Auction Report: Circa 1860 Firefighters’ Handtub & Pumper Brings $99,000

Hunnemann haThis Firemen's Hunnemann hand-drawn handtub with pumper, built in 1860 and fully restored after a fire, sold for $99,000, making it the top-selling item in at a multi-estate sale held Apr. 9-11, 2010 by Showtime Auction Services.ndtub

This Firemen's Hunnemann hand-drawn handtub with pumper, built in 1860 and fully restored after a fire, sold for $99,000, making it the top-selling item in at a multi-estate sale held Apr. 9-11, 2010 by Showtime Auction Services.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A firemen’s Hunnemann hand-drawn handtub with pumper, built in 1860 and beautifully restored after a barn fire, sold for $99,000 at a multi-estate sale held Apr. 9-11, 2010 by Showtime Auction Services, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. Nearly 2,000 lots from several major collections in an array of categories came up for bid.

The Hunnemann handtub was by far the top lot of the auction and one of three handtubs offered, along with over 200 other items from the Granite Handtub Museum in Newmarket, N.H. The Hunnemann example was purchased in 1860 by New Ipswich, N.H., along with two other Hunnemann machines (a Southern Hero and Tiger, both of which are still displayed in Ipswitch).

In 1972, in Massachusetts, the Hunnemann that brought $99,000, plus 14 other handtubs and hose reels, were involved in a barn fire. The ensuing restoration on the Hunnemann was based on photos from the 1920s and ’30s (and from photos of its sister machine, the Southern Hero). The gold leaf on the pump box was copied from the picture that came with the machine.

In addition to the pieces from the Granite Handtub Museum, the three-day Spring “Live” auction also featured a private arcade machine collection, around 150 rare toys and banks, barber shop, advertising, country store, gambling, general store, soda fountain, Coca-Cola, breweriana, petroliana, automobilia, Western Americana, tobacciana, saloon, Black Americana and more.

“This was probably our most diverse auction ever,” remarked Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services, based in Woodhaven, Mich. “We offered more arcade pieces that at any other auction in the last 16 years.” Eckles added that attendance was relatively light—between 220 and 240 were there at the height of the auction—a fact he attributed to very strong Internet bidding, facilitated by iCollector.com. Phone and absentee bidding was also active.

“We had around 20 percent sell-through over the Internet, which is outstanding,” Eckles said.

When it was all over, the sale grossed a little more than $2 million. “We were happy, and I know all the winning bidders were happy, too,” he said.

Following are additional highlights from the auction (all prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium):

This ornate firemen's hand pumper brass lantern, circa 1890, with embossed lettering, gaveled for $30,800.

This ornate firemen's hand pumper brass lantern, circa 1890, with embossed lettering, gaveled for $30,800.

• An ornate firemen’s hand pumper brass lantern (circa 1890) soared to $30,800. The 24-inch lantern was displayed on a contemporary 18-inch base and featured an unusual rendering of Neptune sitting on a clamshell, with a rod as a finial. It was embossed with “Red Jacket VFA Cambridge” (Mass.) and was made for the New England League Champion Button Handtub.

Mills Novelty Company “Sweet Perfume” coin-op machine in excellent condition ($20,900).

Mills Novelty Company “Sweet Perfume” coin-op machine in excellent condition ($20,900).

Very early “Yellow Kid” wood gum vendor, in good original condition, with key ($6,000).

Very early “Yellow Kid” wood gum vendor, in good original condition, with key ($6,000).

• A Mills Novelty Company “Sweet Perfume” coin-operated machine in excellent working condition, instructing users to place their handkerchief over an opening in the machine and drop in a penny to get a squirt of perfume, made $20,900; and a very early “Yellow Kid” wood gum vendor, in good original working condition and complete with key, brought a respectable $6,000.

Turn-of-the-century Cigar Store Indian attributed to Thomas Brooks, 100 inches tall ($21,850).

Turn-of-the-century Cigar Store Indian attributed to Thomas Brooks, 100 inches tall ($21,850).

Wurlitzer jukebox, model #1015, in all original working condition ($8,050).

Wurlitzer jukebox, model #1015, in all original working condition ($8,050).

• A wonderful turn-of-the-century Cigar Store Indian, attributed to Thomas Brooks and with later re-paint, standing 100 inches tall, went for $21,850; a Buddy L pressed steel “Red Baby” toy truck, with original pull string, decals and tag, 24 inches long, rolled off for $8,250; and a Wurlitzer jukebox, model #1015, in all original working condition, commanded $8,050.

For more information about this auction, call 951.453.2415, e-mail to mikeckles@aol.com or visit the Showtime Auction Services Web site.

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