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Sales Report - APRIL 2015
The April sale featured some great corkscrews and spirited bidding from both old and newer participants. Ion Chirescu was less dominant than in previous sales, as he now seems to have most of the collectible pieces for his Corkscrew Museum in Bucharest opening in August. New buyers are appearing and the best pieces are now being spread around. We now have 1026 registered participants of whom 65 (TBC) sold in April, and 95 (TBC) were successful buyers.
The number of listings in April (797) was down about 15% on recent half year sales. The February sales were introduced three years ago to feature individual collections and to ease the pressure on the half yearly sales. Another factor may be a decline in the number of mature collectors selling. Over the past 5 years some of the largest and best collections have been sold off or heavily reduced, perhaps more than “normal”. In particular the supply of top end corkscrews which we might expect to sell for $5,000 plus has clearly dried up. Perhaps this is a good sign for top end prices. In the middle the market is mixed and unpredictable. At the lower end there is a general consensus that supply is consistently outstripping demand and prices are depressed for the common pieces.
April results were broadly in line with recent years with a clearance rate of 47% and an average sale of $563 . The February sale featured 240 lots with a clearance rate of 51% and an average sale of $829. The format without the extended 2nd chance seems to be working better with more exciting real-time competition. Some items which didn’t sell were transferred to BUY NOW and sold there.
The highest price in April was the $18,000 paid for an English rack and pinion patented in 1870 by Edwin Sunderland (Lot 16879). This piece is staying in North America with a single bid at the starting price. Perhaps there’s already one in Romania. A matching piece appears in Peter’s Mechanical book (figure 747). This is the more interesting of the 2 variants of Sunderland’s rack patent as the rack is on the inside of the frame. Wallis p64 shows both variants.
The other standout sale in April was a complete example of the greatly prized “Frary Patent” barscrew (Lot16591) This exceeded market expectations as a determined European collector finally outlasted Ion Chirescu at $13,600. This really is a most impressive display piece complete with bird on chain. The bird’s beak was used as a wire breaker and the teeth inside the body were used to grip the cork. The story behind the non-“patent” is well told by the seller Jack Bandy who had the pleasure of owning it for over 30 years.
This piece is not regarded as particularly rare. Wayne Meadows in his 2001 Bar Corkscrew Compendium rated it a “3” on his 1 to 5 scarcity scale. (p127).. The rarer Frary barscrew is one with a built-in gripper. This one is rated “1” by Meadows which means he knew of only one example in 2001. An example of this rarer Frary sold here 4 years ago for $8000 (#5336). However the Frary with bird may be the barscrew most desired by collectors and the chained bird ,which is sometimes missing, adds to its rarity. We have even seen a sale of a reproduction bird in our sales. (#5243).
Jack Bandy also sold another iconic piece, a superbly Japanned Thomason (Lot 16851), for a very healthy $8,250.
The high price reflected the quality and condition of the delicate gold on black enamel Japanning. It is a beautiful piece with the gold leaf finish virtually intact and similar to the one on the front cover of Watney & Babbage’s Corkscrews for Collectors. The Japanning process was very popular in England until around 1820 when there were numerous artisans possibly adding the process to already manufactured items.
Another classic English piece to sell was an 1842 UK registered Cotterill (Lot 17219). Frank Ellis described the Cotterill as “one of the Great Corkscrews….it is a complicated but extremely well made and elegant machine” (Ellis Registrations p15).
Unfortunately, with its complex mechanism, a lot can go wrong over 170 years, both internally and externally, The few that have appeared in our sales and elsewhere have tended to have faults. In this case the large and stylish but rather delicate badge was missing it’s top, but it still sold for $4,250.
Our sale continues to feature some very fine 18th century Dutch silver figurals in standing sheaths which attract strong competition from both general collectors and silver specialists. The highlight in this sale was shaped as a wolf and sold for $6,000 to a general collector. (#17147).
Mumford Folding Prongs
Another top end highlight was the very rare variant of Mumford’s US “Magic” patented prongs (Lot 16887). While the regular Mumford prongs might now sell for only $200 (BUY NOW #2864) this rare folding version reached $4,100 when Ion Chirescu was pushed hard by a European prongs specialist. Although it is marked “Magic” and bears the dates of Mumford’s patents, the design of these prongs actually matches a completely different 1896 US patent . See Peters & Giulian figure 708.
SOME UNUSUAL PIECES
After 8 years and about 9,000 sales, there are still plenty of new pieces to surprise us. A few pieces which stood out in April and haven’t appeared in our sales before were:
A mystery bow, possibly by Williamson, with markings for a non-existent 1881 US patent (Lot 17037). Ion Chirescu had to pay $2666 to beat a dedicated US patent collector on this one. The worm locks with indentations inside the bow.
"Rocket" Gas Extractor
A modern “Rocket” gas charged Monopol cork extractor for $1347 (Lot 16718). Though only registered in Germany in 1963, this is very rare and is also a great display piece. Some collectors discount “modern” pieces ( typically meaning post WW2) and many also discount gas ejectors as not “real” corkscrews. Judging by the identity of the winning bidder, there must also be a US patent for this piece.
Brass Norwegian Popeye
A very rare brass version of the 1937 Swedish patented “Popeye” (Lot 17143) appeared for the first time and Ion Chirescu was pushed up to $2950 by a determined Scandinavian collector . The usual pewter version sells around $250. The unusual "NORGE" marking on the base indicates or at least strongly suggests that it was made in Norway. The Popeye is usually marked "BULLS copyright PAT" and these were made in Sweden. The maker Cornelius Bull was Norwegian but operated in Stockholm.
A previously unrecorded baseball figural (Lot 16778) with a handle comprising a beautifully crafted miniature leather baseball sold for $450. Marked "Official League hand sewn Made in England". There are a great many golf figurals (including one with a golf ball matching this) but very few with a baseball theme.
Black Celluloid Lady
An impressive German black celluloid lady (lot 17019) which attracted great competition before selling for $1900 . She will make a great pair with the matching black AMOR couple which sold well 3 years ago (lot 11071)
There were plenty of good buying opportunities at all price levels. Sometimes the low prices seemed to reflect poor descriptions or inadequate condition reports. A condition report of "used" or "see pictures" is not reassuring .While it can be difficult to take account of differences in condition, a few stood out as low relative to previous sales, including:
'The Smart’ Express, a neat 1896 German DRGM also marked with an English patent, in good condition for $400 (Lot 17048)
-an old brass Italian coffee grinder for $108 (Lot 17080) sold to an American dealer.
-a very rare English Hampton Lever, not in great condition, for only $1200 (Lot 16661) and a good Holroyde cork splitter (Lot 16647) for $1820. Both really classic pieces snapped up by an English dealer/ collector
-A early patterned Thomason for only $310 (Lot 16868). The fine machined pattern on the barrel was not highlighted in the description.
A collection of 5 US combination tools , including a menacing 4 in 1 menacing Clough bread knife which usually sells for $100 plus, for $80 (Lot 16764)
A Hull Presto direct pressure English patent for $1200 (Lot 17046) which looked cheap compared to another example in the same sale (#16527) which sold for a more typical $2128. Sometimes presentation makes a difference.
The Vulcan, a high quality Thomason reproduction produced in a limited run of 500 (each numbered) in 1988 . Eight good examples have appeared on our sales. The price has steadily declined from $550 in 2009 to $275 in April (Lot 17292). Less than the 179 pounds it sold for new in 1980. (see Watney & Babbage p147).
We hope you enjoyed the sale and had some success. Our next Sale opens for postings on October 23. In the meantime check out what’s selling on BUY NOW. It’s always changing.