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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Great Price Crash

saleroom 1

Sell! Sell! Sell! The writing's on the wall. If you've invested your savings in vintage slot machines, now's the time to get out before it's too late! Prices continue to dive. In a year's time, at this rate, you won't be able to give them away. That's the message I took home from Sunday's Coventry Vintage Slot Machine Auction (12/11/06).

saleroom 3

Perhaps I'm being a bit hysterical here. The prices weren't that bad. All the items I took to the auction sold, one for over twice what I thought it was worth and everything I bid on went for more than I was prepared to pay. The Bryans machines didn't do badly apart from the Retreeva (on new penny play and needing work) which failed to reach its reserve. An old penny play Bullion went for £620, possibly a record price, until a week later when another one made £700 at Anna Carter's Sale. What we did witness though, was an unusually high number of unsold lots, particularly at the start of the auction, although I'm told that many came within a whisker of their reserves and had the auctioneer's discretion been exercised the success rate would have been much higher. However, thanks to some unambitious reserves some great bargains were snapped up. The trouble is, it seemed not enough of us were eager to grab the opportunity.

saleroom 2

Nevertheless, there was a clear consensus that it was a most enjoyable day, especially for a first auction and the organisers look forward to building upon their success by running another. It provided the kind of informal collectors' get-together that the hobby needs and I was surprised and impressed by the standard of items on offer. There seemed to be a lower than usual quotient of junk/basket-cases plus a decent proportion of rare and unusual machines. Good suggestions for future improvements have been made in the Forum and the organisers welcome further feedback.

See Full Auction Results in the Arena.

I'll also post the auction results from Southern Counties Anna Carter Steam Fair Sale (13/11/06) when I get them.

saleroom 4

Many theories have been put forward to account for the decline in vintage slot machine prices over the last few years, such as eBay making them commonplace; the recent hike in fuel and other essential commodity prices; the dwindling supply of good items for sale; the numerous tecky products (computers, mobile phones, i-pods, sat-navs etc.) now competing for our cash; ever increasing property prices leading to ever decreasing living spaces and the aging collector syndrome. There's probably some merit in all of them, but I fear the aging collector syndrome is by far the biggest factor. It's evident to all of us who attend these sales that the bidders' average age increases roughly one year every year. In other words, new collectors are not replacing those who've either dropped out or dropped dead! It's hardly surprising, given that most of us got interested in mechanical amusements because we remember playing them as kids in the 1960s. Later generations cannot be expected to know what a mechanical slot machine is, let alone why it's so much more charming than a video game.'s mission is to promote a wider appreciation of these devices but the Catch-22 is that unless a person already has some knowledge of or interest in the subject they're not likely either to find this site or buy their first classic machine on eBay.

saleroom 6

On the other hand, for those of us already in the know, there's a positive side to all of this. Of course, anyone who's selling wants to see the highest price possible, but I believe high prices in general are the collector's worst enemy and good news only for auctioneers. I know I'm not the only one who regrets the way the hobby has been plagued by investors and money-making opportunists who delight in hyping-up prices. 2006 has brought a welcome reality check which should go some way to kicking this element into touch.

saleroom 5

I took my camera to Jukebox Madness (on Saturday 4th November) but for some reason failed to take it out of its case. Shame really, because I could have brought back pictures of a very elegant little Handani catcher from Dutch dealer Jukebox Gallery and two machines I haven't seen before: a Parkers clown/circus theme allwin on Jez Darvill's stand and a war-time single-reeler Bowland bandit conversion with aeroplane castings and reel motifs. As it was, I came back with nothing. There were plenty of buyers and sellers, but unusually, most trading seems to have been done on the Sunday. Generally, prices were down again on last year, I think.

MMM issue 7

In the "History of the Wall Machine" (last issue of MMM) I learnt that when you win the jackpot on a Bryan's Payramid, the last winning ball is recycled, giving you a chance to win even more, and this continues until you drop the ball. I never noticed that. Maybe because I so rarely got the jackpot. I return to the machine with a renewed sense of awe.

Dave Page of Skelter Publishing responded to my comment about the Pennies by the Sea's weak binding. He believes the problem arose because the first batch of books was released too hastily, before the glue had set properly:

Many thanks for such a positive Blog review of our recent publication, Pennies by the Sea. As a small publisher we are always very appreciative of the efforts of people like yourself who take time to review our work.

