ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A 19th century Punch cigar store wood figure, 69 ½ inches tall and with a contemporary base, soared to $102,600 at a three-day auction held Oct. 3rd-5th by Showtime Auction Services, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor. The Punch figure was the top lot in a sale that saw over 1,900 lots from the Bud and Sally Bassett lifetime collection sell to the highest bidder, with no reserves.
Punch cigar store figures – and their more famous cousins, cigar store Indian figures – are highly collectible and can fetch dizzying dollars at auction. Examples by Samuel Robb, who produced both kinds in his New York City studio starting in 1886, can routinely command six figures. Not much was known about the Punch figure in the Showtime auction, but that didn’t deter bidders.
Headlining the auction was the Bassett collection of mostly advertising items and Western-related advertising signs, to include cowboys, cowgirls and Native American themed signs; more than 100 serving trays (most of them beer and brewery related); and vintage papier-mâché figures of Halloween and Christmas items.
About 250 people attended the auction in person over the course of the three days. Online, hundreds more participated via LiveAuctioneers.com and Invaluable.com. Phone and absentee bids were also fielded. Typically, a Showtime auction will feature lots in a wide assortment of categories, with each item selling as one lot (very few multiples). This auction was different.
“This was a new experience for us, handling over 100,000 items, some of them in lots of 1,000 or even 2,000 pieces, but that’s how massive the Bassetts’ collection was,” said Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. “Also, there weren’t nearly as many collecting categories as we’re used to selling. This sale was mainly advertising signs, trays, labels and such. It was a real learning experience.”
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a sliding scale buyer’s premium, which fluctuated depending on how a bid was placed and/or paid.
An extremely rare Republic Tires (“Staggered Tread”) paper sign, one of only four known and in super condition, soared to $31,350. The 20 inch by 50 inch sign exhibited brilliant colors and graphics and, except for a few horizontal creases, was in near-perfect condition. It was made by American Lithographic Company (N.Y.) and boasted the original bands, both top and bottom.
A spectacular 1890 Brunswick, Balke, Collender “Princess” saloon back and front bar with the original mahogany finish, 24 feet long by 13 feet 11 ¾ inches tall, was the auction’s runner-up top lot, fishing at $79,800. Also, an extremely scarce Campbell’s Soup porcelain thermometer, 12 ¼ inches tall by7 ¼ inches wide and with just a tiny chip at the bottom, commanded $19,200.
A Thomas’ Inks and Mucilage embossed tin sign, made by the Tuscarora Adv. Co. (Coshocton, Ohio), 19 ¾ inches by 13 ¾ inches (image only, minus the quarter sawn oak frame), breezed to $14,400; and a Chancellor Cigars (“The Cigar of Quality”) celluloid easel back sign, possibly the only celluloid example in existence, 7 inches by 12 inches, in mint condition, garnered $13,860.
An R&G Corsets porcelain sign in a wrought iron frame with the original hanging bracket, 17 inches by 21 inches, brought $9,300; a North Western Brewery tin serving tray, one of only four known and showing a topless Native American maiden riding a buffalo, earned $9,120; and a Bloomer Club cigar lighter and tip cutter in excellent original condition topped out at $4,560.
Showtime Auction Services’ next big auction event will be held in spring 2015 (dates and times to be announced). Headlining the sale will be the outstanding ammunition, gunpowder and firearms posters and signs collection of Terri and Hal Boggess; and the lifetime collection of Mart and Kitty James, in many of the collecting categories that have typified Showtime auctions.
These will include petroliana, automobiolia, salesman’s samples, general store and country store, advertising signs, toys, barber shop, saloon, tobacciana, cigar store figures, hardware, store tins, whiskey, breweriana, gambling, soda fountain, drug store, ice cream, store displays, folk art, fire fighting memorabilia and more.
Showtime Auction Services is based in Woodhaven, Mich. The firm is always accepting quality items for future sales. To consign an item or an entire collection, you may call Michael Eckles at (951) 453-2415; or, e-mail him at email@example.com. To learn more about Showtime Auction Services and the upcoming spring, 2015 auction, visit www.showtimeauctions.com.
Showtime Auction Services
22619 Monterey Drive