Antique Jewelry: 19th and 20th Century Gypsy Jewelry

August 8th, 2012 by

The Gypsy people, also called Roma or Romani, can trace their origins back more than 1000 years to the Indian subcontinent. Gypsy bloodlines and cultures have since proliferated across Europe and most of the rest of the world. During the early part of the 20th century, many Gypsy families arrived in the United States, bringing with them their culture and of course their possessions, which tend to showcase the Roma’s unique skill with intricate metalwork. This skill is easily recognized in a form of rare and now highly valued antique jewelry.

Metal smelting, plating, and shaping skills were believed to have developed among the Roma more than a millennium ago and have since been passed down from one generation to the next. As a result, the most beautiful and prized antique jewelry of this century is often set in or composed of various metals, specifically copper and gold. Gold cuff bracelets and earrings, gold belts, and gold medallions made by Roma are often more valuable then the gold used to make them– worth more than their weight, so to speak. But there are other reasons why these pieces are so sought after, many originating in aspects of the Roma culture and lifestyle.

For example, as a nomadic people, Gypsies historically limit their possessions to what they can carry or wear, so jewelry has become a form of wearable currency. But this exposes items to damage and loss and so, as generations go by, truly antique jewelry can become harder to find. The Roma also traditionally bury possessions with their owner upon the owner’s death, the possible exception being a single ring given to the owners oldest daughter. Jewelry belonging to a deceased person cannot be sold, and even as these restrictions have changed and lifted over the years, it still remains taboo to sell this jewelry within the Roma community. All of these factors contribute to a general attrition of truly authentic antique jewelry displaying Roma metalwork. The current rarity of these items can also be traced to the 1930’s and the great depression which left many families in financial circumstances that forced them to pawn or melt antique jewelry pieces down in order to sell the gold.

A few features to look for when evaluating antique jewelry with Gypsy origins: First, the metalwork. Gems and stones are often set in the pieces, but Gypsy owners typically preferred to invest in gold, since gold is more difficult to counterfeit. Intricate wirework, or filigree, is also a common feature of authentic Gypsy pieces.
Keep an eye out for Gypsy motifs as well, the most popular being horseshoes, hearts, and the head of a beautiful woman in profile, often referred to as “the Gypsy queen.” If you happen to own antique jewelry displaying these images, keep in mind the Gypsy belief that such pieces are good luck to own, but bad luck to sell. This also, of course, escalates the pieces in both rarity and value.

– Erin Sweeney

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Buyer Beware: Tips for Furniture Buyers – by Marko Kareinen

August 7th, 2012 by

At first glance, this looks like an authentic Empire chest. It is a fine intarsia decoration, old-looking fittings, good varnish etc. To a new collector, this would appear to be made around 1850 but buyer beware.  This is a new product!

This chest is actually made around 1950.

How can you tell?  A closer look behind the chest is the giveaway.

The back of the chest and the bottom of the drawers are made of plywood.

Plywood is an older wood, but a real Empire chest would have a solid back and the drawers would be solid also.

Below are a few images to help you identify old from new:

Take a look at the back – does this look like a solid back?

Here is a reproduction drawer base in plywood.

Here is an old drawer base. (Neo Renaissance chest 1890 ) It is made of solid wood.

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Selling Your Antiques Online -By Reyne Haines

August 3rd, 2012 by

At some point in time collectors are faced with the need to deaccession, or pair down their collections.   They often tire of their earlier purchases, deciding to upgrade to more rare, or one of a kind pieces. Sometimes they shift gears altogether, collecting a completely different artist, or era.

Selling your antiques online has both risks and rewards.  It offers you great opportunities to get in front of large audiences and obtain a good bang for the marketing buck.  After all, what could be better than getting to enjoy something for a while, then sharing it with some else by selling it for a profit?  For the addicted, this generally affords you the opportunity to purchase another great item, perhaps even more rare and expensive, which starts the process all over again!

As always, marketing your items is very important.  For this, you’ll need really good pictures!  Since the buyer is unable to hold the item in hand, you’ll also need to provide thorough descriptions.  Be open to answering questions from inquisitive buyers.  Price your items based on your research and current market conditions.  Keeping a list of which client bought what type of item can prove handy in the future when selling similar things.