However, we were disturbed to hear that the copy you received did not physically stand up to scrutiny. We apologise unreservedly for this and would like to replace the copy you have ....

In terms of how your copy of Pennies by the Sea came to fall apart it comes down to the fact that we took a risk. Sounds dramatic I know,but we wanted the book out for Christmas, and, for various reasons, we were late off the presses. With every book we do we are advised by our printer to allow at least a week for the binding glue to harden properly. This time, however, we felt we could not wait that long for publicity to begin and released a small batch of Pennies by the Sea as soon as they were delivered to us and, therefore, against the advice of our printer. One of these came to We suspect that the gluing on your copy was still volatile and therefore even a moderate amount of handling may have caused the glue to slide. For this we again apologise.

We think it also worth stating that Skelter Publishing has every faith in its printer, Thanet Press of Margate. They have always displayed the greatest professionalism when dealing with our titles and always produce work to the very highest standards. We have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone who may be looking for a good honest company to do business with.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Pennies by the Sea review

Pennies by the Sea

Having had time now to absorb Nick Laister's Pennies by the Sea, I must say, as the first book to cover the vintage amusement scene from the arcade operators' side of the coin box, it makes a fascinating read. We are lead through over seventy years' intricate history of several competing amusement venues in Bridlington (and those who owned and ran them), from their inception in the assembly rooms adjoining the Ship Inn in the mid 1880s; the first "pleasure palaces", cinematograph houses and theatres, to Britain's first purpose built seaside amusement arcade at Great Yarmouth in 1897. The central story is that of Joyland Amusements, following its piecemeal development and expansion as it became one of the biggest in Britain, right up to the present day. Something of the fuggy atmosphere of a crowded arcade; the noise and bustle; aromas of disinfectant, hot dogs, candyfloss and ozone, is evoked in pictures, stories and personal anecdotes from some of the key players at the sharp end of the British amusement machines industry. We are reminded of a simpler, more naive age when it was possible for an enterprising fellow to manufacture slot machines in a small shed, hand build them with the help of an uncle and deliver them to local resorts in the sidecar of a motorcycle.

A number of classic old machines can be spied in the tantalizing black and white images, mostly looking in from the Promenade or Esplanade fronts of the arcades, plus a few rather fuzzy interiors. It's sad that the insides of amusement arcades were so rarely considered worthy of a photograph. Most of our early views of machines in situ were taken on Victorian piers. The rows of wooden-cased wall machines that were more usually indoors are rarely seen.

The final chapter The Rides and Attractions, describes and pictures some of the games that were operated from Joyland Amusements. Clearly this isn't Nick Laister's area of expertise, as evidenced by a few errors that creep in - although the Laughing Sailor appeared in 1950, the same year vinyl LPs were first sold in Britain, it's 78" record would have been of shellac not vinyl, and we didn't have to wait until 1963 for automatic payouts on Fruit Machines! Nevertheless, the chapter provides a welcome "where are they now?" roundup of the games and rides that provided so many years entertainment at the Joyland arcade.

Handle with care: My copy fell apart when I was less than a third of the way through - and I wasn't particularly rough with it. It was printed in England and the pages attached by slapping a bit of cheap glue down the spine in what passes for softback binding these days.

Full tilt on the Black Country Museum Speedway

The auction catalogue for the Central England Vintage Slot Collectors' Day at Coventry on Sunday 12th November is now online here. You can order a printed copy here (required for entry). I should have more details of the Anna Carter auction by Monday.

Central England Sale Catalogue

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Steam Fair Auction and more...

After a distinctly slack October, our Calendar is packed for November with exciting events kicking off with Jukebox Madness, the annual jukebox, pinball, slot machine and Americana collectors' favourite event on the 4th and 5th followed two days later by Christies Mechanical Music Sale which this time will only include a few coin-operated machines. That brings us to the Central England Vintage Slot Collectors' Day and Auction (in association with MMM) on the 12th. This will be the first dedicated vintage slot machine auction held in the Midlands for many years. If you plan to put some lots into this one, get them in soon - all entries must be received by 23rd October. 80 lots were already listed when I spoke to the organizers just after the first batch of entry forms had been delivered. Entry details here.

