Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sand-powered acrobat automaton

Sand-powered acrobat automaton
'ALFRED THE AMAZING' is a sand-powered acrobatic automaton currently available on eBay.

From the eBay description:
When the box is rotated and set down, the sand turns a wheel (axle) and the trapeze guy does his acrobatic wonders, and extremely dangerous feats of daring and thrill, and he doesn't use a net.

Here the eBay listing Alfred the Amazing sand-powered automaton

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Roullet & Decamps - rabbit drummer automaton

Roullet & Decamps rabbit drummer automaton
Here's a charming antique by the famed French automata makers Roullet & Dechamps.

The eBay listing has a long description of the piece and a dozen nice photographs of Roullet & Decamps rabbit drummer automaton.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Antique sailing ships automaton and music box

Antique Sailing Ships Automaton Music Box
The two small wood and paper ships inside this 19th-century automaton have French flags, so it is likely of French make. The base of the scene is hollow so it can house a Swiss music Box and the tiny mechanism that causes the two ships to rock up and down on the painted tissue paper waves. A very charming antique automaton.

Here is the full eBay listing with many more photos of this antique sailing ships automaton and music box

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wind-up clockwork smoking automaton

Wind-up clockwork smoking automaton
This is an interesting piece on eBay. I don't think I've seen such a small smoking automaton. Pretty cool.

Here is the eBay listing with a short description and several additional photographs of this small clockwork smoking automaton.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gentleman smoker automaton from 1905

Here is a antique piece going to auction on eBay on November 9th, 2008. I've always thought that smoking automatons are particularly clever.

The secret generally lies in the fact that the smoke from the cigarette or pipe held in the hand is not usually drawn through the mouth. Rather, it usually passes down a hidden pipe in the arm to a bellows in the figure, where it is then transferred back up to the mouth to be expelled. A very ingenious means of creating the illusion of smoking without the complications of creating a tight seal at the mouth.

From the eBay listing:
GENTLEMAN SMOKER AUTOMATON - The man has a papier mache head w/ open mouth, glass eyes, bisque forearms, and holds a black cigarette holder in right arm. When wound, music plays, he raises right arm to mouth, and turns head from side to side. 24" (62cm) Bottom of base to top of hat.

Here is the full eBay listing for Gentleman smoker automaton from 1905

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pocket watch automaton with flag waving man

Pocket watch automaton with flag waving manThis colorful mechanical pocket watch features a street-level view of the Empire State Building. A man at the base of the building holds an American flag and waves it with the rhythm of the watch. The listing doesn't say much about how old the watch is or its maker, though we do know that it is in working order.

The backplate opens to reveal the mechanical interior of the timepiece.

Here is the eBay listing with more photographs of the Pocket watch automaton with flag waving man

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Levitation Magician Automaton by Thomas Kuntz

Levitation Magician Automaton by Thomas Kuntz
Shown here is The Great Kundalini Thelema-gician!, a one-of-a-kind automaton by artist Thomas Kuntz.

The automaton performs the following sequence:

1 - The magician looks left to right and his mouth opens and closes as if addressing the audience.
2 - He waves a wand over the girl.
3 - The girl struggles as if to covey something has gone wrong.
4 - Her feet wiggle and she begins to levitate.
5 - The magician's long pointed hat levitates also.
6 - The girl descends and the magician opens the left side his robe. (A message or item could be included here.)

A very complex modern automaton, the masterful sculpting, engineering, painting, and cohesive theme are hallmarks of Kuntz's work. He is a rare talent.

Here is the eBay listing for this amazing Levitation Magician Automaton by Thomas Kuntz

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Automatic Accordion - Hohner Magic Organa

Automatic Accordion - Hohner Magic Organa
Check out this German-made automatic accordion by Hohner.

A spring-wound mechanism inside the instrument moves a paper roll over tubes connected to the accordion's 44 notes. A foot pump bellows connected via a hose to the accordion provides the air needed to for the instrument to sound its notes.

It's bit like a player-piano/organ strapped to your chest. I had no idea such things existed. Amazing. This one comes with 7 different programmed paper rolls.

Here is the eBay listing with more photographs of the automatic accordion called the Hohner Magic Organa

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box

Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box
Here is a very interesting piece from the 1800's made by Kalliope Musik Werke of Leipzig, Germany. The device features a stand in the center that rotates when the the spring wound mechanism is activated. Because you can place anything you like on the stand, it is very flexible in how it may be used. On the stand, one may place a figurine (as shown here), seasonal items, holiday-related items, special occasion items, or prized possessions. There is also a fine music box inside the box that plays 7 inch kalliope discs.

Here is the full listing for the Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Edition of Tiger Tamer by Frank Nelson

New Edition of Tiger Tamer by Frank NelsonThis is a new improved version of the Tiger Tamer automaton originally produced by Frank Nelson in the 1970's. In this version, the tiger moves independently of the platform on which he is standing. There will only be 5 of this run made.