There are many venues you can use to sell your collectables.  So which ones are best?  That depends on what it is you have to sell.  There are sites like eBay and Craigslist which work well for certain items,  but would they really offer the serious collectors for your Tiffany glass collection?

Other venues exist to help your efforts.  Google “selling antiques online” and you will find over a million results for auctions, online antique malls, and collectors clubs that might help you get in front of the right kind of buyers which should bring you more opportunity.

When working with online auctions or an online mall, it is important to know a few things.  First, do they deal in items like the ones you have?  Second, you should find out what kind of agreements they have between buyers and sellers.  Ask how they settle the purchase and what fees could be charged to you.  Finally, what kind of protection do they offer for both the buyer and the seller?

Remember, do not ship your item until payment has been received.  If you accept credit cards, be cautious when accepting credit cards from certain countries. You may not want to sell your entire collection to the Nigerian prince offering to pay you with his credit card.  PayPal is often the safe method for accepting credit cards if you do not already have merchant status in place.

Whether you use a popular online auction or mall, or create a web site yourself, you should be knowledgeable and exercise a sound strategy when offering your antiques.  In today’s world it isn’t just “caveat emptor” but also “vendo cum cautela” (sell with caution) as well.

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How to Identify Fake Antiques

August 2nd, 2012 by

As antiques aficionados, most of us appreciate authenticity and are drawn to items that have provenance or –at the very least– are as old as they are purported to be by the person trying to sell them. But now and then an item may be sold under a false pretext, and it can save us money and heartbreak if we recognize this before bringing it home.


“Fake” versus “Not Very Old”


There are two ways one may be led into buying an antique with a lower value than advertised. One is the circulation of an actual “fake”, a counterfeit “Tiffany” lamp, “Chippendale” chair, or “1923 Rolex” watch, for example. These kinds of fakes (except for the watch– more on that later) are actually very difficult to create and pass off as the real deal. It takes an intense degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail to pull off a scheme like this, especially when it comes to wooden furniture, so you don’t see these kinds of things very often. All the same, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Some deals are too good to be true. If the price of an item seems way too low, feel free to buy it, but don’t count on being able to resell it as an authentic piece.
  • If you’re trusting a label or watermark to tell the truth, it’s best to have some experience with that particular maker so you know exactly what the correct version looks like. Joining collectors clubs or similar social groups can expose you to experts and help build your knowledge and confidence.
  • Sometimes pottery and ceramics have minor defects and are sold as “factory seconds.” In this case, the maker will often strike out the signature. If you believe you’re looking at a factory second, buy at your own risk. The manufacturer has disowned the item, and you can’t prove the authenticity of the piece when you sell it, but you may still find pleasure in owning it.

“Not Very Old”

Some misleading items are simply recently-made pieces that are passed off as old. An item sold as a colonial table or an 18th century German cuckoo clock may have been made in a factory last week. Here are a few ways to tell.

  • Over time, wood changes shape along the grain. The length stays the same, but the width varies. If a round table is still perfectly round, it may not be very old. Square shelves that fit imperfectly in cabinetry, gaps, slight buckling, and a general misshape are all good signs.
  • Check the woodworm holes and the joining pegs. Tiny cracks should not radiate from the wormholes, and the joining pegs should stand out slightly from the surrounding wood as it shrinks back with time.
  • Dovetail joints should be a bit rough. Uniform cuts suggest a 20th century factory.  Rougher, uneven cuts suggest handwork.
  • Check patterns of grime and wear. The piece should show more distress in the places where it’s been touched most over the years, like on the arms of chairs and the handles of things. Uniform wear is a bad sign.
  • Read the description carefully. Items sold as “in the style of” or “inspired by” are not claiming to be antique. These are perfectly legal and legitimate imitations of antique items.

A Few Additional Tips

Remember that “authentic” can be a purely philosophical distinction. Antique items have been popular for thousands of years. “Fake” antique tables were bought and sold during biblical times. If you come across one of these, I’d hold onto it.

By the same token, if a wooden table is made from the boards of an old barn, is it old? As the buyer, you are allowed to decide. But it’s harder to dictate these terms when you become the seller.