The following weekend (Saturday 18th) comes a surprise event, just announced by Southern Counties Auctioneers: Anna Carter's (of Carters Steam Fair) Auction of Memorabilia, signs, glassware, vehicles, amusement machines, fairground rides and attractions. From first reports, I believe this will include a "moderate" number of vintage coin-operated games, but not comparable to the famous Carter's Sale of 2000. The catalogue will be available shortly and I'll post the details as soon as I have them.

Further exciting news for slot-heads (not to be confused with cross-head screws) comes with the publication of Nick Laister's Pennies by the Sea, the first book to tell the story of the British seaside amusement arcade (and the first book for vintage British slot machine enthusiasts since John Carter produced Arcades and Slot Machines in 1997). It's available in the Library for £16.00 including postage, or if you want to avoid postage, get a copy from me at the Central England Vintage Slot Collectors' Day and Auction. I'll review the book here shortly. And for those who haven't yet subscribed to Mechanical Memories Magazine, here's what you missed this month: The History of the Wall Machine Part 2 (Catchers), Slotties Day Out report, Rock-Ola Pintables Part 1 (my contribution), the BAL-AMI Junior 40 Jukebox, plus news, classified adverts etc.
Pennies by the SeaMechanical Memories Magazine

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Way Things Go

I recently returned from my Summer holiday travels to find all quiet on the slot machine front. Nothing much seems to be happening, even eBay sales seem to have dried up. There was some consolation in a few exciting packages that had arrived while I was away. John Peterson sent me some allwin spares and composite balls suitable for very early catchers etc. Great find, John! These are rare as hen's teeth and often missing. We may put some on the Spares page.

Issue 5 of Mechanical Memories Magazine featured an article by Clive Baker on his Southport Pier vintage amusements arcade, an informative piece on pre-decimal British pennies plus other articles and slot machine adverts.

MMM issue 5

Also awaiting my return was a DVD I've been trying to track down for ages called The Way Things Go (Der Lauf Der Dinge) made by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss in 1987. I'm sure this wonderful thirty minute tour de force of kinetic, chemical and pyrotechnic cause and effect would appeal to many of my fellow cog-heads. It's available from and although formatted for US TV it played fine on my home DVD player. Compare this short sample (requires Quicktime player) with the Honda advert that cleverly and shamelessly plagiarized it.

While in Falaise, Normandy (birthplace of William the Conqueror) I visited a museum of "window actors" (as the brochure quaintly described them) at Automates Avenue. From the 1920s to the 1950s, these automata captured the imagination of Parisian Christmas shoppers, luring them into the department stores. Given that they were manufactured over the same period as the British working models, it is perhaps not surprising that they bear many resemblances in theme and style, albeit on a larger scale. There are some more images in the Arena

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Christies November Sale

I recently received this message from Laurence Fisher of Christies:

A few machines were left over from the May sale, but these will more than likely be returned to Mr. Costa. On behalf of Nic, a thank you to all who attended both the main slot sale back in January and this one just gone.

Since the May sale, I have consigned the following which will appear in the & November auction of Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus:

A Mills 'Castle Front' bandit, 1933 Estimate £500-800

A Jennings Little Duke
(number reels - 'female' re-cast front) Estimate £300-500

A Jennings Governor bandit with lit panels
& 6d. Play Estimate £200-300

There is also a chance of a few others, but only if the vendors of the machines are willing to provide the Gambling Commission their details so we can obtain the permit to sell them.

Viewing for this sale will start from 4 November- Saturday at 10.00am - or on request, I can send you pictures of these over an e-mail
(See Christies site for email details).

Friday, June 30, 2006

Liberty Belle Under the Hammer

The owners of the the famous Liberty Belle Saloon in Reno have put their establishment on the market for $1,750,000. This does not include the historic content which is coming under the hammer on July 8th. Most of the slot machines for sale are pictured in Marshal Fey's Slot Machines - A Pictorial History of the First 100 Years. The details, together with the online and printed catalogue, are available at Peter Sidlow & Pat McGuire's Victorian Casino Antique Auction.