From the Description:
"When you turn the handle you will see the Tamer crack his whip once, only for the Tiger to refuse the command by shaking his head. This is repeated on the second crack of the Tamer's whip. On the third and final crack of the whip, the Tiger nods his head in acceptance and then does his trick by swiveling around to put his head in the Tamer's mouth."

Here is the link to the listing for Frank Nelson's New Tiger Tamer Automaton.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Roullet et Decamps Automaton has Odd Surprise

Roullet et Decamps Automaton has Odd Surprise
This finely made automaton by famed Parisian makers Roullet et Decamps features a young woman with a rather odd surprise hidden in her basket.

Check the additional images on the eBay listing for this Roullet et Decamps Jumeau Automaton to see what I mean.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock

French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock
Here is another stunning piece going to auction on August 23rd, 2008.

From the eBay listing by Skinner Auctioneers:
"Rare French Quarter-Chiming Table Clock with Wizard Automaton, c. 1870, the black marble case with bronze figure of a boy dressed as a wizard, his right arm articulated at the shoulder for lateral and vertical movements, standing before a nest of four bells, which he strikes with a hammer on the quarter hours to play a tune, with six-inch dia. silvered brass dial with Roman numerals and pierced latticework, gilt bezel with beveled glass, brass ball feet and eight-day, spring-powered, three-train movement chiming quarters and striking the hours on a gong, ht. 25 in."

Here is full eBay listing for this French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Large Magician Automaton from the Film 'Sleuth'

Check out this fantastic vintage magician automaton that was featured in the film Sleuth (the original one).

At 56 1/2 inches high, the figure is approaching life-size. The magician does a transformation routine, magically changing the items under the hat four times.

This was the very automaton used in the movie "Sleuth" (1972)-- a thriller, starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Amazing!

Here is a very complete listing with additional photographs of the Large Magician Automaton from the Film 'Sleuth'.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miniature Singing Bird Box Automaton on eBay

Miniature Singing Bird Box Automaton
This is a handsome miniature singing bird automaton. It is small -- measuring just 4 1/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches!

When you slide a lever, the lid opens, the bird pops up and begins singing. The tiny bird moves its beak and turns its head. When it is done singing, the bird drops back down and the lid closes. These must have required some serious watch / clock making skills. Thought this type of automaton was made by many watch makers, the make on this one is not known.

Here is the eBay listing for this Singing Bird Box

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Le Monde des Automates, Chapuis & Gelis

Le Monde des Automates, Chapuis & Gelis
The definitive two-volume work on automata is currently on eBay. Below is a review of the book I wrote for the Kircher Society's List of Essential Automata Books.

Chapuis, Alfred and Edouard Gélis. Le Monde Des Automates: Etude Historique et Technique. 2nd ed. Geneva, Switzerland: Éditions Slatkine, 1984.

This work is widely regarded by the experts -- automata collectors, automata restorers, and automata book authors alike -- to be the most comprehensive work on the subject. This two volume set spans 720 pages and is probably the most technically detailed treatment of the subject. The book is in French, which may be a stumbling block for many readers, but it contains numerous photographs and mechanical drawings that would make it useful in any language. While this book is valuable in any condition and in either edition, be careful not to pay first edition (1928) prices for the 1984 reissue.

Here is the eBay listing showing the covers, title pages, and a few illustrations within the set of Le Monde des Automates.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coin-Operated Funeral Parlor Scene Automaton

Undertaker Scene Coin-Operated Automaton
This interesting automaton is marked as being manufactured by J. Dennison.

The scene depicts a man in his coffin at a funeral parlor. When a coin is inserted into the mechanism, a skeleton head appears behind the coffin, the corpse bolts to an upright position and turns his head. Then, the skull disappears and a devil appears. I'm not sure what this humorous and macabre scene means. Thoughts?

Originally, the machine worked with a large English penny, but has been converted to take U.S. coins (I'm not sure which). The listing says the automaton is in working condition.

Take a look at the eBay listing for the Dennison Coin-Operated Funeral Parlor Scene Automaton.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & Props

Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & PropsHere is an eBay listing is for a set of vintage Cirque International clowns made in France. The two clowns come with props that include a set of parallel bars, two chairs, and two ladders. Both are just under a foot tall.

As a nice surprise, the seller has a copy of the original instructions detailing the clowns, their actions, and original price!

The clown in the purple outfit is an automaton with a working wind up mechanism. When wound this clown lifts his head, arches his back, and performs acts on the parallel bars, chairs, or ladders.

The second clown, in the light blue outfit can be posed in various positions and will hold the position into which it is put.

Here is the eBay listing for Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & Apparatus.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mechanical Walking Space Man Robot Toy

Here is a vintage Mechanical Walking Space Man by Linemar being sold with its original box.

There is something about the graphics on the old toys that I love. I like this photo too; it's nicely composed.