When an item becomes appealing to speculators, fakes abound. Show caution when buying something at the peak of popularity.

Use your nose. Real silver has a very distinctive smell. So does old wood in the enclosed space of a drawer or cabinet.

Repair and patchwork are also subjective matters, but they diminish official resale value. Be especially cautious of patchwork when it comes to items with many small parts, like watches and clocks. One modern replacement spring mechanism may render a watch inauthentic, and may be very difficult for non-experts to detect.

By Erin Sweeney


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Sotheby’s New York – Lichtenstein’s ‘Sleeping Girl’ Sets New Artist Record | Contemporary Art Evening Auction

May 11th, 2012 by

NEW YORK, 9 May 2012 – Tonight at Sotheby’s, the Contemporary Art Evening Sale brought a strong total of $266,591,000, well within the $216/304 million pre-sale estimate and with 81% of lots sold.

Tobias Meyer, this evening’s auctioneer and Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art, said: ‘‘We are thrilled with tonight’s total of $266 million, and especially with the results achieved for our top four lots, which set a record for Roy Lichtenstein, for a single panel by Francis Bacon, one of the strongest prices for Andy Warhol in some time, and a record for Cy Twombly. The top end of the market performed beautifully this evening due to a global demand for masterpieces that is almost unparalleled, and we saw a remarkable depth of bidding between $30-40 million.’’

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RSL’s July 1 Antique Toys, Train Stations, Banks & Americana auction led by revered Jirofsky, Laster collections

May 11th, 2012 by

Circa-1905 Marklin ‘Café’ train station with many papier-mache figures, ex Ward Kimball collection. Est. $18,000-$25,000. RSL Auction Co.

TIMONIUM, Md. – Fine European antique toys and train stations, plus a fabulous array of still and mechanical banks are at the heart of RSL’s 621-lot auction to be held July 1, 2012 at Richard Opfer’s gallery in Timonium (suburban Baltimore), Maryland. Titled “Toys, Train Stations, Banks & Americana,” the auction’s wonderfully varied selections include the John Jirofsky architectural still bank collection, the late Dr. James Laster’s collection of train stations, and other carefully chosen additional consignments.


A longtime collector, Jirofsky is a member of both the MBCA and SBCCA, a reflection of his penchant for both mechanical and still banks. “We sold John’s mechanical banks in June of last year; now we have his still banks, which were his true collecting passion,” said RSL partner Ray Haradin. “There’s great diversity in his collection, especially among the painted buildings. It contains the only known example of the ‘1905 Bank.’” Having an almost mosque-like appearance with its tall spires, the 1905 Bank could cash out at $12,000-$18,000.


Gebruder Bing 1 gauge train station with patio, circa 1910. Est. $4,000-$6,000. RSL Auction Co.

Another highlight is a red Palace Bank with exceptionally fine detailing and a smooth, lustrous patina. It is expected to make $10,000-$15,000.


From a different consignor comes a rare and exceptional 1890s polychrome-painted Ives Santa bank, complete with a removable wire Christmas tree accessory. The bank’s gilt-edged trail of provenance includes the distinguished Leon Perelman and Donal Markey collections. The presale estimate is $8,000-$12,000.


Marklin three-tiered castle, circa 1895, parade ground moves when connected to steam engine. Est. $14,000-$20,000. RSL Auction Co.

RSL is honored to have been chosen to handle the European train station collection of the late Dr. James Laster, whose specialty was German 1 gauge. Fifteen train stations from the Laster collection will be lined up to meet their new owners on auction day, including a large, circa-1905 Marklin Café station (1 Gauge) ex Ward Kimball collection. It could bring $18,000-$25,000, Haradin said.


A circa-1910 Bing station with patio, in excellent condition, is entered with hopes of realizing $4,000-$6,000. There will also be a host of other, smaller Bing, Marklin and J. Krauss stations from the early 1900s.


The magical Marklin name will also be represented by a circa-1895 three-tiered castle. “It’s a pristine example from the Lutz /Marklin era and should sell for $14,000-$20,000,” Haradin said. Other Marklin prizes include a horse-drawn stagecoach with driver, est. $6,500-$9,500; and a large Marklin Jolanda riverboat, est. $12,000-$18,000.


