Koken Salesman's Sample Brings $51,750

Fairfield, Maine, auctioneer James Julia, who has set and flirted with record-setting prices in a number of categories in recent years, was at it again in Session IV of a full weekend of auctioneering at Byfield, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1999.
An 1895 Koken salesman's sample hydraulic barber chair had bidders in a lather over a phenomenal $51,750 (including buyer's premium) top bid.
This legacy of the noted St. Louis barber supply firm proved by far Julia's most passionately pursued of top-shelf entries that also embraced penny scales, Coca-Cola trays, syrup dispensers, and assorted toys. Only 15 inches high and possibly unique, the fully reclining carved mahogany sample was embellished with nickel-plated hinges, an overstuffed black leather seat, a copper footrest, and a mahogany pedestal base. The very next lot, another elusive Koken sample in wood, was a less elaborate specimen with adjustable headrest and reclining chair. Were it not missing part of its reclining mechanism, this forerunner to the more frequently seen Koken porcelain chair samples would undoubtedly have brought more than its top price of $5750.

In Julia's April 1999 antique advertising and toy sale a Koken porcelain chair sample brought $48,875. Dave Rose, a Toronto collector, prevailed at that sale and was the very same top bidder on the Koken hydraulic sample in this sale.

Other intriguing salesman's samples in Lilliputian scale included an 1896 patented 7 1/2 inches Bicycle clothes ringer at $805 (est. $300/500); an 11 inches high farm silo, also at $805; and a 21 inches long horse-drawn fertilizer spreader that caused a number of furrowed brows at $977.50 (est. $300/500).

Julia staged Part II of the late Red Meade's collection of vintage coin-op floor model and countertop scales, the first segment having weighed in with hefty prices in their April 1999 sale. A superb Rosenfield Reliance scale, one of only four known and the sole example with original marquee, topped off at $11,500 (est. $15,000+). Bringing top dollar among the scales at $14,950 (est. $8000/10,000) was an elusive 5? I Speak Your Weight talking scale that had an internal half-revolution phonograph mechanism that had proven too delicate, causing the machines to be withdrawn from use.

Vintage soda fountain items continue to be one of Julia's biggest draws. A Hires Munimaker syrup dispenser with onyx ball handle that stood 34 1/2 inches tall with brass Hires nameplates on all sides lived up to its name at $6325. Hires also hit the spot at $17,250 (est. $20,000/30,000) with a Mettlach hinged-lid pitcher depicting an older, rather foppish Hires boy as logo.

Dispensers from other root beer makers included Buckeye with dancing centaurs encircling the base at $2990, and Scott's with an 11 inches high barrel-shaped dispenser in red and blue on stark white at $4255 (est. $800/1600), the same price extracted a few lots later by the top Ward's citrus dispenser, a Ward's Lime Crush (est. $1750/2500). The Lemon and Orange Crush entries by Ward's each brought a zesty $2530.

A circa 1910 figural Cherri Bon entry in bright cherry red with reverse white embossing added $6325. Even a missing pump and a rim chip could not dampen enthusiasm over a handsomely embossed Chero Crush syrup dispenser, circa 1910, which sold at $6900 (est. $3000/5000). A gilt-trimmed circa 1900 Liquid Force dispenser representing planet Earth, with embossed continents in subdued pastels, excelled at $6037.50.

An intriguing mini-collection of several dozen glass straw holders included a paneled peach colored entry at $517.50; a green paneled entry with a 1915 patent date at $546.25 (est. $200/400); and a clear glass ice cream cone holder with multiple insert at $747.50 (est. $400/600).

One of the most charming throwbacks to the Victorian era, a bow-legged ice cream parlor table with four attached pivoting seats and glass display case top served up $4025 (est. $600/800).

Sale coordinator Irene Bolduc acknowledged, "The great thing about Coca-Cola advertising, there's something for everyone. Regardless of your collecting level, plenty of Coca-Cola examples are still available." Especially at Julia's where a stash of recently discovered virtually mint material has been meted out in recent outings. To be sure, a cardboard calendar top lithograph of a Victorian woman gazing at a sparkling glass of Coke brought a bubbly $7475.

A tiny (4 1/2 inches x 6 inches) oval tip tray of a woman with the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair skyline in the background fetched $977.50 a few lots later. A stash of new old stock 12 inches cardboard holly-fringed Coca-Cola Christmas bell die-cut door hangers were still bell ringers, decking the halls at $2530 (est. $3000/4000).

Arguably the most underrated among some 85 vintage paper and tin advertising signs at Julia's were a pair of Hoffman House Bouquet Cigar lithographs by Joseph Knapp Co., New York City. An 1893 (not 1912 as cataloged) image of the main lobby of Manhattan's Hoffman House Hotel included at least a dozen concocted images of the era's power brokers, including President Grover Cleveland, Senator Chauncey DePew, Buffalo Bill, actor Tony Pastor, and president of the cigar firm, Max Hilson, himself. This vibrant period piece is acknowledged in Mary Black's book of the Bella C. Landauer collection at the New-York Historical Society as one of the most remarkable posters of the 19th century. In its original gessoed Hilson Company frame and with minor water staining, it went quickly at $1265.

The second Hoffman House entry, a stone lithograph, depicted the legendary hotel's posh dining hall with both Grover Cleveland and William McKinley at the banquet table and sold for $1610. Alas, someone framed the print so it had direct contact with the glass, and portions of the print had adhered to it. It is hoped that the price will allow latitude for the new owner to properly restore this beauty.

One of the more feverishly pursued entries, a rather faded, fly-specked framed Bradley Fertilizer Co., Boston, cloth banner of an Indian chief standing tall in a cornfield exuded charm at $2185 (est. $250/500).

The familiar Charles W. Shonk Company faux oil on canvas Baker's Chocolate trademark image of a colonial waitress bearing a tray of hot cocoa, with repair and touchup to the oilcloth, in ornate gilt frame, managed $3450, respectable, but considerably below the $6000/8000 estimate. Meanwhile, as if frozen in time, a classic Grape-Nuts self-framed tin sign of a little girl with a St. Bernard, rated very good to excellent, sold at $2760, about par with its asking price back in the 1980's.

One of the sale's most beguiling items, a genie carnival character emerging from Aladdin's lamp, 21 inches high, was hotly pursued to $3162.50. There were those toy devotees in the crowd who felt perhaps they'd rubbed the genie the wrong way, as any number of entries soared out of reach.

Tops among the mechanical banks were a Kyser & Rex Boys Stealing Watermelons at $3737.50 and a Shepard Artillery Bank with the more common Union cannoneer at $1150. Surprisingly, a spring-activated 7 inches high Mickey Mouse drummer, complete with the Ideal Films original tag, sold well within reason at $1840.

A number of contemporary teddy bear replicas hovered in the $200 to $500 range, but the real thing, a 1905 17 inches teddy still sporting his original Steiff ear button, was lured from his lair at $3162.50.

by Dick Friz , 2000 by Maine Antique Digest