Connoisseur’s selection of coin-ops, mechanical music machines and antique advertising headlines Morphy’s Nov. 4-6 auction

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Featured: Star Trade Register musical trade stimulator, Mills Double Dewey, superb Euro. music boxes, Brown Derby neon sign, Grandmother Predictions fortune-teller machine

DENVER, Pa. – At the turn of the 20th century, a pocketful of nickels or quarters was all a patron needed for thrills and entertainment at a saloon, amusement arcade or gambling house. Remarkably, the price to operate the ingenious machines that once filled a room with music or paid out a jackpot has not changed, but finding fine examples of such machines is quite another matter. This explains why Morphy Auctions’ Coin-Op & Antique Advertising series is so popular with collectors. Morphy’s never fails to present a connoisseur’s selection of coin-ops and exquisite advertising signs that are rarely seen elsewhere. Their next specialty sale, November 4-6, will offer more than 1,500 choice lots over the three-day period. 

Painted rippled steel ‘The Brown Derby Wilshire’ double-sided neon sign from the famed Los Angeles restaurant once frequented by movie stars and celebrities, 1940s/’50s vintage. 154 x 83 x 14in. Estimate $40,000-$80,000
Painted rippled steel ‘The Brown Derby Wilshire’ double-sided neon sign from the famed Los Angeles restaurant once frequented by movie stars and celebrities, 1940s/’50s vintage. 154 x 83 x 14in. Estimate $40,000-$80,000

An impressive lineup of 122 music machines is led by a Star Trade Register (Montpelier, Vt.) musical trade stimulator with a 15½-inch Style 11 Regina coin-op disc music mechanism. Manufactured at the turn of the 20th century for placement in cigar stores, this imposing 85-inch-tall machine was part of a very short production run and is numbered “38.” The simplicity of its design belies the sophistication of its mechanism. 

“No cranks needed to be pulled or rotated. The weight of the customers’ nickels was enough to activate the four cast-iron bull wheels, which were calibrated to move one position per coin. Winners would receive tokens to exchange for one, two or three cigars.” explained Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions. “It’s an extremely rare machine in any condition. To find one in excellent working order, looking as impeccable as this one, is nearly unheard of.” The pre-sale estimate is $75,000-$125,000.

A classic amongst coin-ops and a machine every collector aspires to own, an exquisite 1899 Mills “Double Dewey” 5-cent and 25-cent musical slot machine stands 68 inches tall and has ornate cast-iron claw feet and bas-relief images of Admiral Dewey and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The center of the machine is dominated by a fine music box housed behind glass, and plays a short tune with each spin. Superbly restored, it carries a $40,000-$80,000 estimate.

Early previewers at Morphy’s gallery have marveled at the European style and technology of several music machines, including a circa-1880 Nicole Freres desk model interchangeable overture cylinder music box. It comes with 10 cylinders, each capable of playing four overtures. Founded in Geneva in 1814, Nicole Freres is considered one of the finest makers of music boxes of all time because of their inventiveness and ability to produce mechanisms of superlative quality within cases of unparalleled beauty and quality. The machine mentioned here has a pull-out writing desk; and inlaid door and music box lid. It is estimated at $30,000-$60,000.

Another Continental stunner is a Paillard Vaucher Fils St-Croix (Swiss) revolving-cylinder music box with bells and six 18-inch cylinders that play 8 tunes, each with a sound that is deep and rich. Constructed of mixed woods with mother-of-pearl inlay, and paired with its matching burlwood table, this luxury music box is expected to reach $25,000-$40,000 at auction.

Lochmann, a music box manufacturer established in 1885 in Leipzig, Germany, was known for its talented engineers, including Gustave Brachhausen and Paul Rissner, who made major contributions to the musical movements industry. Morphy’s is pleased to offer an original walnut version of Lochmann’s No. 172 coin-operated disc music box with stand. Made circa 1903 and standing 92 inches tall, it displays such notable features as a duplex music comb with 160 teeth, and 12 Klangohren (tubular) bells. The auction estimate is $10,000-$20,000.

The ability to look into the future is a concept that has fascinated humankind for untold millennia. Coin-operated machines of the late 19th- and early 20th centuries reflect the ongoing popularity of clairvoyance into the modern era. A circa-1931 International Mutoscope Reel Co., “Grandmother Predictions” coin-operated fortune-teller machine is in top-notch condition with an exceptionally nice wooden case, no flaking to the glass, and attractive nickel castings. This experienced psychic of yesteryear predicts an auction price of $20,000-$30,000.

The antique advertising section of the sale boasts more than 800 lots from which to choose, with dozens of subcategories ranging from alcohol, tobacco and automotive signs to soft drink, soda fountain and store display items. A rare and beautiful crossover sign with equal appeal to collectors of Black Americana and medicinal advertising, a framed Smith’s Kidney Pills lithographed tin sign has survived quite remarkably over time, with bright, strong colors and an endearing image of an African American boy. The 43½ by 31-inch (framed) sign comes to auction with a $10,000-$15,000 estimate.

The Iver Johnson company, founded in 1871 by a Norwegian immigrant in Massachusetts, was an American manufacturer of firearms, bicycles and motorcycles. While the company’s bicycles were graceful and well-engineered, not much of their early bike advertising seems to have survived. An exciting entry in Morphy’s sale is an Iver Johnson Cycles lithographed tin sign, condition 7.8, promoting their “Honest Cycles At Honest Prices.” The excellent graphics feature a pretty lady rider wearing a long dress and straw boater hat. Estimate $10,000-$15,000

An iconic 154- by 83-inch figural neon sign from LA’s legendary Brown Derby restaurant, 1940s/’50s vintage, will be offered with a $40,000-$80,000 estimate. Dozens of other neon signs are slated for sale, including colorful examples from Bob’s Big Boy, Foster’s Freeze, Johnny Rocket’s, Van de Kamp’s Bakery, and many other restaurants and stores. A double-sided Park Florists die-cut porcelain neon sign with a red-rose graphic and scrollwork embellishments is graded a strong 8.75+ and 8.5+ on front and back, respectively. Estimate $8,000-$15,000. “Neon collectors will find this lineup of outstanding signs very hard to resist,” Morphy said. 

An all-American specialty item that evokes immediate nostalgia is a Cretors & Co. (Chicago), Improved No. 2 popcorn wagon with a peppermint-striped canopy. Made in 1912 and restored for use, it’s ready to be wheeled to a new home for an estimated bid of $5,000-$10,000. The auction also features vending machines and pinball machines, jukeboxes, cash registers, scales and country store items; cigar cutters, lighters, movie memorabilia, and general antiques.

Morphy’s Thursday/Friday/Saturday, Nov. 4,5 and 6 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction will be held live at Morphy’s gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517, starting at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. Call to schedule a preview appointment. All remote forms of bidding will be available as well, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live. For additional information on any item in the sale, call 877-968-8880 or email [email protected]. View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid live online at

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