Saturday, April 24, 2010

El Toro - motorized bullfighter and bull tin toy

El Toro - motorized bullfighter tin toy automaton
Here's an unusual -- and perhaps a somewhat grim -- vintage tin toy depicting a matador and bull. I'm not entirely sure in what ways the figures move, but it seems like it has some interesting possibilities.

From the eBay item description:
This El Toro snorting bull and matador is in totally unused condition and has its original box. No paint damage at all on this and no corrosion within the battery compartment. This toy was working perfectly when I put it in store with rest of the collection some 25-30 years ago. I put a battery in it but it’s not responding. I guess this is an easy fix but I don’t want to force anything. The box is a little stained – please see pictures – and the base has some damage but, apart from a little creasing, the lid is fine with great graphics. Assembled, the toy is around 6 inches high.

Here's the eBay listing with additional photographs of the El Toro - motorized bullfighter tin toy automaton


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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A mechanically clever, but downright creepy toy

The folks over at The Weirdo Toys Blog, discovered this unusual mechanical toy. The toy makes use of those odd rubber finger puppet faces. The interchangeable faces are mounted on motorized "fingers" located on the figure's head. The range of expression created by this arrangement is truly disturbing. Add a raised axe in one hand and the tune "When the Saints go Marching in" and you have yourself one very hard-to-explain toy.

Here's a comprehensive write-up with additional videos on the Magic Monster on the The Weirdo Toys Blog.

[ Thanks Bob! ]


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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book: Tinplate Toys from Schuco, Bing, & Others

Tinplate Toys from Schuco, Bing, & Other Companies
Here is what looks to be a very nice book on tinplate toys from Germany -- Nuremberg, in particular -- during the mid 1900s.

From the book description:
The chapters include 300 color photographs, information about the manufacturers (especially Schuco and Bing) and their markings, and essays on the past, present and future of this special toy industry. The mechanical figures, automobiles, trucks, trains, machines and associated buildings that are presented will remind many of the best toys of their youth.

Here is a link on Amazon.co to Tinplate Toys: From Schuco, Bing, & Other Companies


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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture

Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture The folks at the incredible Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog have sent word that there is new autoamta exhibit in Madison, WI at the Chazen Museum of Art running from January 16, through March 14, 2010.

From the exhibit press release:
"The Chazen Museum of Art presents the delightful work of fourteen international artists in Automata: Contemporary Mechanical Sculpture. Meticulously crafted to perform complex, surprising, and often comic movements, these mechanical sculptures tell quick fanciful tales of nature, myth and magic, the creative process, and sheer make-believe. More than 25 hand-cranked artist-designed automata, most loaned from the private collection of University of Arizona art professor emeritus Michael Croft, will be on view January 16 through March 14, 2010. Videos will play in the gallery to show the animated workings of the pieces. Museum admission is free."

Here is a link to more information on exhibit on the Chazen Museum web site.

[ Thanks to the Cabaret Mechanical blog! ]


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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Restored fortune teller automaton circa 1900

Restored fortune teller automaton circa 1900
Here is a restored store-front attraction depicting a fortune teller. The automaton was made in Germany around 1900. For the last 40 years, it has been in the foyer of a mansion in Newport, RI.

From the eBay description:
The hands and arms move up and down in a lifting motion (for the picking up of display cards that were supplied by the renter of the automaton), along with the head nodding left to right. Another charming feature is the body articulating up and down. Additionally, the eyes move in unison, as though following you, and the mouth and lips purse as if it were speaking to you. All movements are synchronous and very smooth.

Here is a link to many more images and a very extensive description of this window display fortune teller automaton.


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Friday, October 16, 2009

Remake of classic Robert the Robot toy by Ideal

Robert the Robot toy by Ideal
Robert the Robot was the first plastic toy robot introduced in 1954. This is a modern recreation now being sold.

From the item description:
As the first plastic toy robot introduced to the American Public, he not only walked but included the "sensational new patented talking device, better known today as phonographic record. Recreated from the original Ideal molds, this golden anniversary edition includes: An authentic numbered Robert the Robot, Numbered Certificate of Authenticity, Collector's Manual covering Robert the Robot's history and other exciting details. This is not a toy. It is a fine collectible to be enjoyed by adults. This is a new toy.

Here's an Amazon link to Robert the Robot by Ideal Toy


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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy
Here's a tin-toy musician capable of playing three differrent songs. The actions required for the figure to play each song are "recorded" on interchangeable cams (seen behind the figure's feet). Very cool!

From the eBay description:
Even non-collectors find this an enchanting piece. The Zilotone, made by the Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Co of Pennsylvania, circa 1930, features a little man playing a xylophone. A metal song disc is inserted in the toy, and the clockwork is wound up. When switched on, the musician moves back and forth, hitting the keys with a mallet. Comes with 3 different discs: Yankee Doodle, My Old Kentucky Home, and The Farmer in the Dell. Measures approximately 10" x 8 "x 7", sturdy pressed-steel construction.

Here's the eBay listing for Wolverine Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy


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Monday, August 10, 2009

German-made 2 bird singing bird automaton

German-made 2 bird singing bird automaton
Here is a vintage 2-bird singing bird automaton made in Germany.

From the eBay description:
It stands approx 10" tall and the base is 6" across....When wound the birds move as they should (1 moves up and down, moves his tail and his beak moves, the others tail and beak moves)....HOWEVER they are not chirping....I understand that the bellows will need replaced and from research its a fairly easy task if you know what you are doing but I dont !...........Other than no chirping it is in very nice condition...Has a 3 position switch on the bottom as shown.

