Morphy’s April 20-22 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction lineup reveals rarely seen early amusements, top-notch signs and country store classics
Above: Exceedingly rare circa 1902-1904 Caille Bros Triple Eclipse upright musical slot machine incorporating three separate machines to accept 5 cents, 50 cents, and 5 cents, respectively. Displaying Serial No. 121, it is the earliest of few known legitimate Caille ‘triples.’ Magnificent example with all original castings. Estimate $200,000-$300,000.
Featured: 1902-1904 Caille Bros Triple Eclipse upright slot machine ($200K-$300K), fabulous Mills owl strength tester ($50K-$150K), Watling Cupid with US/Canadian nickel slot ($50K-$70K)
DENVER, Pa. – Morphy’s will bring on the fun and games April 20-22 with a stellar array of antique coin-operated machines and early advertising. Nearly 2,100 premium lots will be offered in three daily sessions, each packed with rare and desirable items. A special highlight is a substantial collection of country store memorabilia which Morphy Auctions’ CEO Tom Tolworthy describes as “one of the largest of its kind to come fresh to the market in decades.” In addition to gallery bidding, Morphy’s welcomes absentee, phone, and Internet participation via Morphy Live.
The undisputed star of the three-day event is a circa 1902-1904 Caille Bros Triple Eclipse upright musical slot machine. Its serial number, 121, designates it as the earliest of very few known legitimate examples of its type. The machine’s design is quite something to behold. Its handsome tiger oak cabinet incorporates three separate machines – two that accept nickels and a center unit that takes 50-cent coins. Its provenance can be traced to a 1960s Nevada warehouse find that contained various models of antique upright slots. The hoard was later identified as the Dobby Doc collection, which was assembled in the 1930s and ’40s. The stunning machine to be sold at Morphy’s presents beautifully and has all of its original castings. It’s ready for play and will cross the auction block with a $200,000-$300,000 estimate.
Another slot machine that could produce a big payday is a circa-1902 cast-iron Watling Cupid. It is believed that at one time the machine might have been located in a US city bordering Canada, such as Buffalo or Detroit, because it has a dual coin entry to accept the player’s choice of either an American or Canadian nickel. As if that were not enough to make this particular Watling Cupid a love match for any slot collector, it is also equipped with a side gum-vending machine marked “5¢.” Tolworthy, who is an expert on antique coin-ops, describes the versatile machine, which is the only one of its type known to exist, as “an absolute gem for any collector and a cornerstone for any gambling collector.” Its pre-sale estimate is $50,000-$70,000.
For the sports-minded collector, there’s a 1927 model All-American Baseball game that was manufactured between 1929 and 1931 by the Amusement Machine Company. The walnut cabinetry houses a baseball field with original cast-iron figures of players and an umpire, and the original lithographed cardboard stadium showing a full crowd in attendance. The steel-ball action can commence as soon as a penny is deposited. Estimate: $40,000-$70,000
If you’re wondering what the future has in store for you, maybe a 5¢ consultation with Esmeralda would be in order. The extremely rare coin-operated fortune teller known by that name is unique in that she speaks the patron’s fortune rather than delivering it on a printed card. The Esmeralda mannequin has a wax head, is dressed in period clothing, and speaks by means of an internal Edison cylinder record. Two cylinder records – which are even rarer than the fortune teller figure itself – are included in the Esmeralda lot, which is estimated at $30,000-$60,000.
Another top prize is an ultra-rare circa-1905 Mills owl strength tester equipped with a dumbbell lifter and overseen by a stunning figural papier-mache owl adornment. Fully operational, the machine stands over 9 feet tall, with the owl comprising nearly 3 feet of its height. When the dial in the owl’s chest records “200,” the bird’s eyes light up and a battery-operated bell rings. One can only imagine the response this strength tester, with its peering owl guardian, must have elicited in its earliest days at a penny arcade. Auction estimate $50,000-$150,000
A superb example of American folk art, a circa-1880s carved-wood cigar store Indian maiden stands 68 inches high on its original wooden block. The figure is painted in subtle period colors whose beauty is enhanced by a natural patina that only comes with age. The maiden has a stoic expression and wears a “feathered” headdress, mantle and necklace. In her hands, she holds packages of cigars and tobacco. In original condition and fresh to the market, this artful tobacconist’s trade sign is estimated at $20,000-$40,000.
Another example of exceptional workmanship is seen in a 1900 carved and painted street fair mascot or fair marshal figure from Belleville, Illinois, known as “Hello Bill.” Standing 68 inches tall, the quintessentially Midwestern character carries a stalk of tobacco and a moonshine jug, a long corncob pipe dangling from his mouth. In immaculate condition for its age, it is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Collectors will be spoiled for choice with the huge selection of colorful early signs to be auctioned. A circa-1910s double-sided tin flange sign advertising Quick Meal Ranges displays excellent color and gloss on both sides, which are graded 8.25 and 8.75, respectively. Hard to find and on just about every advertising fan’s wish list, it is estimated at $10,000-$20,000. Similarly estimated, a circa-1920s single-sided porcelain sign promoting HP Hood and Sons Milk boasts spectacular graphics and excellent gloss throughout. It is graded a strong condition 9.0.
There can be little doubt that a 99½-inch-long Rock Island Railroad sign, reverse-painted on glass and showing a train in motion with Pike’s Peak in the background, once would have taken pride of place in a railroad executive’s office. One of very few signs of its type known to exist, this exceptionally high-quality artwork is labeled for Engine No. 1302 of Rock Island Route 1008. Collectors will want to be aboard for the ride when this sign is announced with an auction estimate of $20,000-$40,000.
Morphy’s April 20-22, 2023 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction will be held live at the company’s Denver, Pennsylvania gallery, starting on all three days at 9 a.m. EDT. All forms of remote bidding will be available, including absentee, by phone, or live via the Internet through Morphy Live. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com. View the full catalog online at https://morphyauctions.com/auctions/past-auctions/coin-op-advertising-13/