Date: Fri 02-Apr-1999

Date: Fri 02-Apr-1999

Publication: Ant

Author: CAROLL

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Skinner's Science & Technology Auction In Bolton, Massachusetts

with 9 cuts

By Dick Friz

BOLTON, MASS. -- Skinner's showed a hot hand recently, dealing aces back to

back with two outstanding sales. The first, conducted February 28, featured

American Furniture and Decorative Arts, and the second, a Science and

Technology outing, took place a week later on March 6.

The latter sale, a techno-collector's delight, encompassed 400 lots of music

boxes, radios, gramophones, coin-ops, telescopes, weather instruments,

telescopes and medical instruments, automatons, salesman's samples, and Magic

Lanterns, as well as a cavalcade of rescued, almost surreal electrical

appliances long since obsolete. The auction grossed $344,344 (including 15

percent buyers premium) over an estimated high of $329,050, with 86 percent of

lots finding buyers.

Skinner's new science and technology director, George Glastris, made his

auction debut with the event. Glastris is also a recently appointed

co-director of Toys and Dolls with Mildred Ewing.

Tunnel Vision or Trade Savvy?

Anyone who interprets the science and technology genre as a tunnel vision

pursuit or passing fancy might take notice of the following show stoppers: A

striking Art Nouveau design Regina Style-2 hall clock, with automatic disc

changing movement, in mahogany and Saturday's final lot, was the ultimate show

stopper at $31,050; a Fortuna "Marvel" 26«-inch disc music box, with 14-note

organ drum and triangle accompaniment, pulled out all the stops at $25,300;

and a Rube Goldberg-like electric pen, No. 6737, invented by Thomas A. Edison,

brought $23,000.

The pen had subsequently become obsolete with the arrival of such typewriters

as the Franklin No. 7, purchased at the sale for $920; the Hall No. 8791

model, which rang up $488.75; and the People's No. 2519 model, which fetched

$632.50 -- all preceding the pen in the auction. Although 60,000 Edison pens

reportedly sold worldwide, there are obviously few survivors. This intriguing

specimen was housed in its original wood box.

A cast-iron Ladies' Companion sewing machine manufactured by Pratt, a Boston

firm in the 1860s, embellished with acacia leaf decoration, really put the

treadle to the metal at $14,950.

Even those who were understandably bewildered by the operation of an American

Davis-Pattern backstaff nautical instrument made by Benjamin King in Newport,

R.I., in 1768, might well find appeal in its handsome rosewood lines.

Functional or folksy, it brought a strong $6,325.

"This is not a spectacle crowd," quipped auctioneer Stuart Slavid, as one by

one Nineteenth Century steel and iron framed eyeglasses and ophthalmic

instruments languished and were passed. A lot of funky banjo and

trumpet-shaped hearing aids and conversation tubes, conversely, exacted a

$373.75 top bid, while an 1890s Shoe-Fly pattern electric fan, perhaps

inspired by palm fronds wafted by Nubians to "cool off" Cleopatra on her Nile

cruise, stirred up $460.

Symphoniums, Music Boxes and Gramophones

Few were caught sitting on their paddles when a diverse selection of

symphoniums, music boxes and gramophones took center stage. A scarce Columbia

type AE gramophone introduced in 1897, with Bell-Tainter pattern electric

motor, was soon discontinued because a larger pulley was required. This

particular AE example, one of three known, got strong play at $4,600.

Also hammered down at $4,600 was an Edison Eighteenth Century English Art

Model Disc phonograph, in a mahogany console cabinet with painted classical

lady, pearls, foliate, flowers and gilt fittings, plus five diamond discs. It

can be safely assumed that only a dozen or two of these extravagant units were


A number of categories attracted cross-over collectors of toys and dolls.

Particularly engaging was a quartet of 1870s Marottes (from the French

referring to a court jester) dolls, bisque-headed figures on wooden handles

with music boxes in their torsos that play music. A baby Marotte in silken

finery playing the "Recessional" was rated a fine buy at $230; a Harlequin

Marotte, with multi-colored costume and bells, rang in at $862.50; and a

version with "Unis" bisque head and brocaded green costume added $575.

The real buy, however, may have been a Marotte version with replaced clothes,

lotted with a pair of modern musical dolls, and a reproduction automaton of a

girl on swing. It played out at $184.

The favorite among musical automatons was a group of family musicians,

12‹-inches high, with the wife at the piano, the father playing violin, and

the daughter dancing spritely to a waltz (Strauss perhaps?). This intricate

multi-action toy brought $3,105.

Janet Fead Collection

Many in the crowd and on the phones eagerly awaited the elegant and diverting

music boxes from the collection of the late Janet Fead, a Detroit music

teacher whose assemblage was renowned on both sides of the Atlantic for

several decades.

Her musical silver birdcages at Skinners trilled such high notes as $2,070 for

a Bontemps pattern version. A sum of $1,840 was paid for a cast silver and

blue enamel by Griesbaum, and a silver singing bird cigarette case, also

Griesbaum, circa 1950, soared to $3,565. Topping them all, a singing bird box

by Rochet, No. 438, in gold case with brightly plumed bird, more than doubled

the high estimate at $14,950.

A musical necessaire (cosmetic case) in the form of a sleigh with painted

floral spray and bone handled instruments excelled at $1,265, nearly doubling

its estimate. Another more elaborate musical necessaire of burr maple, with

complete tray of mother-of-pearl implements with gold mounts, and a movement

that dated the piece at circa 1815, went at $7,187, almost six times Skinner's

high estimate.

A Scottish musical lead-lined snuffbox, circa 1820, and perhaps one of the

earliest examples, was embellished with a Mauclin-ware decoration of a hunting

scene. It played several tunes, including "God Save The King," and rated a

number of bidding encores up to $5,405.