Antique Advertising Upcoming at Morphy Auctions

Denver, PA — Morphy’s 700-lot March 30 Advertising & General Store Auction brings together 700 lots of colorful antique amusements, including a remarkable collection of rare, primarily 19th-century safes. Many popular genres of advertising are represented, including tobacco, alcoholic beverages, Coca-Cola and other soft drinks.


The sale will open with 125 lots of occupational shaving mugs, a category that has grown organically as a staple in Morphy’s advertising sales. One of the top lots depicts a man walking up the steps of a lighthouse and is estimated at $3,000-$5,000. Another choice mug, dated 1927, is known as “First Flight.” As the name implies, its graphics are of a man piloting a primitive Wright Bros.-style bi-plane over the countryside. Estimate: $5,000-$10,000.

Immediately following the mugs, Morphy’s will present the Guy Zani Jr collection of more than 80 antique safes. Zani’s 25-year quest to amass the finest and most elusive models resulted in an exceptional collection that includes such coveted types as salesman’s samples, mini cannonballs, Hobnails, money chests, safes in wood cabinets, small personal safes, brothel/boudoir and pedestaled parlor safes. Several of the safes have never before been seen in public or offered at a public auction.


Zani’s collection includes two extraordinarily rare Hobnail safes - one full size; the other, a salesman’s sample. The Hobnail’s production era in the United States was from 1824 until about 1840. The Zani collection includes an example of the 1830 Rogers Hobnail Safe (est. $6,000-$8,000), predecessor to the first combination-lock safe ever made; and the oldest known salesman’s sample safe in existence: an 1826 hobnail safe attributed to Jesse Delano & Sons, New York (est. $10,000-$15,000).


“Even the John M. Mossman Lock Museum, which has locks, keys and tools dating as far back as 4,000 BC, didn’t know there was a surviving example of the Rogers Hobnail safe. Their collection includes a Rogers Hobnail lock, but not an actual safe,” said Morphy Auctions CEO Dan Morphy.


Morphy expects keen interest to be shown in Zani’s Mosler salesman’s sample mini cannonball, so named because it is round rather than square. The Mosler Safe Co. made 11 cannonball samples, which were designed to expose the internal locking mechanisms in a cross-section view. Constructed on two wheels, the safe was manufactured in a box with a drop front. Only eight of the 11 samples are known to exist today.


Three Marvin Mini-Cannonball safes are entered in the sale. All are fully restored with attractive original graphics and paperwork from the manufacturer. Additionally, there is an example of the 1899 York Mini-Cannonball safe (est. $10,000-$12,000), the smallest of all cannonball types, excluding replicas and salesman’s samples. It is only 16 inches tall and is considered quite special because it is the only cannonball safe to feature a dual-keylock mechanism. The sale also includes the only known full-size Marvin Mini-Cannonball safe in the 2,000-lb size (est. $10,000-$12,000).


A bona-fide work of art, Zani’s 900-lb Herring parlor safe (est. $10,000-$12,000) came from the atrium of a fine house in St. Louis. Hand-painted in an elegant floral and foliage design on all surfaces plus its cabriole pedestal, the safe is attractive from all angles. It is the first example of its type to be offered at auction.


The tobacco and cigar advertising section includes a premier collection of approximately one dozen figural Vestas (pocket-size match safes). Highlights include an Unger Bros. Indian chief, $800-$1,200; a woman golfer, $400-$600; and a Columbian Exposition Vesta with Uncle Sam image, $400-$600.


Several desirable cigar cutters are entered in the sale, including examples for Bugler, $700-$1,000; and Rocky Ford (also a match dispenser), $600-$900. An African brand tabletop model match dispenser is estimated at $600-$900, as well.


Pocket tin collectors are sure to be impressed by the vivid colors and near-mint condition of an all-original Taxi Crimp Cut tin, $2,500-$4,500. The tobacco category’s top prize, however, is a Winchester hanging showcase containing a collection of 160+ original tobacco tags. Many are quite scarce, such as Wild Turkey, Spot Cash and Red Meat. Estimate: $3,000-$6,000.


More than 150 Coca-Cola lots are slated for sale. An extremely rare 1930s Thompson China sandwich plate is expected to make $800-$1,200; while a 6-piece Taylor Smith Coca-Cola china grouping is estimated at $2,000-$4,000. Coke signs include a 1905 Lillian Nordica cameo celluloid sign, $2,000-$3,500; and a 1929 embossed-tin “Gas Today” sign never before seen at Morphy’s, $2,000-$3,000. Two rare Coca-Cola cardboard posters date to 1905 and 1909, respectively.


Other soda pop advertising will be offered, including a circa-1910 Allens Red Tame Cherry embossed-tin sign. Highly detailed and lithographed by American Art Works, the sign features a cheerful young girl and boy enjoying their cherry soft drinks at a table emblazoned with the message “Drink Allens Red Tame Cherry and you’ll smile too.” The seldom-encountered sign could reach $20,000-$30,000 at auction.


Over 200 lots of general advertising have been cataloged, led by an early 20th-century Gluek Brewing Co. Vitrolite sign, $3,000-$5,000; and a 1906 calendar advertising Peters Cartridge Co. Richly lithographed on heavy paper, it depicts two men chopping their way through heavy brush as they return home after a moose hunt. Estimate: $3,500-$5,000.


Collectors regard Morphy’s as the leading auction source for vintage advertising figures. More than 60 such figures will be available on March 30, with highlights including a plaster tableau for Stanfield’s “Unshrinkable” Underwear that depicts two men, presumably loggers, arm-wrestling in long johns, $2,500-$3,500; and a 1940 hard rubber figure of a lady in Gossard’s undergarments, $1,500-$2,000.

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