European Auctions -- Spring 2004
Paris - London - Köln
Radio Items Exceed $550,000
Compiled from various sources by John V. Terrey
The heated European auction scene last spring certainly created a stir in the radio-collecting community. A.R.C. reports here on three of those auctions -- 1) Sotheby's auction of the Lescure collection of American popular culture in Paris, France, in May; 2) Bonhams' auction of Morse to Marconi items in London, England, in June; and 3) Auction Team Köln's auction of old technology in Köln, Germany, in May.
The radio-related items in these auctions totaled $410,450, $93,883 and $46,939 respectively, making a grand total in excess of $550,000 -- proceeds that attest to the vitality of our avocation.
The April Dorotheum old radio auction in Vienna, not received in time to include here, totaled $8,100. (Editor)
Sotheby's Auction -- The Pierre Lescure Collection
Paris, France - May 27, 2004
COMPILED FROM INFORMATION CONTRIBUTED BY SOTHEBY'S
On May 27, 2004, in Paris, France, Sotheby's auction of the Pierre Lescure collection proved a wild and well-merited success. The exhibition at the Galerie Charpentier attracted 1,700 visitors; 100 bidders, previously unknown to Sotheby's, bid successfully; and between 250 to 300 people came to watch the sale. The crowd bid actively, unfazed by the competition with the 20 telephone lines communicating bids from the United States, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. The bids were openly applauded several times, and at the end of the sale the audience paid homage to the collector with a standing ovation.
The Lescure Auction totaled $2,628,205, including a buyer's premium of 20 percent, of which radios and jukeboxes totaled $410,450, with a breakdown of $380,216 for radios and $25,234 for jukeboxes. Results in all categories were impressive with pinups, paintings, toys and illustrations totaling $2,217,755.
Although the bidding at the auction was in euros, all values used in this report have been converted to dollars using an exchange rate of 1 euro = 1.2155 dollars.
According to Florence de Botton, Director of the Contemporary Art Department and director of the sale, Pierre Lescure's personality and professionalism combined with Sotheby's international promotion of the sale helped to attract a diverse range of collectors of radios, toys, pinups, and contemporary art.
$58,344 was bid for the Sparton Nocturne. This blue-mirror set created by Walter Dorwin Teague around 1936, is arguably the most sensational radio in the collection.
Three "Cowboy Radios" were sold as a lot for $1,313. Included were two 1950 Arvin Hop-A-Long Cassidy sets and a 1951 Silvertone 4-233.
The Lescure Radio Collection
Radios and illustrated works were offered during the first part of the sale. The Pierre Lescure collection included the most important assembly of Catalin radios in the world, with over 70 lots. The collection included rare and sought after models created by such well-known manufacturers as Addison, Fada, Emerson, and Motorola, and by designers such as Norman Bel Geddes and Harold Van Doren.
The highest bid during the first session, $58,344, was for the Sparton Nocturne blue-mirror set, a monumental radio in the shape of a vertical disc, circa 1936. Originally designed to decorate the lounge of a luxury hotel, the mirror form of the blue radio was created by Walter Dorwin Teague, a designer for Kodak and Boeing. Another blue- mirror radio, a Spartan 517 "Sled" was acquired by the Pompidou Museum for $4,084.
In 1941, Motorola created dynamic S-Grill radios in diverse colors. A black and red model was bought by the Pompidou Museum for $5,834. A 50XC vermilion red marbleized model was sold for $10,940. The first radio ever produced in plastic, a rare lavender Air King 52, manufactured in 1933, was sold for $13,127.
This Emerson "Mickey Musician" radio sold for $1,896.
This Emerson Snow White, ca. 1935, sold for $3,063.
Pierre Lescure expressed his satisfaction after the sale: "The financial success, in addition to the sheer excitement and enthusiasm that this sale generated in Paris and abroad, particularly in the United States, is extremely rewarding for me. Many of my favorite artists achieved record prices. Several new bidders at Sotheby's left with the objects that allow them to dream, like me, regardless of what their respective monetary value is.
"This is the sort of bittersweet pleasure that I have been experiencing since I decided to let Sotheby's organize the sale. The success of the sale is the culmination of the pleasures that I have experienced in regard to the sale of my collection."
See print version of this article for a complete listing of auction items. The following listing shows prices in U.S. dollars and includes a buyer's premium of 20%. 1 Euro = $1.215. Some multiple lots and radios with defects have been omitted.
This lavender Air King 52 sold for $13,127.
Sotheby's Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 76 rue du Faubourg Saint HonorÈ, Paris, France 75008. Website: www.sothebys.com.
Auction Team Köln -- Old Technology Auction
Köln, Germany - May 22, 2004
By John Terrey
Auction Team Köln held its semiannual Old Technology Auction on May 22, 2004, in Köln, Germany. In addition to 84 radios and television lots, this auction included clocks, office antiques (telephones, calculators, typewriters, etc.), sewing machines, toasters, smoking antiques, scientific instruments, old medical items, mechanical music and toys, resulting in a total offering of 763 lots.
I have attended this auction in the past and find it exciting. Usually there is standing room only with over 150 bidders present. I often meet fellow radio collectors from Europe there, and it's an occasion to get together informally before or after the auction.
This auction total was just over $300,000 and the radio portion totaled $46,838. The totals and the listing below include a buyer's premium of 20.17 percent. (Conversion: $1.20 = 1 euro).