Liberty Belle Saloon Catalogue

Improved! Cheaper! PennyMachines Market

The PennyMachines Market is proving an increasingly successful method of selling vintage slots. Now, by arrangement with Jerry Chattenton, all Market adverts will be automatically published in two issues of Mechanical Memories Magazine. The listings also appear at and, the two leading aggregators of independent online auctions and classified adverts, so you can be sure your adverts are gaining maximum exposure and reaching the right audience. What's more, it's cheaper now, with a simple flat fee based upon how long you want your advert to run (from £5.00 for a month to £20 for 6 months). Furthermore, you're no longer required to state a selling price, although in my opinion it is always better to do so. I figure if you can't decide how to price your item the best selling format is an auction.

Talking of Mechanical Memories Magazine, the June issue was another cracker, with a couple of particularly interesting articles about the Steer-a-Ball machines and the mysterious Jackpot, Safari, Plentywin and Double Your Win allwins.
Mechanical Memories Magazine

Reporting on last May's Slot Machine Sale, John Bundy of Southern Counties Auctioneers commented The number and quality of lots on offer were both encouraging and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of prospective buyers present on sale day.... We achieved a sale rate of 72% and have posted the results on our web site ( [Also in the Arena.] For your information it is our intention to make this an annual fixture around the same time each year.

Sales were sluggish ten days later at Christies auction of Mechanical Music And Technical Apparatus, with the sale rate of slots down to less than 50% (see the Arena), although I believe many were purchased at reserve afterwards. The buyer's market continues. Get your vintage slots now! It won't last for ever.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Christie's Invitation to View

From Laurence Fisher re. Christies Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus Sale (Wednesday 31 May, 2.00pm):

Our forthcoming sale of mechanical music encompasses the true sounds and sights that these popular auctions have projected in the past. Highlights range from fine singing birds such as a Bruguier tortoiseshell box (estimate £4,000-6,000) to a rare 39-key Flight & Sons barrel pipe organ originally installed in Diss Church, Norfolk (estimate £5,000-7,000), making a sale that captures each specific interest with ease.
We are delighted to also be presenting in the first of these two annual sales, the Stonehill Collection of Duo-Art. For over four decades, Mr. Stonehill has globally sourced and gathered the world's largest and most complete library of Duo-Art rolls. Here, offered as one lot, (estimate £15,000-25,000), we can appreciate the size, the range and music of this extraordinary work. Joining this, his unique Steinway Grand piano with 3-H opposed action, (estimate £20,000-40,000), a Weber Duo-Art Model 12 grand piano (estimate £800-1,200), the unique and famous Iles-Stonehill Robot, used for the Nimbus recordings of 1995-2000, (estimate £3,000-5,000) and a fine Chinese taste breakfront roll cabinet (estimate £1,000-1,500).
The musical box section is equally healthy with lots such as a small key-wind musical box playing three airs, including the Overture of Othello in two parts (estimate £1,200-1,800), a fine musical box by Ducommun-Girod, playing four airs on approximately 182 teeth (estimate £800-1,200) and a fine Mandoline Expressive Overture musical box, playing six airs (estimate £4,000-6,000).
Gramophones, Phonographs, fine and unusual Technical Apparatus, Vintage Amusement Machines, Pneumatic Instruments, Automata and Signage are other chapters in this fascinating and enlightening catalogue which appeals to both the collector and newcomer.
With the view commencing on Friday 26 May at 9.00am, we welcome you to join us in listening, enjoying and choosing your mechanical music lots.
With kindest regards,
Laurence Fisher.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Southern Counties 2: Sale Report

Viewing Day

... auction was great!! I even bought a couple of allwins to boot! ... Low buyers premium makes it very attractive for impulse buyers like me and there was a large range to choose from....and a bar as well!! Prices were very reasonable too...I should imagine there were one or two disappointed sellers as many machines went for below the estimate... I may enter some items next time if I get fed up packaging machines for sale on ebay!! Well done and thanks!

These comments of a visitor to the second Southern Counties Auction of Vintage Slot Machines last Sunday (21st May) sum up the day quite well. The general slump we've seen this year in prices has created something of a buyers' market. Fortunately, sensible reserves on most of the lots meant that, despite this, the majority of machines sold. There were certainly some bargains to be had amongst over 200 lots. Having sold a couple of large and heavy machines in the auction, I felt justified in bringing home four smaller ones.

