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Get ready for fireworks as Morphy's presents its Premier Advertising Auction, July 26
Circa-1910 Punch & Judy Cocktail celluloid-over-cardboard sign, 12 x 7 inches, est. $800-$1,200. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, PA.- The Fourth of July may be over, but there are still fireworks galore at Morphy’s gallery, even if no one is actually setting them off. A collection of 250 outstanding antique and vintage firecracker packs and boxes, pyrotechnical advertising and salesman’s display items will open the company’s Sunday, July 26 auction with a bang. The colorful grouping is a featured category within Morphy’s Premier Advertising Auction of more than 1,000 outstanding lots.

An especially exciting find is Lot 49, an 1890s Rochester Fireworks Co. salesman’s sample display with 16 original, wire-mounted fireworks. The goods include massive rockets – one of them weighing 8 lbs. – Roman candles, aerial bombs, and three unusual entries: a “Rosetta,” “Tourbillion” and container of “Colored Mines.” The display is particularly desirable to collectors because its manufacturer – which opened for business in 1836 – was the oldest company of its type to continue operations into the 20th century. The firm remained in its same location for over a century, finally closing its doors in 1939. The lot is estimated at $5,000-$15,000.

From the same timeframe, a Rochester “All Rocket” display with 11 different rockets also carries at $5,000-$15,000 estimate and is cataloged as Lot 50. Lot 36, a fine 1930s Triumph display board with eight rockets, five Roman candles and a large Triumph Aerial firework could reach $3,000-$6,000.

Lot 24, a half-full box of cherry bomb salutes from Havre de Grace (Md.) Fireworks Co., 1954, has a wide estimate range of $800-$4,000; as does Lot 17, a super-rare, near-mint 9½-inch-long American Cannon cracker patented in 1885, which is expected to attract a winning bid of $2,000-$8,000. There are many individual packs, boxes of sparklers, torpedoes and other novelties with estimates as low as $100, offering an opportunity for collectors to participate at their choice of price points.

Following the snap, crackle and pop of the fireworks category, Morphy’s will move into a 200-lot selection of antique soda pop advertising – a field in which the Pennsylvania-based company is well established. Lot 241, a fabulous early example of a Pepsi-Cola china syrup urn with quintessentially Art Nouveau-style decoration, is expected to make $20,000-$40,000.

Approximately half of the soda pop lots are devoted to the all-American soft drink, Coca-Cola. There are signs, thermometers, calendars, posters, drinking glasses and several desirable serving trays, including Lot 295, a 1922 example with bright colors and an image of a young woman in a Gatsby-style straw hat, daintily holding a glass of Coke. It is estimated at $750-$1,250.

Lot 380 is a large (46 x 42 inch) Dr. Pepper porcelain awning sign. This elusive advertising piece features the early “Drink Dr. Pepper – Good For Life!” slogan against a red and white grid, with a yellow Deco-style 10-2-4 clock below it. Estimate: $6,000-$9,000.

From the soda fountain era pre-dating mass-produced, bottled soft drinks comes Lot 352, a 5-Cent Cherry-Julep ceramic syrup dispenser. The ball-shape dispenser in an attractive red and white motif is cataloged with a $1,500-$2,500 estimate and is one of several dispensers that will be available on auction day.

Dozens of occupational shaving mugs emblazoned with appealing graphics will be auctioned. Among them is Lot 860, a mug depicting a steepled church in a landscape setting, with the owner’s name – Rev. S. Lightfoot – encircling the vessel in gilt Gothic lettering. Estimate: $600-$900.

A variety of advertising signs includes sought-after examples touting “vices,” such as Lot 413, a near-mint, circa-1910 celluloid sign for Punch & Judy Cocktail, $800-$1,200; and Lot 898, a self-framed tin sign for Exemplar 5-Cent Cigars, with a central portrait of Abraham Lincoln, $3,000-$6,000. The auction also includes 200 general store lots, including gum and candy items.

A special addition to the sale is a remarkable collection of old handcuffs and leg irons amassed by the late Earl Lockman (1893-1967). Regarded as one of few escape artists who kept the art alive after the death of Harry Houdini in 1926, Lockman’s long and successful career spanned decades.

“Earl Lockman was the first escape artist to appear on television, and he was obviously very smart about self-promotion,” said Dan Morphy, founder and president of Morphy Auctions. “He would display his collection of handcuffs and restraints in the lobbies of theaters where he performed to draw attention prior to his shows. Later, he would use those same devices in his act.”

The collection contains dozens of handcuffs, many with keys and a few with padlocks; as well as leg irons and shackles; and perhaps most fascinating, a pair of “McKenzie Mitts” connected by a chain. Patented in 1925, the rare manacles are cataloged as Lot 950 and estimated at $2,000-$4,000.

Morphy’s Sunday, July 26, 2015 Premier Advertising Auction will begin at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. All forms of bidding will be available, including in person at the gallery, by phone, absentee or live via the Internet through Morphy Live.

Preview the entire auction inventory daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or from 8-9 a.m. prior to the auction. Morphy Auctions is located at 2000 N. Reading Road in Denver, PA 17517.

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