Circa-1895 Hubley Toy Co. Gondola Amusement Park Ride, clockwork cast iron, brass and wood. Est. $30,000-$40,000. RSL Auction Co.

A first-rate assortment of American tin toys is highlighted by a circa-1885 Ives “Giant” locomotive. Measuring an impressive 17½ inches long, the Giant was the largest locomotive of the American clockwork-toy era. One of only four known, the entry in RSL’s sale is estimated at $12,000-$18,000.


Two other clockwork treasures to be sold are a circa-1875 Ives Stump Speaker in pristine condition, est. $5,000-$7,000; and one of only about 6 extant examples of an Ives Nursemaid, also known as “Old Aunt Chloe.” The toy is meant to depict a black nanny caring for a white infant. Estimate: $7,000-$9,000.


German painted papier-mache and cardboard ‘Black Dandy’ ball toss, circa 1895. Est. $5,000-$7,000. RSL Auction Co.

Cast-iron American toys exhibiting particularly fine condition include a “super-mint” circa-1905 Uncle Sam Chariot, made by Kenton Hardware and retaining an unbelievable 99.5% of its original paint. The 12-inch-long patriotic toy, whose chariot replicates an American eagle, is expected to achieve $15,000-$25,000 at auction. Right alongside it is one of the rarest of all Hubley toys, a Gondola Amusement Park Ride, with intricately cast ironwork on its wheels. The 19-inch-long toy, whose condition is rated “excellent,” is estimated at $30,000-$40,000.


A featured section of the sale is devoted to antique European character and automotive toys by such makers as Lehmann, Nifty, Schuco and the coveted French brand Fernand Martin, whose “Orange Vendor” and “Gendarme,” est. $3,000-$4,000, are rarely seen. European automotive toys will follow their category’s leader, a deluxe model Fisher Taxi with rare leather canopy and two female passengers, est. $3,500-$5,500.


J. & E. Stevens Bread Winners cast-iron mechanical bank, circa 1886. Est. $26,000-$32,000. RSL Auction Co.

A grouping of 18 character toys and other items with a black theme will be led by a circa-1895 papier-mache and cardboard Dandy Ball Toss. German made and displaying bright, appealing colors, the toy is designed so the “dandy” nods his head when a ball is successfully tossed into an opening in his midsection. Est. $5,000-$7,000.


It wouldn’t be an RSL auction without high-end cast-iron mechanical banks. The July 1 sale includes around 175 mechanicals, many in near-mint condition. Among the top lots is a circa-1886 J. & E. Stevens Bread Winners bank designed by Charles Bailey. With pristine paint, it has the potential to realize $26,000-$32,000.


J. & E. Stevens Calamity cast-iron mechanical bank, circa 1905. Est. $35,000-$55,000. RSL Auction Co.

Other coveted classics include a superior circa-1905 J. & E. Stevens Calamity bank, est. $35,000-$55,000; and a near-mint circa-1888 Kyser & Rex Butting Buffalo, $20,000-$30,000.


The perfect “go with” for a mechanical bank is an illustrated trade card. RSL’s sale will include approximately 10 trade cards advertising mechanical banks, including a relatively rare “Bad Accident.” Some of the cards are ex Bob Brady collection.


All forms of bidding will be available in RSL’s Sunday, July 1 auction, including Internet live bidding through The sale will begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, with a preview from Tuesday, May 26 commencing at 12 noon through Sunday morning prior to the auction. A complimentary cocktail party preview will be held at the gallery on Thursday, May 28 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.


For additional information, call Ray Haradin at 412-343-8733, Leon Weiss at 917-991-7352, or Steven Weiss at 212-729-0011. E-mail or Visit RSL Auction Co. online at

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Collectors prepare to gather ’round the circle for Morphy’s May 26 Marble auction

May 9th, 2012 by

Christensen Agate cyclone guinea marble with ‘submarine’ effect, est. $700-$1,000. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, Pa. – Some of the finest handmade and machine-made vintage marbles ever to be offered at auction will be available to bidders on May 26 at Morphy’s gallery in Lancaster County, Pa. The 783-lot specialty sale is all about marbles, and nothing else.


