Theriaults will offer antique automata in Nov. 26 auction

One of the last great private collections of antique automata will come on the auction market on Sunday, Nov. 26 in Morristown, N.J. The collection of Jerry and Bunny Steinbaum of Beverly Hills, Calif., begun nearly a quarter century ago, includes models of such rarity that few other examples are known to exist. The auction will be conducted by Theriault’s, the internationally respected firm specializing solely in the auction of dolls, automata and childhood ephemera.

Highlighting the auction is the Japanese lady mask seller who offers her wares while twirling a parasol; the l’Homme Serpente who performs gymnastic acts; a kneeling Egyptian harp player whose fingers move over harp strings  while she blinks her eyes, breathes, and arches and nods her head; and a rare Hercules weight-lifter figure, of which only two others are known to exist. There is a standing Grecian lady playing a harp; Vichy’s Pierrot who writes a letter before falling asleep; the Peasant and His Knee-Sitting Trained Pig; the black Ethiopian Flute Player; and a black lady Flower Seller whose flowers actually hide delightful mechanical surprises. The Parisian man by Phalibois winks and whistles merry tunes; in another piece, the moon winks at Pierrot who poses on its crescent tip. Buffalo Bill smokes up a storm, and an amusing pair of Clown Musicians on Stage with happy and sad faces offer a performance that demonstrates why they are happy or sad. There are jugglers, musicians, clowns, elegant ladies performing their magical, musical, mechanical movements.

For the lover of bisque-doll automata: a shepherdess with bisque portrait head by Jumeau lifts the basket she holds to reveal a lamb; a lady seated at her piano offering music to her guests; and a Jumeau girl in rich burgundy silk costume who demonstrates her puppets and toy theatre. An organ grinder with unique bisque portrait head made for this automaton only, wills his dancing dolls to perform when he turns the street organ handle. A Chinese Tea Server, also with unique bisque head for this model only, proffers tea. There are little girls catching butterflies, playing hoops, or sitting on the parlor floor playing with toys, and much more.

An unusual pieces is a mechanical, musical peacock posed on a pedestal. On command (i.e. winding) he moves his upper torso side to side, raises his head, and then raises, spreads, and then lowers his peacock feather tail. The is believed to be one of a kind, and stands two feet high, not including feathers.

“This is likely to become the automata auction of the decade, and certainly one of the last of the great early collections to come onto the open market,” said Stuart Holbrook, Theriault’s company president and chief auctioneer.

For more information visit, call 800-638-0422 or e-mail The auction will be conducted at the Governor Morris Westin Hotel in Morristown, N.J., starting at 11 a.m., on Sunday, Nov. 26.

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