I'll publish the full prices in the Arena as soon as I get them, but a few I noted were Lot 19, Novelty Merchantman Crane (in fair to good condition): £1300; Lot 57, Screen Stars single reeler: £330; Lot 80, Caille Commercial: £400; Lot 83, Bradley Challenger: £360. A Mills Poinsettia and Jennings Victoria both made £800 and the Jennings Governors of which there were about half a dozen sold for £700 - £800 with one going for a bargain £500. There were a similar number of Bryans Clocks one of which sold for as little as £230 and 30a, the Bryans Retreeva (in poor condition), made £2400.

Although the weather outside was dreadful (putting a damper on carpark trading) and I would have prefered a mid-session break in the sale, it was good to catch up with collector friends in a pleasant, comfortable venue.

It will be interesting to see if the price trend continues on Wednesday (31st May) at Christies Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus Sale with its second time around reduced reserves. The online catalogue is here.

Also at Christies (New York) on 21st June is a major sale of Historic Cards and Games which includes only one or two slots but some very attractive gaming related ephemera.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pennies by the Sea

Three pertinent leaflets hit the letterbox this week. The second issue of Mechanical Memories Magazine is a great little read, building on the success of issue one with more adverts, pictures and features, including a spotlight on Steve Maxsted's working models collection at Rye, East Sussex.

Christies Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus sales catalogue (May 31st) includes around forty slot/automata related items - mostly unsold items from the earlier Nic Costa auction, plus a Mills Horse Head Bonus, some 30s pintables and a few "new" lots.

The catalogue for Southern Counties Auction of Vintage Slot Machines (May 21st) is now printed and should be in your post this week if you've ordered it. It contains 184 lots with some late entries expected (see Southern Counties Sale Update ).

3 booklets

Exciting news of a new publication from Joylandbooks: Pennies by the sea: the story of Joyland, Bridlington. The author, Nick Laister, recently sent me this appeal for help:

I am currently in the process of finalising a book on the history of the Joyland amusement arcade in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. I am trying to track down some good, high resolution photographs of a number of vintage slot machines of the 30s, 40s and 50s (and one or two newer). I am looking for one photograph of each of the following: Allwins, Cranes, the Clutching hand, Rotaries, Pushers, Rifle range, Working Models, Box Ball, Moonraker, Greyhound Derby, and Laughing Sailor. Any help you can give would be very much appreciated.

If you can help supply any of these please email Nick Laister

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Southern Counties Sale Update

The Southern Counties Vintage Slot Machine Auction (May 21st) is shaping up to be an interesting sale. The catalogue will be produced next week and should be available shortly thereafter. It contains 184 lots, almost all old coin-operated amusement machines, plus some useful spares and very little "other stuff". Southern Counties are accepting late entries, so don't miss the boat.
Stars of the Silver ScreenWurlitzer 1080Le Phenix

There's a good selection of decent classic American bandits by the likes of Mills, Jennings, Pace etc., a terrific selection of allwins (if you're after an allwin, now's the time to buy), a golden age Wurlitzer 1080 Jukebox, some nice trade stimulators and a number of unusual items including such desirable arcade pieces as a Green Ray fortune teller, Mutoscope Magic Finger, Mystic Mirror and a tasty range of Bryans machines ranging from early Elevenses, Pilwin Play, Clocks, Bullions to a much sought-after Retreeva.

I'll be there - hope you will too (long as you don't bid on anything I want).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Christies Sale Update

I just received the following from Laurence Fisher about the Christie's sale of Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus, Wednesday 31 May 2006:

Just a quick update for everybody - the catalogue for this 31 May sale will be out in paperback around the 3rd May and online the night before. The Costa section will go from lot 178 and end at 210 and because I have had a few calls regarding consignments from all over the place, lots 211 to 220 are all fresh pieces (including a Delong rol-a-top bandit; a mutoscope; two restored 1930s pinballs; pinball and slot machine library; Mills bandit (which I will be keeping secret so you can keep guessing which one it is); Kleine bagatelle; clown-catcher and a great 1458 Rockola jukebox)

In the main area of the sale, 17 lots of technical apparatus, 27 lots of wireless and television, 19 lots of phonographs, 35 lots of gramophones, 11 lots of pneumatic instruments, 10 lots of Oiseau Chantants, 4 lots of the Stonehill Duo-Art collection, 5 lots of small musical boxes and automata, 7 lots of disc musical boxes, 36 lots of cylinder musical boxes, 33 Nic Costa lots, 9 lots of other properties of slot machines and 6 lots of signage.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I like the new mag!

