DENVER, Pa. – Fourth of July celebrations will begin early this year, with Morphy’s June 22-23 auction of the spectacular George Moyer collection of antique and vintage firecrackers. Bidding will begin at 10 a.m. each day.
Admired by “pyromaniacs” throughout the United States and abroad, Moyer’s 40-year collection consists of thousands of rare firecracker packs and label, salutes, consumer novelties, sparklers, caps and smaller tubed items. Additionally, there are posters, catalogs and salesmen’s sample boards, which were created to display products available to retailers in days gone by. One such catalog was published in the 19th century by Rochester Firework Co.
The entire, unpicked collection will be apportioned into more than 1,300 colorful lots, some containing multiple pieces. While the main focus of the collection is American-made fireworks, there are also items from England, India and Canada.
Moyer, a native and lifelong resident of Pottsville, Pa., began collecting fireworks-related items at age 10. Some of his earliest items are Chinese black-powder (gunpowder) firecrackers from the early 1800s. They are identifiable from their distinctive red labels with gold print. Black-powder firecrackers were phased out when flash crackers – which “blew up better” – were introduced, Moyer said.
Among the rare packs and labels to be auctioned are titles including: Evergreen, Merry Go Round, Puppy, Ostrich, Gee Whiz, Marine Brand, Battleship, Fountain Brand and Tarzan. Especially appealing graphics are seen on Unexcelled Fireworks’ “Jester,” which depicts a court jester; “Round One,” whose label is illustrated with a gloved woman boxer seated in the corner of a boxing ring; and “Tally Ho,” a British product for the U.S. market that shows a horse jumper with dog running alongside. Two Canadian highlights are “Ibex” (black powder), with the image of a mountain goat, and “Niagara,” which features an image of Niagara Falls.
Two other packs worthy of note are “Red Fox” and “Squirrel,” both manufactured by Wilfong Fireworks. Wilfong was a Texas company that made headlines in the early 1950s when its plant exploded and emitted a mushroom cloud that some locals mistook for an atomic bomb attack by the Soviets.
The collection includes three different types of Ft. McHenry salute boxes and a special display of firecrackers encased in glass so their distinctive wrapper designs are visible.
A very rare and desirable box of Buck Rogers Disintegrators (salutes) is expected to attract crossover interest from space toy collectors. Its box cover is dominated by an illustration of the famous sci-fi hero brandishing a ray gun.
The full catalog can be viewed online at Morphy’s or at www.morphyauctions.com and the online catalog at LiveAuctioneers.com.
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