Vintage fireworks collection pops at Morphy's June 22-23 auction, earns $438K A 40-year collection of antique and vintage firecracker packs and pyrotechnical rarities sold for $438,000 at Morphy's June 22-23 auction.
News-Antique.com - Jun 25,2012 - DENVER, Pa. – Morphy Auctions’ June 22-23 auction was devoted exclusively to things that go bang in the night – the antique and vintage fireworks collection of Pennsylvanian George Moyer. The 40-year assemblage of rare antique and vintage firecracker packs and labels; salutes, sparklers and other pyrotechnical rarities went out with a flourish during the two-day sale that realized $438,000. All prices quoted are inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium.
The Moyer collection had been widely publicized in the mainstream media, both in the USA and abroad. Feature articles appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Times and Forbes.com, and there was coverage on at least two television networks. “This level of media attention might not have seemed so unusual had it been a collection of Picassos, said Morphy Auctions CEO Dan Morphy, “but we’re talking about firecrackers – ephemeral objects that cost as little as one cent when they were first marketed.”
Morphy’s “one cent” comment was in reference to what collectors call “penny packs,” which were manufactured to provide cheap thrills for financially challenged Fourth of July celebrants. In particular, these auction lots proved a pennywise investment for Moyer.
“There were over 40 packs in the sale that sold for individual prices of $1,000 or more, and several were penny packs,” said Morphy. “Not a bad return on George’s money.” Moyer started his collection at age 10, picking up wrappers that his older friends discarded after removing the crackers.
The top lot of the sale was a rare salesman’s display board containing 20 sample sparklers, caps, and firecracker packs. It finished at the midpoint of its estimate range, at $7,200. A second salesman’s display board containing 12 fireworks samples from the R.F. Company of Rochester, N.Y., was considered historically significant because it presented an especially diverse overview of the firm’s product range, including elusive pinwheels and “bombs.” Against an estimate of $1,000-$2,500, the assortment sold for $4,800.
The appeal of firecracker packs, with their vividly colored labels and fantasy themes, crosses over into many other collecting genres. Packs with depictions of athletes, soldiers, sci-fi and pop culture icons; Native Americans, clowns, cowboys, and Christmas characters are pursued by a wide range of collectors who do not specifically pursue fireworks.
A Balfour’s 40-piece pack of “supercharged flashlight crackers” with a depiction of early, open-wheel Indy-style racers competing on a racetrack no doubt received a boost from automotive collectors. The pack raced past the checkered flag with a winning bid of $3,900.
A packet of 32 Tally Ho! Firecrackers adorned with a vibrant image of riders on horseback, flanked by hunting dogs in full stride, finished at $3,300; while a Greyhound pack emblazoned with the image of a sleek hound bolting across the countryside more than doubled its high estimate to reach $2,280. Manufactured by Tung Fong, a 24-pack of Jackass Brand Firecrackers from the company’s “Lucky Series” advertised its product as being “the cracker with a kick.” Possibly the only extant example, the lot was entered