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Pinball machines from famed collection bring color and fun to Morphy's advertising auction
1903 Coca-Cola self-framed tin sign with image of model Hilda Clark, $11,400. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, PA.- On February 21st, a spirited gathering of pinball wizards congregated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as Morphy Auctions dispersed 75 machines from a famous 35-year pinball collection. Consigned by David Silverman, founder of the National Pinball Museum, the pinball selection colorfully opened Morphy’s two-day sale of antique advertising in its many forms. The Feb. 21-22 auction included 1,300 lots that ran the gamut of soda pop, tobacciana, chewing gum and other product advertising, and grossed $1,032,000. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium.

“We had a great crowd for the pinball machines, with more than 60 pinball bidders in-house and very active online and absentee participation,” said Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions. “David Silverman was already pleased with the prospects going into the sale when I told him what some of the opening bids were going to be. After the sale, he was even happier.”

The top pinball lot was a scarce 1988 Williams “Banzai Run” pinball machine with a motorcycle theme. Described in Morphy’s catalog as “an exciting game to play with fast action and great callouts,” the machine more than doubled its high estimate as it crossed the finish line at $5,400.

Following Banzai was a 1948 Alice in Wonderland machine that represented one of seven styles created for Gottlieb’s “Fairy Tales” series. Estimated at $1,000-$1,500, the condition 8 machine with Charles Leroy Parker artwork scurried down the rabbit hole for $4,200.

“The prices overall were a very pleasant surprise,” said Morphy. “David’s pinballs had remained in his collection for so long, and some were of a type so seldom seen in the marketplace, even David himself couldn’t predict how much they would bring. We’ll be selling more machines from this great collection later in the year.”

Finishing in the sale’s Number 1 slot, a circa-1899 Star Pepsin gum machine was chased to $27,600 against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000. One of only three known examples, the circa-1899 machine’s handsome cobalt blue and white front panel promised two sticks of gum for a penny, with the available varieties being wintergreen or fruit flavor.

Another big winner was an exquisitely graphic 1920s Wineberry ceramic soda fountain syrup dispenser. Its white ceramic body with gold banding was decorated with a richly detailed depiction of a meandering vine with leaves, tendrils and clusters of deep-red berries. Against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000, it pumped up a winning bid of $25,200.

Several early calendars led the Coca-Cola section of the sale, with the top seller being a wonderful example issued in 1903. Its imagery featured opera singer Lillian Nordica in a formal gown with a marabou hand-fan, leaning gracefully against a monumental floral urn. It exceeded its high estimate to reach $20,400. Following closely behind at $19,200 was a 1903 calendar with a half-portrait view of a celebrated beauty of the day, Hilda Clark, daintily holding a glass of Coke.

Hilda Clark made another appearance in the top 10, on a rare 1903 round, self-framed tin sign. The eye-pleasing 19½-inch advertisement settled within estimate at $11,400. Other Coca-Cola highlights included a 1920s leaded-glass overhead shade, $9,000; and a rare, life-size cardboard cutout (ex Schmidt Coca-Cola Museum) of a woman glancing sideways, with one hand on her hip and the other lifting a glass of Coke, $7,200.

Not to be left out, other soft drink advertising had an effervescent day, with a Pepsi celluloid pinback – roughly the size of a pocket mirror and one of only three or four known – commanding a $9,600 winning bid. A 1910-1920 Moxie embossed hexagonal tin sign – a form rarely found – exhibited near-mint condition, which helped boost its price to $4,800 against a presale estimate of $500-$800. Groovy pink and yellow mid-century graphics and the message “Have more fun with NuGrape Soda” convinced bidders to lift their paddles and compete to the $2,400 mark, six times the high estimate.

A recent feature on TV’s popular Antiques Roadshow may have awakened new bidders to the unique charm of antique occupational shaving mugs, a specialty at Morphy’s. Among the leaders in the group offered by Morphy’s was a 1924 mug depicting auto restorers and advertising Greenpoint Ford Service, $10,800; and a mug emblazoned with a shipbuilding image, $6,600.

Other notable lots included: a profusely illustrated and colorful Graphite Elastic Pain paper poster depicting Uncle Sam painting the hull of a ship, $8400; a classic 1910-1915 Grape-Nuts self-framed tin sign of a little girl walking to school with a St. Bernard dog, $6,000; and a beautiful Mayflower Warehouses sign featuring a vibrantly hued yellow, red and green Mayflower moving van, $6,000.

To contact Morphy Auctions about consigning a collection or single item to a future sale, call 717-335-3435 or email Visit Morphy’s online at

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