Rare Watts & Co. coffin phone may headline wide-ranging collector auction

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Circa-1878 Watts & Co. coffin-shape telephone offered with a copy of the first telephone directory, estimate $10,000 to $20,000.

Circa-1892 Western Electric magneto wall cabinet set, estimate $7,000 to $10,000.
Circa-1892 Western Electric magneto wall cabinet set, estimate $7,000 to $10,000.

DENVER, Pa. – A large percentage of the world’s population has never even seen a dial-face telephone, but that certainly wasn’t the case with the late Bill Daniels. The massive collection of antique and vintage phones that filled his home comprised a chronological archive of Alexander Graham Bell’s 1876 invention and contained models ranging from primitive turn of the 20th century curiosities to ultra-cool mid-century designs.

A premier assemblage, the Daniels collection has been consigned to Morphy Auctions, where it will be apportioned into three subsequent General Antiques auctions, the first of which will take place on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 14 and 15, 2011. The phones will open the second session.

“Many of Bill Daniels’ phones were displayed at museums or shows, but he was always a buyer, hardly ever a seller,” said Morphy Auctions CEO Dan Morphy. “Bill worked for AT&T’s long distance division until his retirement at age 52, so telephones were always a big part of his life.”

Daniels’ widow, Dorothy, said her husband started picking up old phones at flea markets, tag sales and church sales, later expanding his hunt to collector shows dedicated exclusively to telephones. “As his collection grew, he started thinking about the idea of a museum, so in addition to phones, he started buying phone booths, telegraphs, intercoms and other phone-related items,” Mrs. Daniels said.

One of Bill Daniels’ favorite pieces was his Watts & Co. coffin phone, which gets its name because of its distinctive shape. It is offered in the Oct. 14-15 auction with a $10,000 to $20,000 estimate. Other highlights include a Western Electric magneto wall cabinet set (estimate $7,000-$10,000); and an American toll 50-cent pay station telephone (estimate $5,000-$10,000). Most of the phones in the collection are American, although there are also some examples from England and Japan.

The Friday session will open with more than 70 occupational shaving mugs. A mug emblazoned with a merry-go-round is expected to bring $1,200 to $1,500. Two mugs with a transportation theme carry a presale estimate of $1,000 to $1,500 each: one has a depiction of a mail delivery truck; the other is illustrated with a race car.

Approximately 180 lots of antique apothecary items from a Pennsylvania pharmacist and pharmacology professor’s 35-year collection are included in the Friday lineup. The collection includes many “shop” bottles that 19th century pharmacists would have displayed on shelves. Most of them are glass and have labels identifying the medicinal contents by their Latin names.

Other auction categories filling out the 1,200-lot sale include early blown glass, desirable pottery, sterling silver Native American jewelry, original artworks, and more.

All forms of bidding will be available for the Oct. 14-15 auction, including live at the gallery, by phone or absentee, and live via the Internet through Morphy Live (sign up at www.morphyauctions.com) or LiveAuctioneers.com. The sale will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern time each day.

For additional information visit Morphy’s.

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