Having just read the first issue of the new Mechanical Memories Magazine I must congratulate Jerry Chattenton on a job well done. Not only did it arrive bang on time, but provided a genuinely interesting, well written 28 pages devoted exclusively to antique coin-operated games (bar the odd jukebox advert). This makes it a British first - all previous mags have tried to draw in enthusiasts from the jukebox, pinball, fairground or video game fraternities. The result is a publication tailored to suit the hardcore vintage slot fanatic. Judging by the number of subscribers already signed-up (more than double projected figures), there seem to be quite a few of them too. The number of adverts wasn't bad for a first issue and this should pick up as the mag establishes itself. The editor comes from an engineering background and this gives the articles a technical perspective which will be appreciated by many collectors. Certainly, all comments heard so far have been entirely positive.

Mechanical Memories Magazine

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Miller's Price Guide

I was recently asked to supply information for the Amusement and Slot Machines section of next year's Miller's Collectables Price Guide. I took the opportunity to quiz their policy on valuations and pointed out that in the past I've seen items with prices that reveal not so much a true market value, more what a particular dealer wishes to sell or buy. I suggested it might help to indicate whether a value was an actual sale price or purely speculative.

I doubt they'll adopt this approach given the extra effort required to verify auction results etc., but they have requested that dealers include items they have recently sold or have in stock, rather than many impossibly rare examples that are very unlikely to be obtainable. In this spirit, I listed only machines I either bought or sold in the last couple of years with values based strictly on actual sales.

Monday, February 27, 2006

New Slot Machine Book

Rumours of a new encyclopedic slot machine volume in the making have wafted over the pond for many years. The original idea from the publisher of the coffee table classic Slot Machines on Parade was an even more ambitious and comprehensive hardback called The Great Big Picture Book of Slot Machines. Sadly at some point during its 25 year conception economic pragmatism intervened and the result was Reel History, a 439 page paperback pictorial reference guide containing 436 machines from over 67 different manufacturers. Each machine listed and photographed in black and white contains the original manufacturer's name, date of introduction, nickname and machine type. As a bandit shopper's field guide, it should fill a niche not adequately covered at present. I shall order some for the Library.

Reel History

Friday, February 24, 2006


Click Mechanical Memories Magazine for the details and online order form of this new publication.

Jerry has decided (wisely in my view) to keep the focus firmly on vintage slot machines without straying too far into other already well served interests such as fairground, video games, jukeboxes or the later pinballs. Lineage adverts will be free to subscribers.

The existence of online resources such as this website has not diminished the demand for an ink and paper magazine that plops through the letterbox once a month and I hope collectors will support this one.

Despite repeated promises over the last couple of years the Antique Amusement Magazine has yet to re-appear leaving many subscribers short-changed. No refunds were offered. Customers of the Antique Amusement Co. have, in my view, been treated unprofessionally and disrespectfully which is why I did not include next Sunday's auction in the Calendar.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

New Vintage Slot Magazine

Good news! A new magazine called Mechanical Memories devoted to vintage coin-operated games and antique amusements will be published on March 25th by Jerry Chattenton proprietor of the Mechanical Memories Amusement Museum on Brighton seafront and the Puppet Pier at Hop Farm Theme Park. It will consist of around thirty pages of info, adverts and articles in b/w A5 format. Subscriptions will be £22 for 11 issues a year (issued every month except August). Lineage adverts will be free to subscribers. I wish Jerry well with this - it sounds like the sort of thing collectors have been asking for. Watch this space for more details and an order form shortly.

Southern Counties Details

Click here for details, lot entry form, catalogue ordering and images of a few items already consigned for the May 21st Southern Counties Auction of Vintage Slot Machines. Sellers' and buyers' commission is 5%. Closing date for entries is 27th April.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Christie's invitation to consign

I just received the following Invitation to Consign from Laurence Fisher for Christie's sale of Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus, Wednesday 31 May 2006:

We are currently inviting items to be consigned for our forthcoming auction of Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus, on the 31 May 2006.  The deadline for entries is the 15 March.

