Cabin Fever Turns To Bidding Fever At Rich Penn Sale

July 12, 2019

The annual Spring Rich Penn auction event seemed like it was spring in name only. The April 26, 27, and 28 auction in Waterloo, Iowa, had a special gift from Mother Nature. Saturday's session witnessed four inches of snow. But those in attendance weren't hampered by that. Cabin fever quickly turned to bidding fever.
The large sale kicked off with over 200 lots of non-cataloged items for in-house bidders only. Auctioneers Fred Van Metre and Tom Millie sailed through those by noon. When the first cataloged lot came to the podium, the house bidders were joined by registered online bidders from 37 countries. By the end, nearly half of the sale went to online buyers.
“We continue to see increased participation from our online clients. But when it comes to some of the more serious items, many bidders want to be here to see it and examine it for themselves,” said Rich Penn.
The sale included salesman sample stoves, country store and soda fountain items and pressed steel toys. Two of the top lots were salesman sample stoves. A Home Comfort No. CB, in restored condition, sold for $4,000, and a Quick Meal No. 407-16, also restored, sold for $3,500. Two other stoves that warmed up bidders included the ca. 1900 Karr Range Co., with blue and white enameled finish. In original condition, it sold for $2,750. A ca. 1900 Great Majestic Junior, in restored condition, went for $2,250.
Pressed steel toys showed strong prices. “In our last two auctions we've seen the interest start to come back for good toys,” according to Penn. “Pressed steel is definitely showing strength again, especially Buddy ‘L.’” A ca. 1927 Buddy "L" Flivver one-ton express with original paint and transfers was a great example and realized $3,250. Close behind was an unusual and rare Buddy "L" railroad double trestle bridge. It came with 10 pieces of track. Each piece of the track was stamped with the Buddy “L” name. When all the bids had rolled across the block, it brought $3,200. All prices reported are hammer prices and do not include a buyer's premium.
Rich Penn Auctions has a tradition of offering a great selection of country store material. This sale was no exception. And signs are always a favorite. A colorful self-framed metal sign for Sunbeam Rolls, picturing Little Miss Sunbeam, sold for $2,750. Bidders were charmed by the graphics and the near-mint condition. A 39-inch diameter Frostie Root Beer diecut metal bottle cap sign, with fun Frostie graphics, sold for $1,600. More fun graphics came on the always popular Grape-Nuts sign. This self-framed litho-on-tin featured a pretty little girl on the way to school with her St. Bernard. With strong color and overall scratching, it dished up a top bid of $1,000.
A ca. 1909 National Cash Register, model No. 327, in original condition, rang up a high bid of $1,300. And coffee grinders are still grinding out bidder interest in this market. A cast-iron counter style, Enterprise No. 8, with original orange paint, decals and eagle finial, realized $1,100.
Results for coin-operated machines showed a healthy market. The top lot was a classic ca. 1941 Paul Fuller designed Wurlitzer model 750E jukebox. Fuller was single-handedly responsible for designing the 1938-49 line of Wurlitzer 24 selection machines. His designs set the stage for other manufacturers to follow. None did it quite as well as Fuller. As a result, his machines are among the most desirable with today's collectors. This machine, largely complete but with a few minor issues, still played up to a $5,500 high bid. Another jukebox from Wurlitzer's rival Rockola was their ca. 1947 model 1426. A great Art Deco design, this 20-selection machine was in good original condition but needed amp work. It still hit a high note at $1,800.
From pumping out great tunes to pumping gas, bidder interest was good. An Eric Motor Systems clock face pump had an older restoration and pumped out a $3,500 high bid. The American Oil Pump & Tank Co. visible pump, ca. 1920s, brought $1,900, as did the Wayne clock face model 861. A Red Crown Gasoline bulk drum from Standard Oil Indiana, with great graphics, sold for $1,700.
In the days of the classic jukeboxes, it wasn't unusual to see a slot machine or two in the same establishment. Any machines that took in extra money helped the merchant make more profit, so coin-operated machines were in both little towns and big cities across the country. A song could be heard for a nickel. The same for a pack of gum. Or buy a pencil, a soda or take a chance on winning some money. Gambling has an entrenched history in American culture. Many of those coin-operated machines are very collectible.
The top selling slot machine was an unusual Watling Rol-A-Top with a Diamond Front jackpot. This 25-cent machine from the 1930s took in a $2,750 winning bid. A rare $1 play Jennings light-up Club Chief, in a console cabinet, hit the jackpot at $2,300.
Decorative items, which have been on the softer side of the market in recent years, seemed to be making a modest comeback in prices. A colorful signed Handel leaded glass lamp had strong internet and in-house bidding. It sold for $1,800. Another stained and leaded glass table lamp, from Duffner & Kimberly, sold for $1,100. A ca. 1900 disc German music box, with nine discs played beautifully, sold for $1,500.
“The wide variety of lots kept bidders interested throughout both sessions, and many commented about that fun variety. We plan to continue that,” stated Penn.
Penn's November auction, also scheduled to be held at the Sullivan Bros. Convention Center in Waterloo, will take place on Nov. 1, 2, and 3. It is already loaded with quality and variety.
For further information, call 319-291-6688 or visit


More Articles