in the finest and most permanent way possible.” Said Torrence, “I see the sale of this portion of my collection as the next step in a lifelong mission: helping others discover, celebrate and appreciate the best and the rarest pieces of American popular culture. By putting this collection into new hands, I hope to inspire others to embrace their passions and share their own treasures with the world.”
Morphy’s kicked off its three-day auction weekend with its Gold Rush & Native American auction on January 26. Highlights included an Everts, Wilson & Co. Gold Dust sign at $141,450, a gold quartz 1866 presentation cane selling at $38,400 and a Waltham 18K gold quartz hunting case pocket watch that commanded $39,975.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.morphyauctions.com or 877-968-8880.
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