Auctions: Great expectations for shaving mugs, music boxes

Among the 130 lots of shaving mugs is this one that belonged to baseball player William J. Kuehne. It has a presale estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
Among the 130 lots of shaving mugs is this one that belonged to baseball player William J. Kuehne. It has a presale estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
Posted: August 04, 2012

Morphy Auctions' two-day sale next weekend will offer two categories of collectibles to be found in the nostalgia nook: shaving mugs and music boxes, notably two Regina models expected to bring five-figure prices.

In this era of beards and iPods, neither category is much in use any more. The Regina Music Box Co., in fact, ultimately wound up making vacuum cleaners.

Still, both categories have their adherents. The 30 music boxes and related machines to be offered at the start of the first session, beginning at 10 a.m. next Friday at the gallery near Reading, were collected by Peter V. Fritsch of Kutztown. Fritsch is a celebrated seventh-generation Pennsylvania German art, language, and history teacher, who has specialized in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and also practices the scissors-cutting folk art of Scherenschnitte, according to printed accounts.

The music boxes from his collection that will be sold include six Regina models, as well as Polyphon, Symphonion, and Lochmann models, according to the online auction catalog accessible at Before being driven into the vacuum cleaner business by the advent of the phonograph, Regina was perhaps the best-known maker of music boxes. Originally set up in 1890 near Leipzig, Germany, it relocated to the United States around 1895 in Rahway, N.J.

The two Reginas with five-figure prices are both late-model automatic disc changers. A 151/2-inch model is expected to bring $14,000 to $16,000 and a 27-incher has a presale estimate of $16,000 to $18,000.

The collection also includes a Regina 20¾-inch single disc upright with 17 discs ($6,000 to $8,000), a table-size Regina Rookwood finish front box with four pullout disc-storage drawers ($8,000 to $12,000), a coin-operated Lochmann 241/2-inch upright with 12 bells and a 10-cent coin slot ($10,000 to $12,000), and, for the bargain-minded, a Swiss 5-inch, eight-tune cylinder music box ($200 to $300) and a Victory phonograph with horn ($250 to $300).

The approximately 130 lots of occupational shaving mugs will be offered next. Such mugs sometimes were kept at the barber shop, where their owners went to be shaved, and the occupation they depicted ostensibly made the owner's identification easier. Those to be offered next Friday, for instance, start off with two horse-drawn vehicles, a fire pumper ($300 to $500), and a hearse ($300 to $600).

The top presale estimate, $6,000 to $8,000, is for a mug that originally belonged to professional baseball player William J. Kuehne. It depicts his occupation with an image of a player sliding into home with the catcher, the diamond, and other players in the distance.

Kuehne played infield positions for teams in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, according to Morphy's news release about the sale, and was featured on 11 Old Judge Tobacco cards.

Other significant mugs include a pipe or metal worker mug with a man sealing a joint; a railroad handcart mug, and a Lake Rowland Elevated Railway mug, probably a souvenir, according to the news release (each $800 to $1,200).

The 526-lot session also features a collection from a long-defunct Philadelphia pharmacy of 80 apothecary antiques, including an apothecary jar with a Greek key motif ($2,000 to $4,000) and a rare teardrop-shaped jar ($2,500 to $4,000); and more than 250 lots of general store advertising and showcases. Among the advertising items are a circa-1880s lithographed tin sign promoting Perry Davis Pain Killer and depicting workers making the patent medicine ($4,000 to $6,000), and a 1914-15 Buffalo Bill Wild West Show poster ($2,000 to $3,000).

The second session, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, opens with more than 50 coin-operated machines, notably a dual vending machine that dispenses both Chiclets chewing gum and Stollwerck chocolates that could bring $10,000 to $15,000; a 1920s Novelty Merchant Co. "digger" machine, the kind with a crane inside to help you pull out a prize ($2,000 to $4,000); and a 10-cent Rol-A-Top slot machine ($6,000 to $7,000), as well as other Watling and Mills slots.

The session's 420 lots also include advertising signs and promotional pieces for gasoline and soft drinks, including a 1930s two-sided Mobilgas porcelain cutout sign with its iconic Pegasus logo ($1,000 to $2,000).

Three other promotional pieces with a law enforcement theme each have presale estimates of $4,000 to $6,000: a rare and "elusive" 1955 7UP store display figure of a policeman on its original base; an equally rare Pepsi-Cola patrol boy school crossing sign and a 1956 Coca-Cola policeman warning sign with original cast iron base.

The Coke cop is one of more than 200 lots of Coca-Cola items in the session, including calendars and trays and related objects. Among them are a 1920s Coke bottle lamp ($6,000 to $9,000), a 1902 Coca-Cola calendar ($3,000 to $5,000), and a 1954 tin cutout sign depicting a Coke 12-pack ($2,000 to $3,000), as well as a 1910 Pepsi-Cola calendar framed under glass ($2,000 to $4,000). Another lot of note consists of two Coke bottles not in the classic clear glass ribbed shape, but made of amber glass with straight sides ($175 to $250).

The session concludes with 100 lots of tobacco-related items, including cigar boxes; tobacco pouches and roll-your-own papers; and signs, notably a classic 1940-50s Philip Morris sign with Johnny in his pillbox cap ($300 to $600) and a Johnny cardboard cutout ($225 to $450).

The top tobacco item is a 46-inch-high cigar figure of a man holding a club in one hand and a pack of cigars in the other. Hercules the smoker is expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000.

Previews: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day at the gallery at 200 N. Reading Rd., Denver. Information: 717-335-3435 .

Contact David Iams at

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