Our twice yearly sales have attracted purchasers from all over the world to view cylinder and disc musical boxes, early wireless and television, technical apparatus, phonographs and gramophones and, following the success of the recent Nic Costa Collection auction in January, vintage slot machines.

Christie's welcome the opportunity to visit collections and offer free verbal advice on a number to single, individual items, appraising these with auction estimates in current market terms and pieces covering this subject are warmly welcomed at our central reception counter at South Kensington.   As we consign all year round, we have storage space available for large items until the sale.

I look forward to helping you and I can be contacted on the telephone: +44 (0) 20 7752 3278, Laurence Fisher.

Edisin Class M Phonograph

A rare Edison Class M Phonograph with
Bettini attachments sold for £22,800,
London 26 May 2005.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Southern Counties Auction Confirmed

Yesterday I was pleased to confirm rumours that have been circulating for a while about another Southern Counties vintage slot machine auction. It's scheduled for the same time as last year: 21st of May with viewing on the preceding Saturday.

This time around, they're running the sale themselves (previously a team of us organized the sale and hired the venue and an auctioneer) but you will be able to consign items and order catalogues through this site again. Payments by cash, cheque or credit card will be accepted.

Hopefully this will be a yearly fixture. Certainly we could do with a few more sales on the horizon. I think the venue was ideal with ample on-site parking, comfortable modern saleroom, bar, cafe and nice clean loos! Best of all, the sellers and buyer's commission is to stay at 5%.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Costa Sale Report

I think the results of the Nic Costa Collection of Amusement Machines sale at Christie's last Thursday were largely unremarkable. The slight anomalies price-wise were the three Mutoscopes and the American bandits. The red tin-type Mutoscope, in particular, at £2400 plus premium may be some kind of record. I suspect this was because they appeal to the wealthy impulse buyer looking for a novel curiosity piece more than the regular collector. The bandit prices also failed to reflect their poor condition.

Reserves were sensible on the whole, and often the hammer was going down around the lower estimate. I don't read the results as any indication of a price crash. The value of really early British wall machines (which formed 90% of this sale) declined almost a decade ago when some of the first generation of serious collectors (such as Nic Costa himself) withdrew from the scene and for various reasons have remained in the doldrums. Meanwhile, the value of 1930s to 1950s machines has crept up and sometimes overtaken them. This mirrors the way silver-age jukeboxes are now more sought-after than golden-age ones.

Another factor keeping hammer prices down was the generally poor condition of the lots. Although there were a few nice and originals, most were in the as found, out-of-order or incomplete category - intimidating first time buyers and more seasoned collectors alike (who know how hard it is to restore such specimens). Coupled with this, they were old stock, comprising the unsold remnants of the Costa-Haskell catalogue which has been on the market since 1997. About a quarter failed to make their reserves, and in some instances one could see why.

Finally, the not so small matter of Christie's phenomenal 20% buyer's premium, (plus VAT on the premium) means that an item knocked down at £650, such as Lot 60, the Challenger wall machine (actually a mislabeled Crusader) cost the buyer £802.75. The vendor on the other hand takes home what's left of the £650 after Christie's have subtracted their seller's commission, insurance/loss damage liability, shipping, illustration fees, etc. I can't see the attraction.

Having said all this, there were some excellent purchases to be made by the discerning collector, some fine and rare pieces, even a few genuine bargains.

Although there was some 'phone bidding from America and elsewhere, there was less than half the number of bidders in the room than at your average dedicated slot auction. I know the central London location puts some off. Congestion fees and meters limited to two hours parking make access awkward. Like many, I avoided this by letting the train take the strain, which meant lugging a curious (but mercifully small package) home via the Underground.

The items were attractively presented thanks to Laurence Fisher who went out of his way to be helpful and welcoming to everyone who visited.

I met Jelle Zijlmans at the sale, proprietor of a small private slot machine museum in Weesp just outside Amsterdam. He opens on Sundays and by appointment at other times. Well worth a visit, I'd say.