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.
9- to 10-hour drive) to bid on the marbles. It was their first time to our gallery – they loved it. Two minutes after the sale concluded, another marble collector consigned several very good pieces from his collection to our Spring Auction. Marbles are definitely becoming a category with a big following at our sales.” Pricewise, both handmade and machine-made marbles fared well. A complete box of 100 colorful machine-made Peltier marbles known as the “National Rainbo Line” well exceeded its estimate in achieving $3,800.
A small selection of Christmas antiques drew enthusiastic bids, especially the belsnickles. A superb 30-inch-tall German Santa candy container with bisque face and unusual blue “coat” that previously had been part of a private collection in Germany rang the register at $13,800, near the upper end of its estimate range. “When a candy container stands 2½ feet tall, it actually enters the realm of being not just a candy container but also a figure or statue,” Dan Morphy noted. “There were six people on the phones bidding for that piece, and two of them called after the sale to say they were sorry they hadn’t gone higher.”
Another standout lot was the Lionel prewar standard gauge No. 378W passenger train set with its original set box and individual boxes. Finished in lime green with yellow-frame windows, the ensemble was described in the auction catalog as “possibly the finest known example of this train set, showing no play wear whatsoever.” Against an estimate of $15,000-$20,000, it reached its final destination at $31,050. A Voltamp No. 2120 United Electric transformer-type trolley with original circular track and paper-labeled wood box realized an above-estimate price of $18,400.
An all-original circa-1890 penny farthing bicycle that almost missed inclusion in the sale surprised its consignor when it wheeled across the finish line at $9,800. “When we went to pick up a collection in the Midwest, we noticed it in the garage and loaded it onto the truck. It ended up making the most money of any of the items in that particular consignment,” Morphy said.
Other top lots included a circa-1910 Carette 12-inch hand-painted tin, clockwork limousine – $15,000; an 1894 popcorn and peanut wheeled vending machine - $7,500; a circa-1936 painted wood Fisher-Price No. 740 Push-Cart Pete toy, $9,200; and an Indian Rock Ginger Ale porcelain soda fountain syrup dispenser with original pump - $11,500.
After the auction, whose third session did not conclude until 10:30 p.m., Dan Morphy expressed both his pleasure with the $2 million result and relief over the way his auctions have consistently weathered the economic challenges of the past 18 months. “The market is different than it was before, but it’s just as unpredictable on the upside as it is on the downside,” he said. “If anything, my experts tell me they know less about pricing now than they ever have. Collectors will continue to determine what the prices should be.”
Dan Morphy Auctions will conduct a 2,100-lot auction on Feb. 26-27, 2010 featuring historical