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Auction Report: 1905 Wurlitzer Style #17 PianOrchestra Plays a $120,000 Tune

by WorthPoint Staff (10/24/12).

This Wurlitzer Style #17 PianOrchestra with about 40 rolls, 94 inches tall, in a handsome display cabinet, sold for $120,000 at a huge three-day sale held Oct. 5-7 by Showtime Auction Services.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A rare and desirable 1905 Wurlitzer Style 17 PianOrchestra in excellent working condition soared to $120,000, and an equally rare early 1800s Ephraim Thayer hand-drawn, hand-operated fire pump with ties to Paul Revere realized $110,000 at a huge three-day sale held Oct. 5-7 by Showtime Auction Services at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.

The Wurlitzer PianoOrchestra featured viola-cello, pipes, piano, mandolin, cymbal bass drum, snare drum, display, glockenspiel and 37 pipes, all housed in a monumental and handsome display cabinet measuring 94 inches tall by 69 inches wide by 34 inches deep. The PianOrchestra plays Style #17 rolls and came with about 40 rolls. It was the sale’s top lot.

Close behind, however, was the Ephraim Thayer hand tub, named for its maker, who was an apprentice to Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere (whose own legacy at the Boston Fire Department was a result of his profession as a craftsman and coppersmith). Thayer went on to become a prominent fire apparatus builder in his own right. The hand tub sold was in very good condition.

Headlining the auction was the lifetime collection of Robert and Harriett Potter—a vast accumulation of firefighting memorabilia and other items, spanning 50-plus years; Part 2 of the outstanding lifetime pedal car and toy collection of Ed and Christy Ramsey; Session 5 of the best tobacco and cigar tin collection ever offered at auction; and other items culled from estates and collections nationwide.

In all, nearly 2,000 items came up for bid, with only 15 not selling because they failed to meet the reserve.

“It was the best fall auction we’ve ever had,” said Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services, based in Woodhaven, Mich. “We had mostly country store, gambling and saloon on Saturday, and fire memorabilia, toys and pedal cars on Sunday, and as a result the auction had two distinct crowds.”

An early 1800s Ephraim Thayer hand-drawn, hand-operated fire pump with ties to Paul Revere, earned a scorching $110,000.

Eckles estimated those crowds at about 200 people per day. More than 1,500 people registered to bid online (through LiveAuctioneers and iCollector). More than 400 phone bids and some 1,000 faxed bids were also recorded. By the time the final gavel came down, the auction had grossed nearly $2 million.

“It was a strong sale, when you take into account the fact that this is an election year and people are still very much concerned about the economy,” Eckles said. “But it didn’t seem to affect us at all. Serious collectors will turn out regardless of the economy, and we had almost 2,000 lots of investment-grade antiques and collectibles to choose from. That definitely helps.”

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

This Samuel Robb wooden cigar store Indian sold for $77,000.

This Pairpoint Rose Puffy boudoir lamp brought $11,300.

This Campbell’s Soup porcelain thermometer recorded a $15,400 price.

A circa-1880s Samuel Robb cigar store Indian figure, 78 inches tall (including the base) and boasting excellent color and patina, gaveled for $77,000. The figure had early professional repaint. Also, a tobacco and cigar store back bar and counter having a marble base with curved glass corner and beveled mirror, 120 inches long, in very good original condition, made $55,000.

Two lots posted identical prices of $15,400. One was a rare Campbell’s Soup porcelain thermometer, one of only two known, 7 ¼ inches by 12 ½ inches, in good condition except for some minor paint loss. The other was a dolphin cigar lighter with sterling silver trim and horn body. The piece was purchased from a museum and was in excellent, all-original condition.

This 1925 American National Packard coupe kids’ pedal car, one of only three made, drove off with a $11,865 bid.

A 1925 American National Packard coupe kids’ pedal car, 57 inches long—one of only three made and in excellent condition—sped off for $11,865; a Pairpoint Rose Puffy boudoir lamp with 13-inch by 22-inch shade, in excellent condition, lit up the room for $11,300; a Beard Mfg. Co. salesman’s sample windmill (Model “M,” Angola, Ind.), 19 ½ inches tall, brought $10,200; and a Polar Bear tobacco tin store bin (the rare version with the word “SCRAP” on it) hit $4,200.

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

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