DENVER, Pa. – The word “unique” can sometimes be overused, but not in the case of the Henri Krijnen mechanical music collection, which will be auctioned at Morphy’s on September 9-10, 2022. Amassed over a lifetime, the peerless collection of early music and entertainment machines includes grand European fair, dance and theater organs; orchestrions, automata, Frank Polk figurals and other slot machines; and even a spectacular, fully functional Karl Muller antique carousel. As described by Tom Tolworthy, CEO of Morphy Auctions and curator/director of the sale, the collection features “the finest examples of mechanical music machines to come to market in a decade.”
The late Henri Krijnen, who made his fortune in the gambling and entertainment industry, had the heart of an antiquarian. Throughout his 50-year collecting odyssey, he sought out the finest, rarest and most beautiful examples. As his stellar collection grew, it was relocated several times to larger premises, finally settling in a custom-built warehouse in Oosterhout, Netherlands. Henri’s private museum was never open to the public, but on many occasions, it served as a wondrous centerpiece for private events Henri hosted for his fellow collectors.
“Even at the end of his life, Henri was still acquiring unique and special mechanical novelties, because his philosophy was, ‘There’s always room for one more,’” Tolworthy said. “Henri’s passion can be seen in all corners of his collection. The depth of selection within the categories he collected reflects the innate desire he had to bring the forgotten back to life for generations to enjoy.”
The dizzying array of dance organs will leave collectors spoiled for choice, but there can be little doubt that one of the most awe-inspiring examples is the elegant 1937 Theofiel Mortier model with 102 keys, 200 pipes and an accordion which, together, deliver a rich, thrilling sound. With an ornately carved façade that resembles a temple or palace, it is an artistic spectacle to behold and was, in fact, previously in the collection of a British museum. Perhaps the Rolls-Royce of classic dance organs, it is estimated at $250,000-$400,000.
A Gebroeders Decap dance organ with robot musician figures was known to be a great favorite of Henri’s. It was made in Belgium in 1963, a time when the public’s imagination was captivated by the idea of space travel and robots. It is one of only three made in a 105-key configuration and was originally installed at the Hotel Eemland in Soest (Netherlands). It was professionally restored and plays beautifully, with great sound and animation. Estimate: $100,000-$200,000
Another fine Mortier production is Henri’s 80-key Art Deco café-style organ made in 1912. Similar to earlier-style organs but with the addition of an accordion, its aesthetics offered a preview of the Art Deco period that was to come, but Henri felt its sound should be modernized, so he enlisted Martin Conrads of Holland to restore the organ and update its sound, which is lively and lilting. The unit will play on either tune cards (46 included in lot) or MIDI. The pre-sale estimate is $60,000-$125,000.
The atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s, when the city was a bustling mecca for entertainers and literary giants, from Josephine Baker to Ernest Hemingway, is captured to perfection by a very rare Gastaud et Raibaut for J Bodson “Double Tino” orchestrion. Made in 1925, it features automata in the image of famed Italian jazz accordionist Tino Rossi and a drummer identified as “Mr Jimson of Martinique.” Possibly the most original surviving example, and the only one with all original clothing, accordion and wood stand, it comes with four music rolls and delivers a brisk, bright sound. Estimate: $50,000-$100,000
A 1920 orchestrion made by L. Koenigsberg Brothers, Belgium, has a Weber Brabo as its base with a factory-added accordion, xylophone, large and small drums, wood block and triangle. It plays from its original, included roll, although it previously was fitted with a MIDI system, whose componentry is still present in the cabinet. Estimate: $30,000-$50,000
Of the music boxes to be auctioned, an extremely rare 93-inch-tall Monopol-Excelsior-Musik-Automat No. 84 disc player with its original disc storage stand is a leading entry. Manufactured in 1899 by Leipziger Musicwerke, Germany, it comes with 20 discs, its correct crank and keys. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Another turn-of-the-century beauty, a Polyphone Style #5 automatic changer disc music box made in Germany in 1900 is housed in an attractive walnut cabinet on its original stand. It is unusual in that it has a selector bar where the patron can choose the song to be played from the tune cards, drop in a coin, and watch the disc load and play. Accompanied by 14 discs, it comes to auction with a $20,000-$40,000 estimate.
Hollywood meets Vegas in the line of provenance supporting a 1979 American-made audio-animatronic automaton known as “Jo Jo Ivory and the Paddle Wheelers.” Modeled after famous jazz musicians of the 1950s and ’60s, its astonishingly realistic figures “play” and “sing” 99 pre-recorded songs. The unit was purchased from the Paddlewheel Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas at a time when the establishment was owned by film star and entertainment memorabilia collector Debbie Reynolds. Estimate: $80,000-$130,000
In terms of childhood nostalgia, the undisputed star of the show is a complete and painstakingly restored Karl Muller (Germany) illuminating carousel in fully operating condition. Its 18 breathtaking hand-carved features include jaunty outside-row horses, ornate sleighs with hand-painted repousse details, a suspended gondola, a boat, and dozens of decorative panels with hand-painted images of cherubs, floral motifs and picturesque landscapes. “Fully operating carousels do not come around very often, and hardly ever fully restored and ready for placement at any location,” Tolworthy noted. The pre-sale estimate is $160,000-$260,000.
Morphy’s Sept. 9-10, 2022 auction of the Henri Krijnen Collection will be held live at the company’s Denver, Pennsylvania gallery, starting on both days at 9 a.m. EDT. All forms of remote bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View the fully illustrated online catalog with videos of many of the key machines performing: https://auctions.morphyauctions.com/catalog.aspx?auctionid=553.
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Morphy Auctions is a full-service auction company based in Denver, Pa.