Morphy's lively Las Vegas Coin-op & Antique Advertising Auction closes near $4M mark
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Morphy's lively Las Vegas Coin-op & Antique Advertising Auction closes near $4M mark
Circa-1932 Caille Bros (Detroit) Aristocrat 25¢ counter roulette machine in original, unrestored condition. Provenance: Lifelong collection of Bill Howard. Sold for $38,400 against an estimate of $15,000-$30,000.

LAS VEGAS, NEV.- Morphy’s April 11-13, 2024 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising sale brought old-school fun to Las Vegas and reaped the rewards with a full house of motivated collectors and $3,936,000 in winning bids (inclusive of 23% b.p.). According to Morphy Auctions co-founder and president Dan Morphy, post-auction purchases are expected to add even more bounce to the three-day result and will likely push the grand total well beyond the $4 million mark.

The auction’s top-estimated and ultimately top-selling lot was an extremely rare Caille Bros (Detroit) musical “Triple Eclipse” upright slot machine whose design encases three separate machines in one handsome oak cabinet. The horizontally-arranged slots accept 5¢, 50¢ and 5¢ coins, respectively. Dan Morphy explained, “The Triple Eclipse was an ingenious design. With three separately-functioning machines in one unit, an operator could save money because he would only have to buy one gambling-machine license, not three.” An artistic masterpiece with all-original castings and most of its original nickel plating, the Triple Eclipse was made sometime between 1902 and 1904. Following its period of service as a public gambling device, the machine joined the fabled Dobby Doc collection, which was amassed in the 1930s and ’40s and lay dormant until it was discovered in a Nevada warehouse in the late 1960s. A breathtaking combination of artistry and early technology, with the serial number 121 confirming it to be the earliest of only four known survivors of its type, it cashed out at $147,600.

Also from Caille Bros, a circa-1910 “Loving Cup” dual-wheel slot machine – similar to the manufacturer’s “Silver Cup” model – displayed original wheels and castings, and both “played and paid” correctly. Its optional 5¢ Gum side vendor was present but not in working order. The sought-after machine was bid aggressively to $79,950 against an estimate of $15,000-$30,000.

Another top-notch coin-op was a circa-1904 Mills Novelty Co (Chicago) original musical “Big Six” upright slot machine, whose design features a colorful tin wheel, raised panels and an attractive “chipped glass” front. It had remained out of sight in a private collection for decades and obviously had been well cared for, as its jackpot was in fine working order and its musical tone as fine as when the machine was first marketed. It sold at Morphy’s for $48,000 against an estimate of $15,000-$30,000.

In 1904, Caille’s other major Chicago competitor, Watling, produced the double upright slot machine known as “The Buffalo.” All original and in its nicely preserved quartered-oak cabinet, this model is distinguished by the ornate coin heads marked “Buffalo” which are seen at the top of each of the jointly-encased units. This rare machine sold at the midpoint of its estimate for $56,580.

A countertop roulette machine made around 1932 by Caille Bros., the boxy wood with aluminum “Aristocrat” came to auction with provenance from the lifelong collection of Bill Howard. Original, unrestored and ready to play upon receipt of a 25¢ coin, it swept past its $15,000-$30,000 estimate to settle at $38,400.

Who doesn’t love Mr Peanut? At the Las Vegas sale, the jaunty mascot for Planters Peanut Company was ready to show off his jockeying talents in a way that would make even professional mechanical bull riders jealous. Complete with top hat, cane, monocle and spats, the three-dimensional character was the focal point of a fully-functional circa-1920 electric peanut-roasting machine. When activated, the figural character, who straddles the roasting barrel, renders the appearance that he is powering the machine with his cane, as an oarsman might do on a sculling team. Likely the finest of few that are known to exist, the roaster offered by Morphy’s easily surpassed its $30,000-$60,000 estimate to reach $135,300.

Both sports and coin-op fans stepped up to the plate to bid on an Amusement Machine Co. 1¢ All-American Baseball Game. A floor model comprised of a walnut case with a glass slant front, the game was manufactured circa 1929-’31 to represent the 1927 World Series which pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the ultimately victorious New York Yankees. Unrestored with its original cast-iron player and umpire figures and the original cardboard grandstand, it sold at the midpoint of its estimate for $55,000.

Those who were invested in the stock market during the Great Crash of 1929 probably wished they had consulted Princess Doraldina, a 5¢ fortune teller machine made in 1928 in Rochester, New York. The life-size figure of the eponymous clairvoyant was designed with an articulated wax head, wears period clothing and costume jewelry; and sits in a booth behind a glass window with a crystal ball and row of cards before her. Only Princess Doraldina knew prior to auction day that the $15,000-$30,000 estimate was too conservative. She proved her uncanny psychic skills upon securing a winning bid of $52,890.

Another treasure from the Bill Howard collection was an iconic 1890s automaton made by Vichy (France) and known as “Pierrot Serenading the Moon.” A similar example is featured in Christian Bailly’s reference book Automata, the Golden Years and also appeared on the cover of the catalog for Bailly’s 1994 exhibition in Liege, Belgium. In excellent working order, the auction example strummed its way to $20,400 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000.

Collectors of vending machines quickly identified the ornately decorative Kemaco Lion 1¢ peanut machine as being the actual book example appearing in Bill Enes reference book Silent Salesman Too. An eye-catcher with its lantern-style globe and façade adorned with a bas-relief lion’s head, it sold just below its high estimate at $19,200.

Signs touting alcoholic beverages felt right at home in Sin City and could be acquired at Morphy’s sale at any of a variety of price points. A stunning circa-1920s Uncle Sam’s Monogram Whiskey self-framed lithographed-tin sign produced for Geo. Benz & Sons Distillers was noted in the catalog as possibly being a sole survivor. It rose to $15,990 against an estimate of $4,000-$12,000. Also, a framed, single-sided tin sign advertising Cadillac Beer impressed collectors with its great color and sheen, and sold for $5,904 against an estimate of $700-$1,500.

After the hammer fell on the final lot, coin-op expert Tom Tolworthy, who had curated the auction’s contents, remarked: “The energy generated from another fresh-to-market collection proved once again that our move back to Las Vegas has been a huge benefit for collectors and the hobby in general.”

Dan Morphy, who served as principal auctioneer at the three-day event, echoed Tolworthy’s sentiments, commenting: “I was very pleased with the results and the turnout. We had over 100 live attendees, including a lot of new bidders and buyers, which is always a huge positive on many levels. We also had a number of potential consignors come to meet us and see our Las Vegas operation. I can say with confidence that our fall Coin-Op and Antique Advertising sale is already shaping up to be a blockbuster.”

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