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1930s Watling three-reel 5-cent slot machine hits the jackpot at Holabird Western Americana Collections sale
Mid-1930s Watling three-reel 5-cent slot machine, a Rol-a-Top model, one of the most attractive three-reel slots ever made and a favorite among collectors ($3,250).

RENO, NEV.- A mid-1930s Watling three-reel 5-cent slot machine sold for $3,250 and an 1871 general and business directory for the residents of four counties in Nevada realized $2,875 at an Americana, Railroad, Mining & More Auction held across four days, May 7th-10th, by Holabird Western Americana Collections, online and in the firm’s gallery at 3555 Airway Drive in Reno.

The Watling slot machine was the auction’s top-selling lot, not surprising considering the Rol-a-Top is one of the most attractive three-reel slots ever made and a favorite among collectors. This one was in original condition, with the original paint and original lock and key. The replacement reels even had the old “fortunes” over the symbols, to try and skirt the gaming laws of the ‘30s.

The 1871 Nevada directory was the sale’s runner-up top lot, a book containing the names and addresses of all the residents and businesses in Storey, Ormbsby, Washoe and Lyons counties. Rarity is what drove this historic compendium skyward; it’s one of just five copies known. This one had a Silver City (Nevada) postal cancel for Oct. 31 and Oct. 24 on the first couple of pages.

The auction was a massive event, as nearly 3,000 lots came up for bid over the course of the four days. In addition to the Americana, railroad and mining collectibles named in the auction’s title, other categories included Native Americana, cowboy and Western memorabilia, numismatics, tokens, soda and medicine bottles and antique woodworking tools in the original wooden chests.

“Overall the sale went very well, with many strong spots and a few weak spots, too,” said Fred Holabird of Holabird Western Americana Collections. “Categories that performed particularly well included Native American art, such as pots and jewelry, certain advertising collectibles and everything paper, like antique stock certificates. Old bottles were a mixed bag of hot and cold.”

Holabird said the weaker categories included cowboy spurs, old photographs and Texas tokens. Of the tokens he said, “We sold maybe half the collection that was offered, and we knew going in that demand for them was soft. But I believe we’re invigorating the market by offering the very things other auction houses shy away from. Eventually these categories do come around.”

Following are highlights from the auction. Internet bidding was facilitated by,, eBay Live and Auctionzip. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.

A unique silver chalice from Virginia City, Nevada, stamped on the bottom “M.M. Frederick” (mainly a watchmaker and jeweler in the city at the time), made circa the 1870s, 6 ½ inches tall, fetched $2,125; and a clear druggist’s dose glass from A.M. Cole (Virginia City, Nev.), produced circa 1905-1906 and one of only six specimens known in perfect condition, gaveled for $1,281.

An 1861 Nevada Territorial stock certificate #32 for the Philadelphia Mining Company (Virginia City), issued to John Pullen, with one share equaling five feet, signed by officers in the company, rose to $1,125; while an Orleans Flat Silver Mining Company stock certificate from the Nevada Territory (Virginia City), dated 1864, issued to a Pyramid Lake War survivor, finished at $938.

A group of ten vintage Hamilton pocket watches, all open face, sold as one lot for $1,125. Two were Railway Special, gold plated; three were Art Deco, 14kt gold; and several were gold-plated. Two included chains. Also, a pair of tokens from Drummer’s Exchange in Houston, Texas (“I O U 1 Drink, G.F. Sauter”), both in nice condition and produced prior to 1900, commanded $813.

For fans of coins and currency, the sale featured a $2 silver certificate from 1891, the only year that had William Windom, the 33rd Treasurer of the United States, pictured on the front, signed by Tillman and Morgan ($1,125); and a rare date 1896-S Barber quarter, graded VG-F ($875).

A collection of 75 Lake Tahoe (Calif.) postcards, 16 of them real photo cards and depicting such landmarks as Twin Lake Resort, Frashers, Meeks Bay cabins, Cal-Neva Lodge and Emerald Bay brought $688; while a letter from the office of T.C. Power & Bro., Freighters and Forwarding Merchants, Military and Indian Traders, addressed to post trader J.H. McKnight & Co. at Fort Shaw, Montana, dated March 26, 1876, finished at $532. Also, a rare 1870s-era Crockwell photo of a small mill in the upper part of Six Mile Canyon in Virginia City (Nev.) realized $688.

A bottle for Chas. M. Fassitt (“Druggist / Ruby Hill / Nev”), in mint condition, with upside-down writing on the base, a rare ghost town bottle since Ruby Hill no longer exists, coasted to $1,563. Also, a pair of N.P. Sorensen (Ouray, Colo.) Seltzer bottles, made in Austria circa 1890s-1914, brilliant 7-Up green in color and boasting perfect debossing in both, changed hands for $1,438.

A group of five Viola Morris corn husk bags, woven with geometric yarn designs and made in Idaho, beautifully crafted and boasting unique designs on each side, sold as one lot for $938. Also, a complimentary season pass for Boone’s Wild Animal Arena at the California Mid-Winter International Exposition (San Fran.) of 1894, issued to the editor of the Reno Gazette, hit $563.

Holabird Western Americana Collections is gearing up for what may well be its biggest auction ever: a five-day colossus – June 22-26 – featuring nearly 3,600 lots covering many categories including numismatics, mining, minerals, general Americana, railroad, tokens, antique bottles, gaming, firearms and weaponry, Wells Fargo Express and more, online and in the Reno gallery.

Anyone owning a collection that might fit into an upcoming Holabird Western Americana Collections auction is encouraged to get in touch. The firm travels extensively throughout the U.S., to see and pick up collections. Last year it visited Boston, Florida, Seattle and New York.

Today's News

June 2, 2018

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'Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America' opens at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

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