Auction Report: 1954 Superman Lunch Box, 1901 Slot Machine Pace Weiss Event

An extremely rare mint condition 1954 Superman vs. The Robot lunch box, by Universal, realized $11,865 at a three-day sale on Oct, 22-24, 2010, hosted by Philip Weiss Auctions.

OCEANSIDE, N.Y. – A 1954 Superman vs. The Robot lunch box in mint condition—widely regarded as the Holy Grail of rare and vintage lunch boxes—soared to $11,865 at a three-day multi-estate sale conducted Oct. 22-24 by Philip Weiss Auctions. Some 1,200 lots changed hands at the event, grossing nearly $500,000.

The lunch box, by Universal, showed Superman flying at The Robot on the front. The reverse showed Superman carrying an airliner, breaking a chain across his chest and smashing through a brick wall. The piece tied for top lot with a 1901 Caille New Century Puck upright 5-cent slot machine in good working order. The highly collectible machine also brought $11,865.

Overall, the auction grossed nearly $500,000. “There were a few surprises, hardly any disappointments, and by and large I was very pleased with the results,” Philip Weiss said of the sale. He estimated 200 people attended the event in person over the course of the three days. Phone and absentee bidding was also brisk, while online bidding was facilitated by Proxibid.

This upright 1901 Caille New Century Puck 5-cent slot machine, in working order tied with the Superman lunch box as the top lot, gaveling down for $11,865.

“With regard to Internet bidding, it’s quite remarkable what we see happen,” Weiss said. “At the start of the auction, we may have 100 or so registered online bidders, no more. But as the sale goes by, hour by hour, more and more bidders log on. And a lot of them are first-timers. This has been a trend, and it’s a good one. I love that our auctions are on the Internet.”

Following are additional highlights from the sale (all prices quoted include a 13 percent buyer’s premium):

• An extremely rare Planter’s Mr. Peanut coin-operated scale, standing 44 inches tall and made by the X-Cello Scale Company (Toledo, Ohio), went for $9,040, key included. Also, a pair of Pennsylvania Railroad posters from the 1930s promoting Atlantic City, by the illustrator Edward M. Eggleston (1883-1941), both 23 inches by 33 inches, garnered $7,345 and $5,368.

• A Tete Deposse French bebe doll, 25 inches tall with composition body, closed mouth, fixed eyes, finely painted brows and lashes, pierced ears, a ball jointed body and leather shoes went for $4,294, despite the worn and dirty dress. Also, a turn-of-the-century monkey automaton, 20 ½ inches tall, with a baby monkey on its back, possibly German, brought $3,673.

• A mechanical “Baker Boy” Sanitary Chewing Gum machine, patented by the Manikin Vendor Company (Portland, Ore.) and with the instructions printed on the brass name plate (“Drop penny – turn crank clear over”), breezed to $4,068, while a Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty circus tent with animals set in beautiful condition and showing only minor paint loss hit $2,712.

• A single lot consisting of four albums loaded with assorted size photos and ephemeral material pertaining to the career of actress Linda Darnell made $2,938. The archive included images of Darnell during shootings as well as before, after and home shots. Also, another multiple lot—of stills, press photos, ephemera and negatives from various movies—hit $1,582.

• From the toy trains category, a brass locomotive and tender by Tenshodo, made in Japan, HO scale with the railroad name “Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway,” in mint condition in the original box, never run, sold for $2,317. Also, a Lionel pre-war 700E scale Hudson 5344 with tender, both showing some wear with scuffs but overall in excellent shape, made $1,187.

For more information about this auction, call 516.594.0731, e-mail to or visit the Philip Weiss Auctions Web site.


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