If you happen to collect old wind-up tin toys, I should warn you...this one will set you back quite a bit!

Here is the eBay listing for the Mechanical Walking Space Man Robot Toy.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Letters on Natural Magic Book by David Brewster

Letters on Natural Magic by David Brewster
Here is a book on eBay entitled LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC by Sir David Brewster.

The book covers natural phenomena as used in magic. Topics include optical illusions, spectral illusions, magic lantern, feats of strength, automata, Babbage's calculating machines, ventriloquism, wonders of chemistry, alchemy, breathing fire, and spontaneous combustion.

13 pages and 11 small drawings are devoted to The Turk, automaton chess player.


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Friday, May 30, 2008

Early Paul Spooner - Frustrated Felines on Ebay

A master of the contemporary automata art form, Paul Spooner, is known for his ingenious and artful automata. His work is available at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre shop and can also be seen at The Fourteen Balls Toy web site.

Shown here is an early Spooner design entitled Frustrated Felines that is currently available on eBay. It's cool to see the label that is on the underside of the piece.

Here's the eBay listing for Frustrated Felines that also features an article on Paul Spooner.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Magic Decapitation Automaton by Artist Zdenka

Swiss artist, Zdenka, is apparently known for her work in making fully functional limited edition automata in the style of the 1800s. There does seem to be a lot of detail and workmanship this magic-themed automaton. I have seen antiques that perform this same trick. The listing says she uses rare doll bodies to make up these pieces.

This Magic Decapitation Automaton is currently open for bids on eBay.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Intriguing 19th Century Automaton Pocket Watch

19th Century Quarter Hour Automaton Pocket WatchWith an estimated value between $4,000.00 - $6,000.00 USD, this tasteful pocket watch is described as a mid 19th Century quarter-hour automaton repeater pocket watch with male and female bell ringer figures. The listing says that the watch is probably Swiss-made and that it comes with the attached winding key.

If it is Swiss, I am a little confused by the Chinese or Japanese characters on the back side of the key (see second image on eBay). Intriguing.

The watch is being sold on eBay on May 20th, 2008. Here is the listing for the 19th Century Quarter Hour Automaton Pocket Watch.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

German Musical Clown and Dog Act Automaton

Clown and Dog Act AutomatonHere is a German-made automaton currently available on eBay.

As you turn the hand-crank the music plays and the poodles climb over the top of the ladder. The clown moves his head back and forth and moves his arm back and forth with the wand. The seller says the piece features glass eyes, is from the 1880s, and is in good working order.

Here is the eBay listing with additional photographs of the Musical Clown and Dog Act Automaton

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Coin-Operated English String Magic Trick Machine

Coin-Operated String Magic Trick AutomatonThis is another magic-related piece going to auction today, May 11th 2008.

This appears to be a coin-operated magic trick. It clearly involves string, so I am guessing that it performs some type trick in which the string is cut into two and then restored to a single string again. Just a guess.

We do know that this machine was made by Bryans Works from Kegworth, Derby, England. There is a scrolling text window to explain what is happening during the trick. The machine requires an old (English) penny (the large ones) so must be of some age. The mechanism looks very clean. I'd love to see a video of the trick being performed.

There are many close-up photographs of the various parts of this piece and its mechanism on the eBay listing for this Coin-Operated String Magic Trick Automaton

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Chinese Magician Automaton by Mueller circa 1895

Chinese Magician Automaton by Mueller Here is a very nice looking piece going to auction today -- May 11th, 2008.

I am not sure what trick the magician performs, but the piece looks to be in fantastic shape. The seller writes that this is an automaton by Adolphe Mueller of Germany from circa 1895. It is in working condition. The piece stands 80cm high.

Given the cone in the magician's hand, I would assume that an item on the the table either disappears or is transformed into another item altogether.

I am impressed with the clothing and fabrics on this piece. This must have been in a a carefully maintained collection.

Here is the eBay listing for the Chinese Magician Automaton by Mueller

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Antique DIY Folk Art Automaton Project circa 1900

Vintage Folk Art Automaton Project circa 1900Here is an incomplete automaton for sale on eBay. While this would be a rather pricey, do-it-yourself project, much of the work is done and the materials provided. The seller even shares a vision for the completed piece. I find this to be an interesting concept: vintage one-of-a-kind DIY.

From the Seller's Description:
"The main figure of a man is articulated on his right side, at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. He is articulated on the left side at only the shoulder and elbow. He is whittling a piece of wood with a real metal knife. I believe he originally paused and lifted the object to examine it, then continued. He may have first had a clockwork movement but when I received it, someone had attempted to operate him with an old clock motor and an old porcelain electrical on off switch appearing to be from the very early 1900's."

The seller is offering the piece with many parts, a curved glass front, and a gear motor to power the automaton.

Here's the eBay listing with many photographs of the vintage woodcarver automaton project

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