An Auction for Every Pocket

Auction Team Breker, 9 + 10 November 2018


A collection tells many stories – stories of the objects themselves, of the time and the place they were produced, of the people who made them and of the collector who gathered all these strands together.

On 9th November 2018, Auction Team Breker offered the mechanical music collection of the late Luuk Goldhoorn, the famously private author and historian of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Goldhoorn was a respected and generous researcher, as a glance through the acknowledgements of almost any recent book on the mechanical music industry will confirm. In addition to his many detailed articles in the specialist press and contributions to the Dutch Museum “Speelklok” in Utrecht. Goldhoorn was best remembered for his reference work on 19th century Austrian musical boxes, which he described as a forgotten craft.

The Goldhoorn collection was unusual in its depth and its focus: 174 lots of pocket-sized musical snuff boxes, watches, sewing necessaires and original documentation from the earliest days of the musical box. In offering this personal, highly academic collection, questions about availability and demand came into play. Would a collection of this size and specialist nature find buyers, would it overwhelm the market ?

Here Breker’s unparalleled international advertising campaigns and combination of traditional and live bidding (via three internet platforms in America, Europe and China) came into play. The policy paid off, with a resounding 100% sold rate for the collection and enthusiastic bidding from Cologne to Canberra.

Objets de vertu with rare musical formats attracted some of the heaviest bidding.

Lot 10: An exceptional gold snuffbox, playing one British and one Swiss air, with inscription celebrating “friendship and recognition” – a sentiment as relevant in 1810 as it is today. Sold: 17.600 € / $20.050

Lot 114: A rare curved Musical Gold Snuffbox, c. 1812. Sold: 25.180 € / $28.700

Lot 38: Gold Musical Sur-Plateau Pocket Watch, c. 1815. Sold: 4.280 €   / $4.880

Also in demand was a fine selection of Palais Royale sewing necessaires and a series of “sur plateau” musical boxes in George III silver cases.

Lot 102: Musical sewing necessaire by F. Nicole in miniature escritoire, circa 1840. Sold: 7.770 € / $8.860

Lot 39: Palais Royale piano-form sewing necessaire with full complement of original tools, circa 1830. Sold: 6.330 € / $7.220

Lot 47:. Musical silver snuff box by Joseph Rogers & Son, Sheffield, c. 1817, with sur-plateau musical movement. Sold: 4.280 € / $4.880

The highest prices of the day were achieved by the largest and smallest pieces respectively: an exquisite enameled gold musical pendant and a magnificent “Eroica” triple-disc hall clock by Symphonion Musikwerke of Leipzig.

Lot 45: Gold and enamel musical harp pendant, probably Bessière & Schneider, c. 1805. Sold: 36.500 € / $41.600


Lot 193: Symphonion Eroica Style 38A triple-disc musical clock, c. 1895. Sold: 62.900 €/ $71.700 – a new European auction record for this model.

Other rare formats included the double-disc Symphonion ‘Duplex’ and coin-activated ‘station’ musical box, accompanied by three dancing bisque dolls, in carved chalet case.

Lot 209: Model 252 twin-disc Symphonion, c. 1905. Sold: 18.900 € / $21.500

Lot 263: "Station" musical box chalet by Mermod Frères, c. 1900. Sold    27.700 € / $31.600

Victorian parlour entertainment continued in a cast of mechanical singing birds and French musical automata.

Lot 227: Silver-gilt and enamel singing bird box by Charles Bruguier, c. 1845. Sold: 32.740 € / $37.300

Lot 277: Large singing bird bocage by Bontems, c. 1890. Sold: 12.600 €  / $14.360

Lot 272: Monkey Fisherman Automaton by Jean Marie Phalbois, c. 1884. Sold: 11.300 € / $12.850

The second day of Breker’s auction focused on Science & Technology, with international bidding on 19th century microscopes, calculators and writing machines reflecting the buoyancy of this market.

Lot 434: Early example of Thomas de Colmar’s "Arithmomètre", No. 22, the first serially produced calculator, in ebony-veneered case with brass inlay, c. 1875. Sold: 13.850 €/ $15.800

Lot 558: Polarisation binocular microscope with compendium by R. & J. Beck, c. 1880. Sold: 6.860 € / $7.820

Lot 561: Handsome brass monocular microscope by Plössl, Vienna, c. 1852. Sold: 14.250 € / $16.250

Collectors of communication technology were also out in force, while some of the more recent inventions – such as a S-200 Soviet rocket navigation system – brought solid, if not astronomical, prices.

Lot 462: Hagelin C 446-A Cypher Machine, 1944 - Sold: 5.180 € / $5.900

Lot 503: Early 'butter stamp' telephone receiver by L.M. Ericsson, Stockholm, c. 1878. Sold: 7.380 € / $8.400

Lot 469: Morse telegraph by Hasler & Escher, Bern, c. 1880. Sold: 4.880 € / $5.560

Lot 678: S-200 Wega Soviet navigation system. Sold: 1.580 € / $1.800.

All in all a fantastically eclectic ‘old school’ auction – supported by modern technology – of the kind Auction Team Breker excels at delivering.


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