Robots pack a punch at Morphy's $1.68M Dec. 6-8 sale of toys, advertising

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Robots pack a punch at Morphy's $1.68M Dec. 6-8 sale of toys, advertising
Hoge tinplate Popeye in Rowboat, 15 inches long, $4,800. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, PA.- Morphy’s Dec. 6-8, 2012 Premier Auction brightened the holiday season for many who participated in the sale and took their pick from some of the country’s top collections of advertising, robots and other types of toys and vintage collectibles. The auction catalog’s vibrantly illustrated cover, with its compelling images of a cane-tapping Mr Peanut store display, blue-coated belsnickel and movie poster for “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” provided a tantalizing sampler of highlights offered in the $1.68 million sale. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium.

Not surprisingly, a Machine Man tin robot from Masudaya’s “Gang of Five” dominated prices realized with a final selling price of $45,600 against an estimate of $20,000-$30,000. The boxy sci-fi favorite was one of 160 robot and space toy lots consigned by Dave DiMartino, a former VP of Guitar Center. After his retirement from the well-known retailer of guitars and amps, DiMartino traveled extensively throughout Europe, acquiring many rare and desirable robots. “But he preferred to remain under the radar, which is one reason this collection had such a curiosity factor with other collectors,” said Dan Morphy, CEO of Morphy Auctions.

The DiMartino collection produced four of the sale’s top 10 lots. Another big winner and “Gang of Five” member, a Masudaya Radicon remote-control robot, rose to $10,800 against a $4,000-$6,000 estimate. Both a boxed Asakusa painted-tin and plastic Thunder Robot (est. $2,500-$3,500) and a boxed silver tin-litho and painted Mechanized “Robby” Robot (est. $6,000-$10,000) achieved an individual selling price of $10,200.

More than 50 cast-iron mechanical banks took their places before bidders, ready to show off their talents at the drop of a penny. An uncommonly seen J & E Stevens Pelican mechanical bank known as a “rabbit variation” because of the rabbit prey visible in the seabird’s mouth, soared past its $2,000-$3,000 estimate to land at $7,800. Leading the metal toys, a 9-inch cast-iron and tin horse-drawn plow with driver, probably by Wilkins, ignored its $600-$900 estimate and garnered $5,600.

Character toys proved popular, among them an early Yellow Kid figure that tips its top hat, $3,600 (est. $250-$500); and a 15-inch Hoge tinplate Popeye in Rowboat, $4,800 (est. $2,000-$4,000. The latter toy retained its desirable King Features Syndicate decal.

Several advertising lots ignited bidding wars, including a one-of-a-kind Reinhold Studio panoramic show display that was custom made for Oilzum Oil Company’s use at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. It sold within estimate for $38,000. From the same Oilzum collection, a 1937 double-sided “lollipop” sign featuring the “Oilzum Man” and emblazoned with the phrase “The Cream of Pure Pennsylvania Oil” defied its $800-$1,400 estimate in realizing $7,200.

Other advertising highlights included a Mail Pouch Tobacco tin cutout flange display, $9,600; and a rare 1920s Coca-Cola cardboard poster with the image of a woman wave-rider, $4,200.

The last of the three sessions featured 160 Western cowboy character lots from the collection of the late Tom Winge, an Oregon businessman who spent more than 20 years amassing rare cast-iron cap guns and toy cowboy collectibles. Auction highlights included a Majestic Lone Ranger radio with light-up bas-relief horse “Silver,” $6,600 (est. $300-$400); and a Fargo Express cap gun – possibly the rarest of all toy cowboy guns – that handily exceeded its estimate with a winning bid of $5,000.

Christmas collectors encountered many tempting pieces in the auction selection, including various iterations of Santa riding a reindeer, horse, both black and white sheep; and even a nodding elephant. The highest-priced holiday lot, at $6,500, was a superb 30-inch-tall German belsnickel depicting Father Christmas in a long blue coat, with a rabbit-fur beard and feather-tree accessory.

“Our big December sale was a lot of fun for everyone because we had made an extra effort to include items that appealed to a wide cross section of collectors,” said Dan Morphy.

“The stock market continues to be unpredictable from one day to the next, but antique toy and advertising collectors already know the value and rarity of what they’re buying. In an auction setting, they can see for themselves what others will pay for a given item,” Morphy continued. “Collectors don’t have the worry of wondering what publicly traded companies might be doing behind the scenes. They focus on identifying what’s great and giving it their best shot to outbid the auction competition. It’s all about adding something new and special to their collections.”

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