Live steam powers a $2 million Winter sale at Morphy’s European steam toy buyers, several of whom flew in to bid in person, drove Morphy Auctions’ Winter sale beyond the $2 million mark. A circa-1904 Marklin steam engine topped all lots at $46,000.
News-Antique.com - Feb 09,2010 - DENVER, Pa. – A show of force from European steam toy buyers, several of whom flew in to bid in person, drove Morphy Auctions’ Winter sale beyond the $2 million mark (inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium) over the weekend of Dec. 10-12, 2009. Part I of the extensive Pat and Lowell Wagner lifetime collection of antique steam engines and toys – abundantly stocked with examples by Marklin, Weeden, Doll et Cie., and Bing – proved an alluring drawcard, especially to German enthusiasts.
“There were at least 100 people specifically pursuing the steam toys, including three or four Germans who were very active bidders,” said Dan Morphy, owner and chief operating officer of Dan Morphy Auctions. “One thing I found surprising was that Europeans who collect steam toys also buy the full-size steam engines – they appreciate both categories. That’s not typically the case with American steam toy collectors.”
Morphy admitted he had been a bit concerned about the market’s ability to absorb 545 lots of steam engines and toys at one go. “But three or four days prior to the sale, I knew that section was going to ‘catch fire’ because of the unusually high number of absentee bids coming in via the Internet and by phone,” he said. “It wasn’t just the high end that was attracting bids, either. Marklin always tends to take care of itself and was very strong in this sale, but we were amazed at how much action there was in the low to mid range. Internet participation was substantial.”
In fact, 654 lots sold through LiveAuctioneers, with a daily sell-through rate as high as 28.7% (day 3). Among the big winners purchased via the Internet was a circa-1920s Marklin gauge 1 Leipzig train station. An elusive model, the 38-inch by 16-inch toy surpassed its estimate to close at $12,000. Also selling online for $12,000 was a coveted George Brown General Jackson clockwork boat. The 14-inch American-made tin vessel had been estimated at $5,000-$8,000.
The auction’s top lot, a Marklin No. 4135 twin upright steam or marine engine described in the manufacturer’s 1904 catalog as a “hammer engine” featured a w4ell-detailed faux-brick housing and chimney on a japanned base measuring 13½ inches by 17½ inches. It blew away its $2,000-$4,000 estimate to settle at $46,000 after a prolonged and heated battle between two deep-pocketed bidders.
A fine 22-inch Radiguet live-steam boat featuring an early “ram” front and with slight restoration noted to the bottom of the hull sailed past expectations of $5,000-$8,000 to drop anchor at $14,500.
Morphy said there was considerable crossover buying, which helped bolster results in nearly every category of the 3,200-lot sale. “It was a very well-attended event. We had close to 1,000 registered in-house bidders over the three days, with as many as 100 people in the gallery at any given time.”
The auction drew one of the largest turnouts of marble fanciers in Morphy’s history. “There were several collectors who carpooled and drove all the way from Indiana (a