Manufacturers represented in the sale include such coveted names as Christensen Agate, Akro Agate and Peltier. The selection includes boxed sets as well as single marbles.


One of the auction’s special highlights is an Akro Agate Kullerbubbel Gum marble set, a display that was designed to offer children a stick of gum and one agate marble for a penny. The lucky person who purchased the last stick of gum from the display box would receive the only included corkscrew “shooter” as a bonus. The boxed set with 120 marbles, 120 sticks of gum and shooter is expected to make $3,000-$5,000.


Four-paneled controlled mica onionskin marble, est. $2,000-$3,000. Morphy Auctions image.

Christensen singles include three teardrop guineas. Also among the top lots by Christensen are a rare cobalt with orange and white marble, est. $1,000-$2,000; a hard-to-find red devil that is estimated at $1,500-$2,500; and a blue devil with electric-yellow stripes, similarly estimated at $1,500-$2,500. The latter two examples are pictured in all four editions of Everett Grist’s “Big Book of Marbles.” A third red devil, with yellow striping and spotting is also estimated at $1,500-$2,500.


Onionskins are led by a rare 4-panel controlled mica with faceted pontil. It has two opposing panels of almost solid red and two other opposing panels of turquoise and white with blizzard mica. Extremely hard to find in this configuration, the 1 1/8 in. marble could realize an auction price of $2,000-$3,000.


Circa-1870 gutta percha marble with multiple colors creating an ‘iris’ effect, est. $3,000-$5,000. Morphy Auctions image.

A circa-1870 marble made of gutta percha (papier mache) displays a color palette of mustard yellow, oxblood red, tan, blue and gold on a black base. Together, the colors create an iris effect. An early, seldom-encountered marble, it is in 9.5 condition and estimated at $3,000-$5,000.


A rarity known as a “birdcage” marble because of the distinctive cage-like shape its latticino forms within the glass boasts a medley of five colors. “In fact, we have never seen this many colors in a birdcage marble,” said Morphy’s marbles specialist Brian Estepp. The condition is rated 9.7 and it is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.


Five-color single-pontil birdcage marble, est. $3,000-$5,000. Morphy Auctions image.

Many wonderful sulphide marbles, with figures suspended in the glass, are included in the sale, including a standing Jester, Kneeling/Praying Angel and a wonderful Painted Dog. The well-centered figure of a spotted canine with brown eyes and nose stands on a green “grass” base. It could bring $2,500-$3,500 on auction day.


Morphy’s Marble auction will take place on Saturday, May 26, 2012, commencing at 9 a.m. Eastern time. All forms of bidding will be available, including live at the gallery, by phone or absentee, and live via the Internet through Morphy Live (sign up at or


For additional information on any lot in the auction, call Morphy’s at 717-335-3435 or

e-mail View the fully illustrated catalog and all other auction information online at

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Morphy’s announces Sept. 21-22 auction of Adolph Grenke breweriana collection

May 8th, 2012 by


Premier 40-year collection of beer cans, signs, taps could bring well over $1 million


From the Adolph Grenke collection, an early 1940s Gibbons Bock Beer can, considered the nicer of two known examples. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, Pa. – Dan Morphy, CEO of Morphy Auctions, has confirmed that the renowned Adolph Grenke breweriana collection will be auctioned in its entirety at Morphy’s gallery on Sept. 21-22, 2012.


“No other consignments will be added. The entire two-day sale will be devoted exclusively to this outstanding single-owner collection, which we anticipate will bring well over a million dollars,” said Morphy.


Amassed over a period of more than 40 years, the Grenke collection includes as many as 500 highly collectible vintage beer cans. The can collection is regarded as one of the finest collections of its kind ever assembled, with some of the cans expected to sell for $20,000 to $60,000 each.”


The collection also includes over 400 beer taps – with many expected to realize more than $1,000 each – and a bevy of colorful advertising signs. Highlights include over 50 Gillco glass light-up signs, and two examples of late-19th-century Anheuser-Busch signs of such rarity that they are not even represented in the famed St. Louis brewery’s archive.


