Antique tobacco tins and sign collection totals $560,000

Baseball-theme cigar tin knocks it out of the park at Morphy’s sale of Hirsch antique advertising collection


The 40-year collection of antique advertising tins, signs, store displays and promotional items amassed by Chicago design executives David and Marcia Hirsch made $560,000 (inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium) in a Nov. 19-20 auction held at Dan Morphy’s gallery in Lancaster County, Pa.

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Home Run Cigar tin with colorful baseball theme, one of few known examples, top lot of the sale at $18,400. All photos courtesy Morphy Auctions.

More than half of the articles offered in the 1,520-lot David and Marcia Hirsch sale pertained to tobacco, with as many as 500 of them associated with cigars – a category that has continued to show strength in the marketplace.

The auction’s top lot was an early, richly illustrated tin that once held Home Run Cigars. As implied by its name, the tin’s motif depicts baseball players in action on a baseball diamond, with a runner sliding across home plate to score a run amid clouds of dust. Described in the auction catalog as “one of few known examples,” and displaying the best condition among those whose existence is known, it easily surpassed its $8,000-$12,000 estimate to achieve $18,400.

Made by a different cigar manufacturer but having a similar name, a Home-Run Stogie tin from J.A. Rigby Cigar Co., of Mansfield, Ohio, featured images of baseball players on both sides and the price “3 for 5 cents.” Retaining its rich sky blue, crimson and white coloration, the near-mint tin shot past its estimate to land at $4,600.

Yet another rarity with a baseball theme, a Spalding Athletic Goods double-sided porcelain flange sign depicting the company’s stitched-baseball trademark measured 19 1/2 inches in diameter and was in eye-popping near-mint condition. Estimated at $3,000-$5,000, it was bid to $7,500.

A Poppy Cigar tin manufactured in California was decorated with the image of a turn of the century beauty surrounded by border of red-and-yellow poppies. Described by the auction house company’s owner and CEO Dan Morphy as “a highly sought-after but rarely found tin,” it garnered a winning bid of $3,450.

Other “pretty lady” images that found favor with the crowd included a 1902 diamond-shape sign for Burdena Broad Leaf Cigars, $3,200 (estimate $800-$1,200) and a stunning reverse-on-glass advertisement for Opia Cigars with a mysterious veiled woman posed dramatically against stars and poppies, $2,200 (estimate $1,000-$1,500).

Another lovely feminine character was the brunette lady in off-the-shoulder evening attire gracing the Exquisite Cut Plug Tobacco flat pocket tin from Larus & Bro., Richmond, Va. Against an estimate of $900-$1,200, it hammered $2,185. An elusive Columbia Dome square-corner tin created for Cameron & Cameron’s Mixture No. 2 boasted colorful graphics on all sides. It sold for $3,750.

A handsome metal with glass store counter display for Ever-Ready Shaving Brushes retained 10 soap brushes with variously colored handles, as well as six packs of razor blades. Its die-cut marquee included the company’s widely identifiable man with lathered face and razor logo. Against an estimate of $2,000-$4,000, it made $5,750.

Predicted to be one of the sale’s top lots, a 19th-century lithographed heavy paper sign advertising Sweet, Orr & Co. Union Made Overalls featured a cartouche with the image of two teams playing tug of war with a pair of seemingly indestructible denim pants. Given a generous estimate range of $4,000-$10,000 owing to its rarity, it realized $5,750.

A crowd-pleasing lot that drew a surprising price was the Yellow Kid Ginger Wafer tin with bonus addition of a cloth-gowned puppet depicting the early comic strip character. Around the puppet’s neck was a celluloid cigarette pin with Yellow Kid patois reading: “Dis is Easy Shot.” The two-piece lot with multiple crossover appeal handily outdistanced its $600-$1,200 estimate to reach a final bid of $10,350.

“It was such a pleasure to be able to offer their collection at auction,” said Morphy Auctions owner Dan Morphy. ” Our entire team loved working with them and handling the amazing assortment of signs and tins they had acquired over so many years.”

After the sale, David Hirsch commented: “I could not have asked for anything more from an auction house. The entire staff at Morphy’s is a very skilled group of people. I particularly enjoyed working with the design and production group. They were most gracious in incorporating my comments and suggestions. Since my professional background is in graphic design, it added to the enjoyment of the whole project. It was like working with family.”

Marcia Hirsch remarked that she and her husband did not fully realize what a major undertaking it would be to prepare their collection for auction until they were actually immersed “into the process … Unless you were there, you couldn’t imagine the amount of detailing and quality of service we received.” As for seller’s remorse, there wasn’t any, Marcia said. “We had no regrets about parting with the collection, but once the decision was made to sell it, we just moved forward. It was the right time to do it, and we were just fine with it,” she said.

Morphy Auctions will conduct a general sale Jan. 22, 2011 and an antique toy sale Jan. 29, 2011. For additional information on upcoming auctions, visit Morphy’s online or reach the gallery by phone at 717-335-3435.

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More Images:

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This Columbia Dome square-corner pocket tin brought $3,750.
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An Ever-Ready Shaving Brushes store display with 20 brushes and six packs of razor blades sold for $5,750.
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In excellent condition, a Framed Sweet, Orr & Co. Union Made Overalls lithographed heavy paper advertising sign, late 19th century brought $5,750.
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A lot of two Yellow Kid items including Ginger Wafer tin and puppet/doll on stand with celluloid cigarette pin attached to gown crossed the block at $10,350.
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A Continental Cubes curved tobacco pocket tin in rare 6-inch-tall size sold for $3,450.
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This Poppy Cigar tin, considered a rare California tin made by American Can Co., sold for $3,450.
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A porcelain flange sign advertising Spalding Athletic Goods, one of three known examples, sold for $7,500.

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