‘Smoking’ automaton could bring $10,000

COLOGNE, Germany – Following a highly successful Photographica auction, which achieved a 93 percent sale rate last month, the second installment of the year at Auction Team Breker promises to be one of the most fascinating sales to date.

A rare Märklin ‘Hexenhäuschen’ or Gingerbread Cottage, estimated to sell for  $50,000 to $80,000, is the leitmotif of the sale. An optical instrument as well as a superb toy, this is a house with a hidden secret: the roof lifts off, revealing a turntable for kaleidoscopic patterns to be viewed through a prism in the chimney. A drawer in the base contains the colored celluloid flakes, cut paper scraps and pieces of lace placed there by the original owner almost 100 years ago. The Gingerbread Cottage is listed as No. 8880 in the 1909 Märklin catalog, which describes the toy as a magic mirror and suggests moss, colored cotton balls and dead insects as possible specimens for the kaleidoscope. The delicate design must have contributed to the low survival rate, as the Gingerbread Cottage being offered in May is the only example known today. It is preserved in near-mint unplayed-with condition.

The auction features a wonderful selection of tin vehicles, from the sedate to the sensational. An elegant 1902 Bing Phaeton, estimated to sell for $16,000 to $25,000, pits comfort against speed in the form of a 1905 Günthermann “Coupé Gordon Bennet” racer, estimated to sell between $26,000 and $50,000. A 1910 Ernst Plank Monoplane commemorates Louis Blériot’s daring first cross-channel flight, estimated at $2,000 to $3,000, while an Aeronautical Carousel by Müller & Kadeder of Nuremberg paints a more light-hearted picture of early 20th century aviation, estimated to sell for between $4,000 and $5,000.

Highlights include a number of fine English engineering models such as the Royal Chester, a 1 1/2-inch scale traction engine built from plans by W.J. Hughes, estimated to sell for $8,000 to $10,000.

The English watch-maker Charles Tansley created a series of four remarkable working models for public display at the Midland Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition in the 1870s.

Inspired by the sights of his native city Coventry, Tansley’s themes included industry, racing and the new popular music. His model of a “Beam Steam Engine,” estimated to sell for $13,000 to $20,000) is constructed of lacquered brass, with sturdy turned pillars and delicate tracery finials drawn from Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. Six enamel dials act as a register that counts the number of coins deposited by denomination. Dropping an old English penny into the slot brings the pistons, gears and flywheel to life, while a hidden bell chimes four times. A halfpenny delivers the same performance, but for half the time, and the bell only chimes twice. So reliable was the register considered that, according to the description on the marquee, it would accurately record up to 100,000 pennies.

For more information visit www.breker.com or at auction@breker.com, Live bidding is available through www.artfact.com. ?

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