Rare German Disney toys take a toothy bite out of Morphy's $1.6M auction
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Rare German Disney toys take a toothy bite out of Morphy's $1.6M auction
Jean Roullet (French) ‘Snake Charmer’ musical automaton depicting an exotic dancer with a serpent. Sold for $55,350.

DENVER, PA.- “A fantastic sale with extremely strong prices” is how Morphy Auctions’ president Dan Morphy summarized the upbeat toy and bank event held live on March 10-11 at the company’s central Pennsylvania gallery. Nonstop phone and Internet bids kept the Morphy team hopping as collectors from around the world chased pristine toys from two featured collections in a sale that totaled $1.6 million.

Two outstanding, long-held toy collections took the spotlight, those of industrialist Gordon Lankton, and surgeon Dr Jeff Landes, whose early European Disney toys proved irresistible to an international contingent of comic character enthusiasts.

One of the rarest of all figural Mickey Mouse toys, a lithographed tin wind-up five-finger Mickey made in Germany for the English market, led the parade of Disney mice. The classic depiction of the beloved cartoon rodent – standing 9 inches high with moving pie-eyes and an articulated mouth – dances to and fro when activated. Against expectations of $20,000-$40,000, the coveted treasure from the Landes collection took a bow at $64,575, making it the top lot of the sale.

Perennially popular with Disney fans, a German tin-litho Mickey Mouse mechanical bank – one of four versions attributed to Saalheimer & Strauss – attracted many hopeful bidders. This particular version from a well-known series of banks is known for its appealing graphics and action. When a coin is deposited, Mickey’s tongue emerges, adding a humorous touch. A Landes collection favorite, it sold for $35,670 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000.

Every Disney toy collector longs to own one of few known examples of Isla’s (Spanish) pre-1936 sparkler toy depicting a naughty Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat taking turns lighting up cigars. The clever design incorporates a visible “spark” from a candle placed on a table before the cartoon duo. Another extreme rarity from the Jeff Landes collection, it sold for $25,830 against pre-sale expectations of $8,000-$12,000.

Perhaps the ultimate crossover toy within the five-star lineup was the Lionel Mickey Mouse Circus train set in its original box, which attracted collectors of Disney toys, trains, and circus-related items. In super-clean condition with a composition Mickey Mouse “barker” figure, key-wind Lionel Lines engine, tender and attractively decorated cars, the set is one of very few to retain its cardboard segments and tickets in unpunched condition. It blazed to $29,520 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.

An out-of-this-world Japanese wind-up Mighty Robot with original box showed off a medley of blue, red and yellow graphics along with oxygen tanks on its back and a sparking action visible through its plastic chest plate. Together with its ultra-rare original pictorial box, the diminutive spaceman commanded $41,205.

Yet another specialty category with which the Morphy name has become synonymous is antique marbles. In the March 10-11 auction, a boxed set of Original M.F. Christensen & Son Company No. 1 Cornelian Marbles – all specimens presenting in mint condition – sold for $11,070, more than three times the high estimate.

Cast iron highlights included a straight-base variation of J & E Stevens “ Race Course” or “Horse Race” mechanical bank in original, near-mint condition. Accompanied by its rare factory box, it settled within its auction estimate range at $29,520. One of five beautiful figural cast-iron blinking-eye clocks in the sale, an 1860s-’70s French production depicting a Samurai warrior sold for $19,680 against an estimate of $5,000-$8,000.

A superb array of antique European automata included creations by French makers Leopold Lambert, Gustav Vichy and Jean Roullet, whose “Snake Charmer” automaton portraying an exotic dancer with a serpent finished near its high estimate at $55,350.

Morphy’s Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction featuring the most important collection of mechanical music machines the company has ever handled, has been rescheduled for April 25-26.

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