Traditionally, Old Town Auctions conducts a bountiful auction of vintage toys and antique advertising during the week leading up to Thanksgiving. This year the menu for Old Town’s annual “feast” – to be held Nov. 19-21 – has expanded to accommodate several bonus courses.
In addition to a vast selection of transportation toys, the Fall 2010 auction’s opening session will feature an extensive array of photographica, cameras and images, including items from the estate of Tom Clark; and historical artifacts and ephemera from U.S. Navy photographer Richard Conger, a specialist in underwater photography who documented Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s exploration of Antarctica. The Conger collection includes all of the distinguished photographer’s cameras, images and research books.
The approximately 450-lot Friday evening session, with its “focus” on photographic art, came together naturally, said Old Town Auctions’ owner Matt Protos. “I have been talking to Richard Conger’s daughter for quite some time, and the late Tom Clark, who was from Frederick, Maryland, was a very good friend of mine. When a third consignment came along that contained compatible items, the three jelled in my mind, and we decided to create a specialty session for vintage camera and photography buffs, and collectors of historical material,” Protos said.
Tom Clark was the son of another acclaimed photographer, Edward Clark, whose Life magazine assignments included snapping Marilyn Monroe when she was a young starlet seeking cinematic fame. An iconic Edward Clark Life magazine cover photo to be offered in Old Town’s upcoming sale is his signed and dated picture of an African-American musician with tears streaming down his face as he played at FDR’s funeral.
Antique and vintage photographic equipment in the opening session encompasses many different types of German, Japanese and American cameras, including Leicas, Rolleis and early Kodak wooden “view” models. The selection also includes lenses, light meters and other photographic accessories, as well as a panoramic timeline of images – from tintypes and daguerreotypes through modern photographs.
A stellar highlight is a Cine camera made by Akelly that flew over both the North and South Poles during Byrd’s explorations of the late 1920s/early 1930s. Protos explained that during Byrd’s Antarctic adventures of that period he was followed by two newsreel crews, each with a photographer. “One of the cameras was destroyed, but the other survived because the photographer refused to dump it when their plane started to lose altitude,” Protos said. “The passengers were throwing things out of the plane to lessen the weight, and apparently the photographer said he would jump out before he would ditch his camera. Luckily, both the photographer and the camera survived, and many years later, that camera was given as a gift to Richard Conger, who was the photographer’s assistant on that particular expedition.”
A premium offering of 19th-century optical devices and stereoptical viewers will cross the auction block. “Some of the items in this group even pre-date photography,” said Protos.
A special highlight of the Friday session is the archive of historical ephemera and artifacts dealing with Antarctic exploration from the 18th century through modern day. In addition to the aforementioned Conger collection, the assemblage includes fascinating and historically important relics and photographic documentation from the hut of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, all relating to their 1901-1904 Antarctic Discovery Expedition.
A virtual library of books about Antarctic exploration has been cataloged for day one. “There are some very good first-edition books written by Shackleton, Amundsen and other explorers, as well as many research books on the subject of Antarctica,” said Protos.
Saturday’s 800-lot offering runs the gamut of antique and collectible toys, and is anchored by automotive types. “There’s a wonderful selection of tether and gas-powered racers, quite a few of which are larger scale and from the early period of production, around the 1930s,” Protos said. Top brands include Dooling and Syncro.
A selection of approximately 50 highly detailed ship and boat models is described by Protos as “museum quality, ranging from turn of the century designs to contemporary productions, and from countertop size to 8 feet long.” Most are from a single-owner collection and include masted vessels, steamships, riverboats and other marine craft.
An extensive aviation collection features a fleet of travel agency model airplanes of all sizes, movie prop planes, and a mixed bag of other desirable aviation-related collectibles. An unusual entry is a propeller Protos said he believes is probably from a 1916-1918 British single-seater fighter biplane known as the “Sopwith Pup.”
The Saturday roster features 100 to 150 lots of antique advertising and country store items, led by soft drink advertising signs and other coveted pieces including Coca-Cola salesmen’s samples, a superb Moxie cardboard die-cut, and a child’s booster chair with “Coca-Cola” emblazoned on its back. “I’ve never seen another one,” Protos noted.
Within Saturday’s lineup, collectors will find Marx toys, battery ops, several boxed Lehmanns, a fabulous boxed example of the largest Britains Coronation die-cast set ever made, and black-theme toys; plus rare car mascots and auto-related ephemera; and a choice grouping of figural cigar lighters and match holders.
Day three is devoted to the legion of collectors who prefer their toys to ride the rails, and features the contents of two major collections plus select additions. More than 650 lots of trains will be auctioned, representing such brands as Lionel, Ives, Marx, American Flyer and more. There will be live-steam trains, many train accessories, train stations in standard, O and S gauge; and some German trains by Marklin and Bing.
As an added enticement, Old Town will auction (to gallery bidders only) 75 to 150 uncataloged lots prior to each of the three auction sessions.
Old Town Auctions’ Nov. 19-21 sale will be held at the Grand Venice Hotel, 431 Dual Highway, Hagerstown, Maryland. The sale will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19; 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20; and 12 noon on Sunday, Nov. 21. A two-hour preview will precede each session.
In addition to live bidding at the auction venue, Old Town accepts phone bids (call to reserve a line) and both traditional and Internet-assisted absentee bids.
For additional information call Matt Protos or email. To view the fully illustrated auction catalog or to leave absentee bids online, log on to Old Town Auctions website or visit AuctionZip.com/.