EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1115 - September 26, 2005     4 of 5

Morphy Labor-Day Auction Brings Record $2 Million

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Morphy Auctions, which was acquired by Diamond International Galleries, had its most successful auction to date on Labor Day weekend, achieving $2 million. The auction consisted of 2,100 lots, and had over 3,000 left bids and a record number of Internet and phone bids.

"On Wednesday night, the night before the opening session, it was crazy," said Morphy. "I hadn't counted on so many people leaving phone bids that night. My staff had left around 5 p.m., and I had stayed to get a few things cleaned up when the phones starting ringing. At one point, they were ringing five and six lines at a time. A couple of my employees happened to drive past the gallery and noticed my car was still there, so they stopped to see what was up and ended up working the phones till 10:30 that night. Finally, after a 15-hour day, we had to call it quits."

The opening session on September 1, featured antique advertising, soda fountain, apothecary and barber shop items, jukeboxes and coin-ops. A 1950s "Serve Yourself" light-up Coca-Cola fountain sign with original etched glass, in near-mint condition, dashed its $300-500 estimate to bring $4,400 (all prices quoted are inclusive of 10 percent buyer's premium, 20 percent on Internet purchases). A 21-inch wide, two-sided, oval leaded-glass sign advertising Edison Light Co. shed light on its rarity by selling for $5,500, more than four times its high estimate.

An 18.5 x 24.5-inch embossed tin litho sign for Kabo Corsets, estimated at $5,000-7,000, cinched a winning bid of $11,000.

It was also during the opening session that the top price of the entire three-day sale was achieved. One of the most talked-about lots, the Mickey Finn figural cast-iron, rope-pull Tug-o-War strength tester, made by Caille Bros. of Detroit, features a standing boy - Mickey Finn - dressed in knickerbockers, his head emblazoned on the circular coin-slot gauge. Across the top of the gauge that measures the weight the user is capable of pulling are the words Can you raise the devil? At the 750lb level, an evil-looking devil's head pops up on the nickel-in-the-slot arcade machine. Exhibiting outstanding original park paint, the Mickey Finn, one of only 15 known examples, tipped the scales at $46,750.

Day two, on Sept. 2, included close to 700 lots of tin toys, Britains soldiers, vintage Halloween items and around 100 rare marbles.

After the sale, Dan Morphy phoned the consignors of the majority of the doorstops, Jan and Watt White. "They said they had watched the auction on eBay Live and were celebrating. They were very happy with the prices and thanked us for the job we had done in advertising and marketing the collection."

Morphy credited his "hard-working staff" and auctioneers Brent Souder and Dave Conley with the success of the sale, whose official total was $2,020,000. "I consider myself lucky to have one of the finest auction house teams in the business. All our staff members work together very well to run a smooth, professional sale and produce an outstanding auction catalog. Some days they're here 14 or 15 hours, and I don't have to ask them to stay. They're devoted."

Morphy said he was particularly pleased with the number of absentee bids. "It's a sign that people have confidence that we'll execute those bids ethically and competitively. One left bid was for a maximum of $25,000, but the bidder ended up getting the item for $2,200. That's what brings back the customers."

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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