“What makes the Grenke collection so exciting as a whole is its condition. Mr. Grenke always adhered to very strict buying guidelines. He bought only items that were in near-mint-plus condition or better. Even when something extremely rare was offered to him, he would pass if it did not satisfy his standards for condition,” said Morphy.


Because of the importance of the Grenke collection, Morphy has enlisted the services of two noted specialists to handle the grading and description of its contents. Dan Morean of will catalog the beer cans, while dealer/collector Les Jones will be in charge of the breweriana and advertising section of the sale.


Morphy Auctions will display highlights of the Adolph Grenke breweriana collection Aug. 1-4 at the 41st Annual National Assn. of Breweriana Advertising Convention, at the Springfield Hilton, Springfield, Ill.; and the Brewery Collectibles Club of America’s 42nd “CANvention,” Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at the Sheraton Springfield in Springfield, Mass.


Further details about the auction, as well as catalog-ordering information, will be available soon on Morphy Auctions’ website,

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Bertoia’s March 23-24 ‘Made to Be Played’ toy auction finishes at $1.3M

May 8th, 2012 by

Hubley Popeye Patrol cast-iron motorcycle toy, $19,550. Bertoia Auctions image.

VINELAND, N.J. – Bertoia’s March 23-24 ‘Made to Be Played’ auction, a 1,400-lot offering highlighted by the Grover Van Dexter European tin toy collection, closed the books at an impressive $1.3 million (inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium). An extensive variety of early toys crossed the auction block. A Hubley cast-iron Popeye Patrol depicting the popular cartoon sailor on a motorcycle had been estimated at $10,000-$12,000 and rode off as top lot after hammering $19,550.


“It was a well-attended event, and the phones and Internet were very busy,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “We’ve noticed that with each successive sale there are more and more serious bidders using alternative bidding methods. We’re reached a point with the electronic crowd where they’re 100% trusting of the catalog descriptions. A bidder will call ahead of time and ask, ‘Is this toy really excellent?’ Then after the sale they’ll call me and say it was actually better than described.”


Marklin rolling steam engine with foldable stack, double flywheel, other desirable details, $8,050. Bertoia Auctions image.

The aforementioned Popeye on Motorcycle had an association with Bertoia’s that went way back, Rich Bertoia said. “My brother Bill bought that toy years ago after visiting the Hubley showroom in New York. It was a big deal for a small company like Hubley (of Lancaster, Pa.) to make it to the big trade show. Bill resold the toy, which was in unplayed-with condition, to collector Bob Brady. In turn, Bob sold it at auction a few years ago. The person who bought it at that particular auction, consigned it to our March 23-24 sale.”


Before the auction, Rich Bertoia was asked how he thought the toy would fare. “I said that cast iron has made a comeback, that there are a few more collectors in the mix now, and that you won’t find another one in that condition,” Bertoia said. “It ended up nearly doubling its low estimate at $19,550.”


Steam toys from the collection of the late Klaus Grutzka, who taught art at the prestigious Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., put in a strong performance. A fine Marklin rolling steam engine with foldable stack, double flywheel and other nice details topped the steam-toy group at $8,050.


Lehmann ‘Coco’ weighted-string pull toy, German, with original box, $8,625. Bertoia Auctions image.

There was interest from both sides of the Atlantic in European tin toys from the personal collection of Grover Van Dexter, who owned a legendary Greenwich village toy shop called Second Childhood. Van Dexter’s shop – like his personal collection – was laden with rare Lehmanns and Martins.


Van Dexter’s Lehmann Coco, a weighted-string pull toy that depicts an African native climbing a palm tree to retrieve a coconut, not only retained its paper tree leaves but also its rare pictorial box. Estimated at $1,500-$1,800, it was bid to $8,625.


A French Fernand Martin wind-up toy depicting an English soldier was made of tin and outfitted in a cloth uniform with metal helmet and gun. An unquestionably rare toy, it soared to $6,325 against an estimate of $1,000-$1,200.


Deep Sea Diver lithographed tinplate wind-up toy, German, $5,750. Bertoia Auctions image.

