Technology Auction Ends on a High Note!

Enigma ciphering machineOffice antiques were once again the highlight of a successful sale of Vintage Technology at Auction Team Breker in Cologne, Germany. Diversity is something of a trademark at Breker’s sales. There is one auction, but many audiences, making the preview a relaxed and sociable event for collectors, with the opportunity to see (and hear) more than six hundred lots of typewriters, telegraphs, telephones, microscopes, musical boxes and mechanical toys. The auction was conducted bilingually in English and German by Marco Kroeger.
The day’s top lot was an historically important 10-rotor “Enigma ciphering machine” (lot 33), which sold to an American bidder for Euro (€) 34,430.- (US$ 51,300.- /GBP 30,650.-). Continuing in the theme of encoded messages, an attractive “Edison stock ticker telegraph” (lot 39) fetched
Euro (€) 3,940.- (US$ 5,870.- / GBP 3,500.-), and a rare French ciphering machine, the
“Ideal Codigraph” (lot 30), brought Euro (€) 2,830.- (US$ 4,200.- / GBP 2,520.-).

The auction was also memorable for being the final instalment of the world famous “Remington Typewriter Museum” and the “LC Smith & Corona Collection”. Typewriter enthusiasts worldwide have been following the five consecutive auctions of this important museum deaccession since it was announced in 2007. Many international collectors flew in for the sale from America and the rest of the world to attend the sale, while the telephones and internet assured a worldwide presence.
Four machines attracted particular interest:
The “Sholes & Glidden” of 1873 is regarded as the first commercially successful typewriter, as well as one of the most attractive, its black-japanned frame decorated with trailing ferns and hand-painted flowers. Breker’s auction featured two; the first (lot 120), a full-sized model, sold for Euro (€) 16,480.- (US$ 24,555.- / GBP 14,670.-), while the second (lot 188), the only known
“Baby Sholes” produced in a smaller format for the traveller, sold for Euro (€) 30,740.- (US$ 45,800.-/ GBP 27,350.), despite being the lesser of the pair in terms of condition and decoration.


Another surprise was the 1910 “Noco-Blick” (lot 187), a rare but relatively plain typewriter with a “musical note” keyboard, which almost doubled its low estimate, selling for Euro (€) 14,760.-
(US$ 22,000.- / GBP 13,150.-), to applause from the audience. The 1903 “Polygraph” (lot 186) is a writing machine with musical connections of a different kind. A rare product of the famous Polyphon Musikwerke of Leipzig, a company better known for its musical box arrangements than for the sound of tapping keys, it was bought by an American collector in the room for
Euro (€) 12,300.- (US$ 18,300.- / GBP 10,950.-).


Though the prices of disc musical boxes may have dipped in recent years, cylinder boxes and pneumatic instruments remain popular, especially in Europe where early instruments are particularly sought-after. A petite key-wind Lecoultre box (lot 421), with restrained rosewood case and an unusual single-composer program of four airs by Verdi, brought Euro (€) 1,970.- (US$ 2,950.- / GBP 2,625.-). At the other end of the scale when it came to size and volume, a late 19th century “Gasparini” fairground organ (lot 410) with elaborate polychrome-painted facade featuring five semi-articulated figures fetched Euro (€) 15,370.- (US$ 22,900.-/ GBP 13,680.-), while a well-preserved longcase flute-clock movement from the early 19th century (lot 413) brought Euro (€) 9,840.- (US$ 14,700.- / GBP 8,760.-). In another surprising result, a Black Forest picture clock with cuckoo automaton and dog and cat with moving metal eyes (lot 362), was propelled to Euro (€) 5,325.- (US$ 8,000.- / GBP 4,740.-), more than twenty times its pre-sale estimate, by an internet bidder. An attractive magician automaton by Renou (lot 423) sold for Euro (€) 13,526 (US$ 20,150.- / GBP 12,000.-) while a 22 ½-inch upright Polyphon disc musical box with saucer bells (lot 437) brought Euro (€) 7,132.- (US$ 10,630.- / GBP 6,350.-).


Phonographs also faired well. The evolution of the “Lioret” système is an interesting example of the confluence of two separate industries. Henri Lioret was a French clockmaker who entered the phonograph market by accident at the age of forty-five. It was the Parisian doll-maker Jumeau’s request that Lioret produce a speaking mechanism for his bébés that inspired him to take out his preliminary patents for a phonograph in 1893. Lioret’s smallest model, “Le Merveilleux”, appeared as a talking machine in its own right in 1895, the dolls having proved too expensive and unreliable to sell in large numbers. Since Lioret phonographs rarely come up for sale, it was a double bonus for collectors to find not only a “Lioret No. 2” in Cologne, but one that was in near-mint condition (lot 414). Presented in the factory travelling case, still with its card horn and four celluloid cylinders in their cartons, it sold for Euro (€) 13,945.- (US$ 20,800.- / GBP 12,400.-).


Classic scientific instruments appeal to a different kind of audience, and Breker’s auction contained the characteristic assortment of viewing devices, navigational tools and laboratory demonstration apparatus to draw-in the buyers. The top-seller in the category was a fine 18th chest-type microscope compendium (lot 276) signed Tiedemann, Stuttgart, which realised Euro (€) 14,760.- (US$ 22,000.- / GBP 13,150.-). The extensive accessories included six objectives, a magnifier, Lieberkuhn, cross-table, bone specimen-holders, forceps and numerous early microscopic preparations preserved in their original green paper-covered boxes.


The afternoon session continued with antique and collectable »Toys«, including a comprehensive group of L.G.B. (Lehmann Gross Bahn) locomotives and rolling stock. Two early tin automotive toys are worth mentioning, as much for their presentation as their scarcity. Lot 502 was an early production by the German firm Rock & Graner, a fine hand-painted horse-drawn sled with two well-dressed passengers and attendant postillion, which brought Euro (€) 2,460.- (US$ 3,665.- / GPB 2,190.-). The second (lot 504), a whimsical airship carousel by Nuremberg-based Müller & Kaderer, featuring gilt-striped gondolas with rotating propellors suspended from balloons, fetched Euro (€) 6,763.- (US$ 10,075.- / GBP 6,020.-).


The auction was rounded off by a line-up of vintage »Photographica and Film« equipment, ranging from mid-19th century wooden cameras such as Knight’s No. 3 sliding-box design (lot 715), which sold for Euro (€) 1,844.- (US$ 2,750.- / GBP 1,640.-), to iconic 20th century black-and-chrome 35mm production. Highlights included a Leica IIIb camera customised for the German military (lot 639) for Euro (€) 2,028.- (US$ 3,020.- / GBP 1,805.-), and a commemorative Hasselblad 503CW “Gold Supreme” reflex (lot 630) for Euro € 2,460 (US$ 3,665.- / GBP 2,190.-). Demonstrating that condition is to cameras what location is to property, two mint models from the Zeiss Ikon Contax range (lots 609 and 610) caught the attention of a pair of phone bidders, who drove the competition from modest pre-sale estimates to Euro (€) 1,721.- (US$ 2,565.- / GBP 1,532.00).

The full results can be viewed online at
The next auctions take place on 20 March 2010 (Photographica & Film) and 29 May 2010 (Science &Technology, Mechanical Music and rare Tin Toys, the latter with a spectacular 250-lot collection of high quality “Live Steam Models” and accessories). The closing dates for consignments are 15 February and 30 March respectively.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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