The auction is well organized and executed. A catalog is available describing and picturing every lot in color. New this year is the addition of brief descriptions in English -- a great help to potential bidders and to me in putting together this report. The catalog listing includes the opening bid (or reserve), and high and low estimates. No time is wasted on an item that does not bring the reserve. This is important since even at the usual pace of 120 lots per hour, the auction lasts over six hours.
The bidding is in German, but there is a number display showing the current bid in euros. And, for us English-speaking folk, the two auction house principals, Uwe and Astrid Breker, and the auctioneer, all speak excellent English and are always willing to help, even during the bidding itself.
I was not personally at this auction and have compiled this report from information furnished by the auction house in their catalog and on their web site. Some incompletely described and multi-item lots have been omitted. For this reason, there are a number of literature/book and tube lots which are not included in this listing. The photos here are taken from the auction catalog.
The Komet Kuba de Luxe, described in the catalog as "The most famous TV set in the world," includes a B/W TV set, an Imperial stereo radio, a Dual 1007 record player, and a Telefunken Magnetophon 76 tape deck. In nearly perfect original condition, this 1962 item sold for $9,373.
This Volksempfänger with the rare "front receiver" sold for $1,875
In its spring newsletter, Auction Team Köln comments on the "steady upward trend" in auction activities in the past year, as demonstrated by increasing prices for unusual items and stable prices for standard items. Radio collecting is obviously alive and well.
The next Aution Team Köln Old Technology Auction will be held on November 27, 2004.
See print version of this article for a complete listing of auction items. e=excellent, vg=very good, g=good, f=fair, p=poor, wk=works.
(John Terrey, A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01641. Auction Team Köln, Postfach 50 11 19, 50971, Köln, Germany. U.S. representative: Jane Herz, Tel: (941) 925-0385).
Bonhams Auction -- From Morse to Marconi
London, England - June 3, 2004
Reported BY JOHN TERREY
As advertised, the Bonhams Morse to Marconi Auction -- The Birth of Telecommunications -- was a historic event. Nearly 200 items related to early telecommunications were offered. Total sales were $93,883 including a buyer's premium of 19.5 percent (Conversion: $1.90 =1 £). After the telecommunications items were sold, about 50 other scientific instruments were offered bringing the total sale for the day to $454,079.
Unfortunately, several of the featured items, including the Cooke & Wheatstone ABC Telegraph receiver and the Magnetic Telegraph Company account book, were passed. In fact only about 51 percent of the offered items were sold, bringing the auction results well under the expectations reported to A.R.C. earlier this year of £600,000 (or $1,140,000). For comparative purposes, 100 percent of the other scientific instruments were sold, and one lot, a pair of Vincenzo Coronelli globes, sold for $284,335.
This Seimens & Halske coherer, ca. 1905, sold for $4,769.
I attended this auction and observed that attendance was low. At about an hour into the sale, I counted only 21 persons in the sales room plus two or three telephones active for telephone bidders. However, from my personal experience at many specialty auctions, I've learned that such a low number is not unusual. Often dealers are present to bid for absentee buyers they represent; absentee bids are sent by buyers from all over the globe by letter, fax and e-mail. On the other hand, I have seen well over a hundred bidders at scientific instrument auctions held by Christie's in London, and, of course, over 150 bidders usually show up for the almost monthly Estes radio auctions in the U.S.
Left to right: Peter Sindell, Jon Baddeley and James Kreuzer. Jon of Bonhams was the auctioneer and Peter and James assisted with the cataloging of the Morse to Marconi items. And, of course, Sr. Marconi overlooks the proceedings.
In talking to buyers and prospective buyers before, at, and after the sale, I heard comments that the published estimates might have been a bit high. High estimates can discourage prospective bidders from participating. Also, the lack of estimates in the catalog for two of the pricier telecommunications items might have "turned off" some major buyers.
For comparison, estimates for the Coronelli globes mentioned above were printed in the catalog as from £150,000 to £200,000, whereas the Cooke and Wheatstone item, one of the two estimates omitted in the catalog, was listed at £40,000 to £60,000 on the Web site. And high estimates, mean high reserves, since the reserve, the price under which the auctioneer will not sell the item, is often about one-half of the low estimate.
Desmond Squire, left, and James Kreuzer examining the telegraph items.
Were the estimates (reserves) actually high? I compared the sold prices with the average of the published low and high estimates. For the "other scientific instrument" portion of the auction, the selling price averaged 9 percent above the average of the estimates. For the telecommunication portion of the auction, the average price was 17 percent below the average estimates.
Desmond Squire, a London dealer I have known for several years and who attended the auction commented: "... I thought it to be flat, with little competing interest... The major items were unrealistically overpriced resulting in a lack of bidders and any kind of buzz. Selling these kinds of objects is difficult, as many are one of a kind. There is no established market or price structure... Major players will want to bid against real competitors and not high reserves... The results list says it all."
Thanks to Desmond Squire for these comments. Desmond is a London-based dealer in early wireless and telegraphy, cryptography, and early computing, together with books on the same. Desmond's email is email@example.com.
This Elliott Brothers spark coil sold for $682.
See print version of this article for complete auction listing. The listing omits items passed and some multiple-items lots. Prices are in dollars and include buyer's premium of 19.5 percent.
(John Terrey, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01742. Bonhams, Montpelier St., Knightsbridge, London SW7 1HH, www.bonhams.com)
Two Breguet ABC telegraphs were offered. Above, Bill Burns of New York, holds the transmitter from the ca. 1850s lot, which, together with the receiver, bottom, sold for $9,536.