Collectors love oddities, Bertoia said, and that described the German-made tinplate Deep Sea Diver of unknown manufacture. Examples of this nicely detailed tin-litho character in a primitive diving suit and domed helmet seldom appear at auction. Against an estimate of $1,200-$1,500, it claimed a winning bid of $5,750.


Depicting a character from the early newspaper comic strip “Toonerville Folks,” a Powerful Katrinka wind-up toy by Nifty swept past its $900-$1,100 estimate to realize $2,588.


“This is the type of toy that keeps comic character buyers interested. There were fewer Powerful Katrinkas made than other comic character toys. When one of them comes out of the woodwork, it gives the market a bump,” Bertoia said. “The Toonerville toys had more of a regional than national distribution. The comic strip had a rural theme, so the toys were only sent to certain pockets of the country. As a result, the toys are rare.”


Hand-painted spelter Santa Claus still bank, German, $8,625. Bertoia Auctions image.

A selection of antique still and mechanical banks – many in superior condition – was led by a hand-painted spelter bank depicting Santa Claus with a staff in one hand and a bag slung over his shoulder. Prices for spelter banks have continued to escalate, as the Santa bank proved when it sold for $8,625 against an estimate of $1,000-$1,500.


Perhaps the most unusual entry in the auction was a cast-iron figural hand, painted red and weighing more than 100 lbs. The 32-inch-tall trade sign was originally a display piece in a York, Pa., glove factory. Bertoia said he had seen only one other like it, in an Architectural Digest spread of several years ago. Bertoia’s sold the example in their sale for $6,325 – more than six times its high estimate.


Hubley Parlour Maid figural cast-iron doorstop, designed by Anne Fish, $5,463. Bertoia Auctions image.

Bertoia’s is known for its record prices on figural cast-iron doorstops, a collecting category in which Bertoia’s owner, Jeanne Bertoia, is an acknowledged expert.


“In this sale we included the complete range of Hubley Art Deco doorstops designed by Anne Fish, a popular English cartoonist and illustrator in the 1920s,” said Jeanne Bertoia. “Each was in beautiful condition. The Parlour Maid, which depicts a French maid serving cocktails, was in even better condition than the book example.” Estimated at $1,800-$2,500, the Parlour Maid achieved a top bid of $5,463.


Bertoia’s will present its annual Fall Sale on Sept. 21-22. On Nov. 10, the company will auction part II of the Dick Claus collection of nautical toys and boats. To contact Bertoia Auctions, call 856-692-1881 or e-mail Visit Bertoia’s online at

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Auction-room fireworks expected at Morphy’s June 22-23 auction of George Moyer collection

May 7th, 2012 by

40-year collection includes spectacular array of vintage firecrackers, pyrotechnic rarities


Grizzly Bear 50-pack firecrackers, manufactured by Tai Lee Hong. Mint condition. Est. $1,000-$1,500. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, Pa. – Fourth of July celebrations will begin early this year, with Morphy’s June 22-23 auction of the spectacular George Moyer collection of antique and vintage firecrackers.


Known and revered by “pyromaniacs” throughout the United States and abroad, Moyer’s 40-year collection consists of thousands of rare firecracker packs and label, salutes, consumer novelties, sparklers, caps and smaller tubed items. Additionally, there are posters, catalogs and salesmen’s sample boards, which were created to display products available to retailers in days gone by. One such catalog was published in the 19th century by Rochester Firework Co.


The entire, unpicked collection will be apportioned into more than 1,300 colorful lots, some containing multiple pieces. While the main focus of the collection is American-made fireworks, there are also items from England, India and Canada.


Moyer, who is a native and lifelong resident of Pottsville, Pa., owns an amusement machine company. “I made my fun my work,” he said with a laugh.

Balfour’s 40-pack firecrackers, manufactured by Balfour Guthrie & Co. Ltd., San Francisco. Mint condition. Est. $800-$1,200. Morphy Auctions image.


Moyer began collecting fireworks-related items at age 10. “I spotted a label on a pack where some boys were shooting off firecrackers. I picked it up and thought it was neat, so I started picking up more labels the same way, looking for them where kids were shooting them off,” he said.


In the early 1970s when Moyer acquired his first pack, there were no organized groups of collectors or publications devoted to the hobby. Collectors found each other through ads or would run into each other at general antique shows or toy shows, he said.


