Extremely rare Caille Brothers ‘Black Cat’ slot machine sets trend for above-estimate prices, selling for $96,000
DENVER, Pa. – A nickel or quarter dropped into the slot was all it took to try out the irresistible antique coin-op machines entered in Morphy Auctions’ November 20-21 auction, but it took more than just pocket change if a bidder wanted to play for “keeps.” The high-energy, 1,475-lot sale took in a robust $2.6 million, with the top lot – a Caille Brothers 5-cent “Black Cat” musical upright cabinet slot machine – leading prices realized at $96,000.
The extremely rare Black Cat boasted all-original condition with correct castings, coin head and spinning wheel. Lavishly embellished with nickel-plating and standing on four sturdy nickel-plated cabriole legs, the coveted machine had been pegged for success and was estimated at $60,000-$90,000.
Musical entertainers included a 1905 Multiphone Operating Company 5-cent multiple-cylinder phonograph whose mechanism allowed patrons to play any selection from a 24-tune playlist. It sold near the top of its estimate range for $66,000. Also, a circa-1920 Coinola Model ‘CO’ oak-case Orchestron, accompanied by 12 ‘O’ rolls, bore an applied metal tag that was marked ‘Property of Harolds Club, Reno, Nevada.’ It shot to $33,000, more than five times the high estimate.
An extremely rare 5-cent Industry Novelty Co., (precursor to O.D. Jennings Co.) Bell Fruit Gum slot machine with a handsome copper-flash finish, original reel strips and an added marquee showing potential payoff combinations was described in Morphy’s catalog as “one of very few known to exist.” It was bid to $22,140 against an estimate of $8,000-$15,000.
A very early 5-cent Jackson Supply Company cigar-vending machine named “The Honest Clerk” was made of cast iron beautifully detailed with all-original red paint. The actual example depicted in the book Silent Saleman Too by Bill and Peggy Enes, it smoked its pre-sale estimate of $12,000-$16,000, ultimately selling for $27,000.
Impossible to ignore with its bright primary colors and the image of a primitive rocket on its front panel, a 1950s Exhibit Supply 5-cent “Shoot the Space Invaders” arcade game had been expertly restored by Andy Parnell and was ready for play. It attracted 39 bids and left the auction launch pad at $19,200, six times the high estimate.
The outstanding selection of antique advertising offered on day two was dominated by an oversize (47-inch-tall) Coca-Cola leaded-glass display bottle manufactured in the 1920s by Metropolitan Art Glass Co., New York. A sought-after piece whose type is rarely seen in the marketplace, it swept past its high estimate to settle at $84,000. A 90-inch-wide neon sign advertising “Campbell’s Palace Drugs” and “Coca-Cola” also surpassed its high estimate, achieving a glowing $25,200.
“Attendance was fantastic over the two auction days and also during the preview,” said Dan Morphy, founder and president of Morphy Auctions. “Collectors were excited to inspect every detail of the rare and beautiful machines that were considered technological marvels of their day. Some people traveled long distances to attend the sale. It was especially nice to see so many West Coast buyers who were visiting our Pennsylvania gallery for the first time.”