Published: May 19, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd.
NEW HAMBURG, CANADA – Toys, signs and historic objects crossed the block for Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd., on May 9. Only two of the 578 lots passed in the online-only sale, which included the Carl Koenig collection of nearly 100 sewing machines from international makers; a collection of American automobilia including dealer-issued literature and NOS parts from brands Cadillac, Buick, Packard and Chevrolet; and the automobile hood ornament collection of Stewart Ferguson.
“A month ago, we actually considered deferring this sale because of the unknown impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ethan Miller of Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd., adding, “That would have been a grave mistake. Despite the challenges facing the world, bidding was spirited and prices were stronger than predicted. We recorded our highest presale registration rate to date.
Miller continued, “Selling without an audience to three carefully-spaced family members felt strange. Yet, as bids rolled in, it was quickly apparent that the sale was going to work out really, really well. As far as prices estimated versus prices realized, this could easily be considered our most successful sale to date. What do collectors want in the midst of a global pandemic? The factors of rarity, condition and fresh-to-the market are more important now than ever before.”
Leading the sale at $3,195 was a 1930s board lithograph for Montreal-based Dominion Cartridge Co illustrating all of the various calibers of ammunition the company produced. At center was a standing polar bear growling with one of its cubs slain behind it. It was awarded first prize for a “Vintage Canadian Outdoor Collectible” at the 2007 Canadian Decoy & Outdoor Collectible Association Meet.
Sewing machine collector Carl Koenig had a sign in his home that read “And Sew it Was.” His collection represented very early model sewing machines to those made well into the Twentieth Century from companies around the world.
The collection found its leader in a Victoria “Family” model from the 1880s that sold for $2,343. The Victoria Sewing Machine Company was based in Toronto and its machines were likely manufactured by or sold by Gates & Company, who the auction house said shared the same address for a time. The model resembles the circular design of Gates’ The Queen’s Elliptic. Behind at $2,094 was an American model produced by Grover, Baker and Co., of Boston, circa 1860s. It was an early example of the first portable sewing machine and the auction house says there are fewer than 200 known examples. The Singer Manufacturing Company was well-represented, with a model 222k featherweight, circa 1954-55, fetching $1,619. A lot of two model 221s from the 1960s with their cases sold at $1,619. By this time, Singer was producing sewing machines around the world, and one of these was made in Great Britain and the other in Canada. Two “penguin” walking presser foot accessories with original boxes sold for $1,449 and $1,363.
Automobilia produced strong interest, led by a Penn-Drake Motor Oil sign, 27 by 21 inches, that sold for $2,130. The sign was in strong condition with some small losses to the porcelain on the outer edges. A lot of four 1930s Duesenberg sales brochures and owners manuals rolled in to $1,917. A 1957 Chevrolet Dealer Album with original color and fabric selection booklets over quadrupled the estimate when it sold for $1,704. Hood ornaments produced some good results, including $1,192 paid for a winged figure that once adorned a 1931-32 Auburn and $1,107 paid for a man with a streamlined mohawk that appeared on a 1935 6-cylinder Pontiac.
A J&E Stevens Cabin mechanical cast iron bank led the toy category at $1,704. It featured a teal-sided cabin with red front and an old label for an Ontario bookseller. A professionally restored “White Rose” tanker truck from the 1940s by Canadian company Minnitoys Otaco Ltd. sold for $1,192. A group of tin litho cars followed, with a Carette touring car selling for $852 and a Citroen “Automobile Mecanique” with tilting windshield bringing the same price.
Miller & Miller has three major auctions planned for the balance of 2020. The first is another online Signs, Toys & Historic Objects auction that will happen on June 20. A Music Machines, Coin-Op & Advertising auction is planned for September 19. A Watches & Jewelry auction is scheduled for November 21. Whether these will be live gallery auctions with an online bidding component, or online-only, will depend entirely on the status of the COVID-19 virus.
All prices were converted from CAD to USD at press time and include buyer’s premium. Watch the website for more details at www.millerandmillerauctions.com.
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