“Eventually we formed a little trading group, but it wasn’t till much later that there were collector club conventions,” said Moyer. “I would find things at antique shops, paper shows, through antique dealers, all sorts of methods. At yard sales I would always ask if they had any old firecrackers for sale. Of course, once the Internet became available, it opened up the whole hobby.”


Mercury 16-pack firecrackers, manufactured by Hing Cheong Yeung Hong, Portuguese Macau. Near-mint condition. Est. $500-$1,000. Morphy Auctions image.

Moyer’s interest in fireworks never waned. After completing high school and a stint in the military, he hooked up with a friend who had a professional fireworks company in New Jersey. Over the years, he has maintained his association with the company and is a licensed pyrotechnician who can legally set off fireworks at public events. “To this day, I still fire them off,” Moyer said.


Some of the earliest items contained in the Moyer collection are Chinese black-powder (gunpowder) firecrackers from the early 1800s. They are identifiable from their distinctive red labels with gold print. Black-powder firecrackers were phased out when flash crackers – which “blew up better” – were introduced, Moyer said.


The Moyer collection contains scores of rare labels that are sure to appeal to collectors. “I have many things in my collection that I believe most of my fellow collectors don’t even know exist,” said Moyer, who included selections from his personal stash in the beautiful full-color reference book he co-authored in 2000: Firecrackers – The Art & History.

Evergreen 16-pack firecracker. Est. $500-$1,000. Morphy Auctions image.


Among the rare packs and labels to be auctioned are titles including: Evergreen, Merry Go Round, Puppy, Ostrich, Gee Whiz, Marine Brand, Battleship, Fountain Brand and Tarzan. Especially appealing graphics are seen on Unexcelled Fireworks’ “Jester,” which depicts a court jester, “Round One,” whose label is illustrated with a gloved woman boxer seated in the corner of a boxing ring, and “Tally Ho,” a British production for the US market that shows a horse jumper with dog running alongside. Two Canadian highlights are “Ibex” (black powder), with the image of a mountain goat; and “Niagara,” which, as the name suggests, features an image of Niagara Falls.


Two other packs that are worthy of note are “Red Fox” and “Squirrel,” both manufactured by Wilfong Fireworks. Wilfong was a Texas company that made headlines in the early 1950s when its plant exploded and emitted a mushroom cloud that some locals mistook for an atomic bomb attack by the Soviets.


Tally Ho 32-pack firecrackers, manufactured by To Yiu. Est. $600-$800. Morphy Auctions image.

The collection includes three different types of Ft. McHenry salute boxes and a special display of firecrackers encased in glass so their distinctive wrapper designs are visible. A very rare and desirable box of Buck Rogers Disintegrators (salutes) is expected to attract crossover interest from space toy collectors. Its box cover is dominated by an illustration of the famous sci-fi hero brandishing a ray gun.


Moyer said his fellow collectors are going to be “very surprised” when they see one particular novelty slated for auction – a merry-go-round that, when lit and put into motion, spins around and concludes its performance with crackers firing off. Made by M. Backus & Sons of Wallingford, Ct., it is unused and in its original box – a rarity, said Moyer, because any fireworks item is “meant to be shot off; then it’s done.”

Buck Rogers firecrackers, 1937. Est. $300-$600. Morphy Auctions image.


Morphy Auctions CEO Dan Morphy said catalog pre-orders have been pouring in and that he expects a strong turnout of enthusiastic bidders for the June 22-23 auction.


“George Moyer is the world’s foremost collector of fireworks. He’s highly respected in the hobby,” Morphy said. “I’m sure bidders are going to go all out to try to win rare pieces from this remarkable 40-year collection, which is being offered at auction complete and unpicked. It’s one of a kind.”


Both the June 22 and 23 auction sessions will commence at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live or Note: Special conditions apply regarding the shipment of fireworks, which may not be sent through the US Postal Service. Further information about shipping of items in this sale will be posted soon on


A printed catalog will be available the week of May 28, and a fully illustrated electronic catalog will appear online by May 18 at and For additional information, call 717-335-3435 or e-mail Visit Morphy Auctions online at


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