ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A 19th century Punch cigar store wood figure, 69 1/2 inches tall with a contemporary base, soared to $102,600 at a three-day auction held Oct. 3-5 by Showtime Auction Services at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Punch figure was the top lot in a sale that saw more than 1,900 lots from the Bud and Sally Bassett lifetime collection sell without reserves to the highest bidder.
Punch cigar store figures – and their more famous cousins, cigar store Indian figures –
are highly collectible and can fetch dizzying dollars at auction. Examples by Samuel Robb, who produced both kinds in his New York City studio starting in 1886, can routinely command six figures. Not much was known about the Punch figure in the Showtime auction, but that didn’t seem to deter bidders.
Headlining the auction was the Bassett collection of mostly advertising items and Western-related advertising signs, including cowboys, cowgirls and Native American-themed signs; more than 100 serving trays (most of them beer and brewery related); and vintage papier-mâché figures of Halloween and Christmas items.
“This was a new experience for us, handling over 100,000 items, some of them in lots of 1,000 or even 2,000 pieces, but that’s how massive the Bassetts’ collection was,” said Mike Eckles of Showtime Auction Services. “Also, there weren’t nearly as many collecting categories as we’re used to selling. This sale was mainly advertising signs, trays, labels and such.”
Additional highlights include a Republic Tires (“Staggered Tread”) paper sign, one of only four known and in super condition, which soared to $31,350. The 20-by-50-inch sign exhibited brilliant colors and graphics and, except for a few horizontal creases, was in near-perfect condition. It was made by American Lithographic Company (N.Y.) and boasted the original bands, both top and bottom.
A Thomas’ Inks and Mucilage embossed tin sign, made by the Tuscarora Adv. Co. (Coshocton, Ohio), 19 3/4 inches by 13 3/4 inches (image only, minus the quarter sawn oak frame), breezed to $14,400; and a Chancellor Cigars (“The Cigar of Quality”) celluloid easel back sign, possibly the only celluloid example in existence, 7 inches by 12 inches, in mint condition, garnered $13,860.
To consign an item or an entire collection with Showtime Auction Services of Woodhaven, Michigan, contact Michael Eckles at 951-453-2415 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the firm at www.showtimeauctions.com.