DENVER, Pa. – Morphy’s Dec. 6-8 Premier Auction brightened the holiday season for many who participated in the sale and took their pick from some of the country’s top collections of advertising, robots and other types of toys and vintage collectibles. The auction catalog’s vibrantly illustrated cover, with its compelling images of a cane-tapping Mr Peanut store display, blue-coated belsnickel and movie poster for “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” provided a tantalizing sampler of highlights offered in the $1.68 million sale, which featured Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.com. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium.
Not surprisingly, a Machine Man tin robot from Masudaya’s “Gang of Five” dominated prices realized with a final selling price of $45,600 against an estimate of $20,000-$30,000. The boxy sci-fi favorite was one of 160 robot and space toy lots consigned by Dave DiMartino, a former VP of Guitar Center. After his retirement from the well-known retailer of guitars and amps, DiMartino traveled extensively throughout Europe, acquiring many rare and desirable robots. “But he preferred to remain under the radar, which is one reason this collection had such a curiosity factor with other collectors,” said Dan Morphy, CEO of Morphy Auctions.
The DiMartino collection produced four of the sale’s top 10 lots. Another big winner and “Gang of Five” member, a Masudaya Radicon remote-control robot, rose to $10,800 against a $4,000-$6,000 estimate. Both a boxed Asakusa painted-tin and plastic Thunder Robot (est. $2,500-$3,500) and a boxed silver tin-litho and painted Mechanized “Robby” Robot (est. $6,000-$10,000) achieved an individual selling price of $10,200.
More than 50 cast-iron mechanical banks took their places before bidders, ready to show off their talents at the drop of a penny. An uncommonly seen J & E Stevens Pelican mechanical bank known as a “rabbit variation” because of the rabbit prey visible in the seabird’s mouth, soared past its $2,000-$3,000 estimate to land at $7,800. Leading the metal toys, a 9-inch cast-iron and tin horse-drawn plow with driver, probably by Wilkins, ignored its $600-$900 estimate and garnered $5,600.