Crush of Internet bidding pushes Morphy’s Winter sale total to $2 million

DENVER, Pa. – A “strong, lively crowd” and “unbelievably strong Internet bidding” were the key elements that fueled a $2 million gross in Morphy Auctions’ Winter Sale, said the firm’s chief operating officer, Dan Morphy. “It was the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for a sale, and people were in a buying mood – maybe it was the holidays that did it,” said Morphy. “There were never fewer than 50 people in the audience, and the pressed steel buyers were there to the very end.”

Internet bidding also played a significant role in the auction’s success, Morphy said. “We sold 35 percent of the lots through the Internet, and at any given time, half the lots had an online bid in play. The numbers were very impressive.”

The sale’s top lot was a 55-inch-long by 53-inch-tall painted-wood hanging trade sign made for the Alaska Fur Co. Dating to around 1890 and depicting a gold seal climbing atop a corporate logo, the carved, double-sided sign was described in the catalog as “one of the finest original examples in existence.” Estimated at $50,000-$100,000, it realized a very respectable $86,250 (all prices quoted inclusive of 15 percent buyer’s premium). After the auction, Dan Morphy confirmed that, in recognition of the sensitive nature of what the sign represents, Morphy’s would be making a generous donation to an organization devoted to wildlife protection.

In excellent, colorful condition, a 64-inch-tall “Tiger Pull” coin-op machine made in 1928 far surpassed expectations of $15,000-$25,000. With a wood cabinet base and cast-iron pillar decorated with a richly painted image of a toothy tiger, the machine made by Exhibit Supply invites the user to “Place Foot Here” and “Pull the Tiger’s Tail and Make Him Roar!” It leaped through its estimate range to land at $42,550.

Pressed-steel toys rose to the occasion, with several over-the-top prices noted. “That’s a category that really popped,” said Morphy. “In total, it did twice what I thought it would do.” Among the highlights was a circa-1925 Sturditoy ambulance measuring 26 inches in length. Painted white with red crosses on its sides, the vehicle sped past its $7,000-$9,000 estimate to settle at 17,250. Also, a circa-1926 American National Packard Fire Chief roadster with side-mounted spare tire and nickel-plated accessories, estimated at $10,000-$15,000, cruised to $14,950.

Cast-iron vehicles also scored in a major way. A very rare Arcade 9-inch Checker Cab toy with nickel grille and driver, and white rubber tires had come “straight from a house,” Morphy said, and was “one of the most desirable automotive toys ever made.” It took in a hefty fare, selling for $25,300.

Within the tin toy group, a Linemar battery-operated Mickey the Magician with original box sold for $2,588, while an ultra-rare Atom 13-inch wind-up Batman walking toy, 1960s, with original Japanese-language box, turned on its superhero powers to achieve $13,800.

Exceptional provenance was what drew “our largest-ever turnout of marble buyers,” said Dan Morphy. “Gary and Sally Dolley have always been known for buying only the best. Their collection drew around 40 people who came just for the marbles. There were some who drove from as far away as Indiana, Texas, Florida and Ohio – many had never been to the gallery before. It was great – like a mini convention.” Fulfilling Morphy’s prediction that it would lead the glass novelties, an extremely rare “naked corkscrew ribbon swirl” marble with white bands and red, pink, blue, turquoise, yellow and burnt orange swirls rose to $14,950, only a few dollars short of its high estimate.

A fine selection of silver figural napkin rings was offered, with more than one entry setting a record price. A Victorian Baseball Player napkin ring marked Pairpoint Manufacturing Co. was among them, scoring an above-estimate $5,175.

In the fine art section, a Guy Wiggins oil-on-canvas Manhattan snow scene fared best, selling to an online bidder for $17,250. Titled The Public Library, the painting once belonged to famous American tenor Richard Tucker, through whose family it subsequently descended.

The Morphy Auctions team will step up its presence at shows this year, Dan Morphy confirmed. “We’ll double the number of antique and collector shows we attend, including the Portland Expo, Toymania in Paris, and other European events.”

A division of Geppi’s Entertainment Auctions & Publications, Morphy’s will host an April 4-5 toy auction, its first-ever doll and teddy bear auction on May 17-18, and its annual Spring Auction on May 29-31. Sales are held at the Adamstown Antique Gallery in Denver, Pa., with Internet bidding through eBay Live Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information, call 717-335-3435, visit Morphy’s Web site at www.morphyauctions.com or e-mail [email protected]

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