Morphy’s Spring Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction closes the books at nearly $3.7M

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Rare-variation Watling ‘Cupid’ slot machine made a love connection at $72,000; while Esmeralda fortune teller defied prognostications to earn a hefty $66,000

DENVER, Pa. – Morphy Auctions’ lively April 20-22 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising Auction delivered a fantastic selection of rare slot machines, amusements and early advertising to an eager audience of bidders, cashing out at just under $3.7 million. The multi-session sale featured dozens of sought-after categories, including country store memorabilia, which was represented by one of the largest collections of its type to reach the marketplace in decades. 

Circa-1902 Watling Cupid cast-iron slot machine, only known example with dual coin entry to accommodate both US and Canadian nickels. Also equipped with side gum-vending machine marked ‘5¢.’ Sold above high estimate for $72,000
Circa-1902 Watling Cupid cast-iron slot machine, only known example with dual coin entry to accommodate both US and Canadian nickels. Also equipped with side gum-vending machine marked ‘5¢.’ Sold above high estimate for $72,000

The top lot of the nearly 2,100-lot auction was a circa-1902 cast-iron Watling Cupid coin-op slot machine. According to Morphy’s CEO Tom Tolworthy, an expert on antique coin-ops, the Cupid is likely to have been located at one time in a US city that bordered Canada, such as Buffalo or Detroit. “We believe this to be the case because the machine has a dual coin entry to accept the player’s choice of either an American or Canadian nickel.” Its unusual design also includes a bonus gum-vending machine, marked “5¢,” on its side. The only known example of its type, it sold above high estimate for $72,000. A circa-1901 Caille Brothers New Century Puck musical upright 5¢ slot machine also surpassed expectations, reaching an above-estimate price of $38,400.

Could the mysterious “Esmeralda” have foreseen her auction-day success? No one can be sure, but many were vying to own the extremely rare fortune-telling machine. Standing in an arcade-style booth, Esmeralda plies her trade by speaking each fortune rather than proffering a printed card. The ingenious mechanism is enabled by an internal Edison cylinder record player that provides sound from Edison cylinder records. Auctioned together with playable cylinders, the Esmeralda fortune teller machine settled above its high estimate at $66,000.

Another beautiful lady who captured bidders’ attention was a circa-1880s carved wood cigar store Indian maiden. Standing 68 inches high on its original wooden block, the figure exhibits subtle period colors, wears a “feathered” headdress, mantle and necklace; and holds packages of cigars and tobacco. A fine example of early American folk art, this desirable antique tobacconist’s figure made its auction debut at Morphy’s, selling within estimate for $35,000.

Considered quite risque in its day, an extremely rare 1900 “Nudes” cash register was manufactured by Ideal Cash Register Company and, on all its surfaces, is adorned with ornate castings that depict allegorical scenes from ancient mythology. Three scantily-clad maidens in graceful poses are shown on the front panel. Against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000, the lot attracted 33 bids before closing for the day at $24,000.

One of very few known examples of a framed, reverse-painted-on-glass Rock Island Railroad sign was a top advertising highlight. It was described by Morphy Auctions’ experts as “historically important” because of its depiction of Engine No. 1302 of the railroad’s Rock Island Route 1008. The train is shown barreling down the tracks with Pike’s Peak in the background and takes up nearly the full width of the sign, which measures 99½- by 27-inches. It ended its bidding run within estimate, at $35,840.  

Ranking 10 out of 10 for charm and eye appeal, a circa-1910 tin sign advertising Frazer Axle Grease is richly visual with its image of two gentlemen in passing horse-drawn wagons, discussing the remedy for a broken axle. Its phenomenal 9.25+ condition would be a challenge to improve upon, and that fact was noted by bidders, who ignored the $5,000-$10,000 estimate to push it to a final price of $25,200.

Is there a brand more iconic or all-American than Coca-Cola? Surely few others are in its league. Soda pop advertising collectors had a wonderful selection of Coca-Cola signage from which to choose at the auction, including an extremely rare 1930s Coca-Cola illuminating bullet-form reverse-painted-on-glass counter sign with a Coke bottle graphic. It commanded $22,140 against an estimate of $6,000-$12,000. 

A circa-1940s Pepsi sign certainly had a fresh look to it. Executed in bright primary colors, it carries the message “Obey that Impulse – Drink Pepsi-Cola Iced” above an image of a stylish woman removing a bottle from a yellow Pepsi cooler. It sold for $11,400 against a $3,000-$6,000 estimate.

From a much earlier era of soda-pop production, a circa-1920s embossed and lithographed tin sign advertising the soft drink called Modox was especially compelling with its image of a Native American chief in a majestic feather bonnet. It sold above estimate for $10,200.

Following the multi-day event, Tom Tolworthy commented: “The auction showed once again that fresh-to-market collections bring record results for Morphy’s consignors. Our fall auction planned for October 27th and 28th at the Westgate Resort in Las Vegas is shaping up to be a spectacular event. We encourage collectors to start planning now to attend what we’re sure will be a very exciting event.”

To discuss consigning a collection or single high-quality item to Morphy’s October 27-28, 2023 Coin-Op & Antique Advertising auction, call 877-968-8880 or email [email protected]. All enquiries are kept strictly confidential. Visit Morphy Auctions online at

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