Here the eBay listing for this German-made 2 bird singing bird automaton


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Friday, August 07, 2009

Art Deco Vitascope "Rocking Ship" Automaton/clock.

Art Deco Vitascope - Rocking Ship automaton / clock.
I don't get to point to automata from this particular era and aesthetic too often, so this is kind of a treat. Here is an Art Deco style "Vitascope" depicting a ship rocking on the waves. It is, obviously, also a clock. The case reminds me of a bread-box. Personally, I would love to own one of these.

Details from the eBay listing:
• Art Deco period automata electric clock in very good condition & perfect working order.
• The green bakalite case has naturally faded over the years on the front & left side in particular, the case has light age assosiated scratches but has no cracks, chips or repairs.
• It is in perfect working order, the ships rocks back & forth, & the backlight fades from dawn to dusk, it runs smoothly & quietly keeping accurate time.
• The ship has areas of discolouration as is usual with these clocks, but as they go is in excellent condition.
• The aluminium back cover has a lot of paint losses but the Vitascope trade label is still visible & the serial number:00597 is stamped onto the bottom.
• The light can be swithed on & off with the toggle switch & the red knob to the right of the light switch is turned to start the ship movement.
• Size:12 1/2 inches high, 10 1/2 inches wide, 6 3/4 inches deep.

Here is the eBay listing with many great picture of this Art Deco Vitascope "Rocking Ship" Automata / Clock


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Friday, July 31, 2009

Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton

Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton
There is something charming in a mechanical rabbit automaton playing the Maracas. This one was made in France circa 1910 the by the famous French manufacturers ROULLET & DECAMPS .

From the eBay description:
When wound, the rabbit hops up and down as he shakes the maracas and his ears go up and down. He is covered with real rabbit fur and has glass eyes. His maracas are replacements that are made of hard plastic just like the original ones were, but they have been painted to simulate the originals (the one original maraca that still remains is included in the auction but is no longer attached to the toy, as you can see it is laying next to the rabbit in the last two photos). Though the replacement maracas are not original to the toy, they do make noise just like the original maracas would have and are just slightly smaller than the originals. The rabbit's fur is quite dingy from age and has been patched up here and there, but he still looks pretty good and is very amusing to watch! The rabbit measures just over 10" tall to the top of his head (ears laying out flat), and his ears are over 4" long!

Here is the full eBay listing with a ton of photos of this Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton.


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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Video of Vielmetter drawing clown tin toy

The other day, I wrote about a drawing tin-toy automaton that was on eBay. Here is some video of the toy showing how the cams are installed in the base and how the clown draws with a pencil on paper.

From the YouTube description:
A very rare and clever toy produced in Germany approximately 1885 until about 1905. The little hand-cranked tin artist draws with a graphite stick onto paper via 'programmed' double-cams (x and y axis).

Some texts say it was an expensive wealthy person's toy, and other texts mention it as a give-away to favorite clients of the firm Phillip Vielmetter Mechanische Werkstatten of Berlin, Germany. This ultra-rare original box was repaired by Randy's Toy Shop.

I suspect the 5 cams are from various production dates. They are labeled (in German): HAHN, KAKADU, GLADSTONE, HARLEKIN, AFFE. There are several more cams that I do not have, such as Napolean, Balzaax, Queen Victoria, and still others.

I had only seen photographs of this amazing toy in the books Mechanical Toys (Spilhaus and Spilhaus)and Automata and Mechanical Toys (Hiller). It's great to finally see the actual toy in operation! Now...to get a peek inside...

[ Thanks Els! ]


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Antique automata and toy auction, July 25th 2009

Upcoming antique autoamta and toy auction
An upcoming auction on July 25th, 2009 in Indianapolis will feature twelve vintage automata including a French 19th century monkey violinist automaton, a Tete Jumeau Russian tea server, a Prussian dancing couple, a French flower girl, a magician, and a cat in milk pail.

There will also be a large number of vintage toys including a large collection of tin wind-ups and battery operated toys, cast iron mechanical toys, pull toys, a balancing musician, a doll on horseback, and an acrobatic clown.

Here is a link with more photographs and information on the upcoming automata and vintage toy auction.

[ Thanks Genevieve! ]


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Friday, July 17, 2009

Tin clown artist - picture drawing automaton

Tin clown artist - picture drawing automaton
I've only had the pleasure of seeing this toy/automaton in books. This tin toy clown is able to draw a variety of pictures with a pencil on paper. You insert different cams into the base of the toy to change the picture that the clown will draw. Very, very clever.

From the eBay description
Turn the crank and it makes little drawings! This clever Phillip Vielmetter Tin Clown Artist toy was manufactured around 1885-1905, and is in excellent working and great cosmetic condition. It comes with 5 different cams and the original box.

Here's the full eBay listing with some great photographs of this mechanical drawing clown automaton.


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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vintage clockwork clown musician automaton

Vintage clockwork clown musician automaton
Currently on eBay, here is a vintage clockwork clown automaton, measuring approximately 15" tall overall from the base to the spinning top on his nose.

From the eBay listing:
When wound, the clown moves the violin bow back and forth across the violin as if playing it, the clockwork makes a Plink-Plink music noise from beneath the base, and the tin top balancing on the clown's nose spins around! There is a bit of staining on the base and a few chips of paint are missing here and there on the base, the clown's shoes, and the top, but overall the toy is in excellent condition!

Here is the full eBay listing with many additional photographs of this vintage clockwork clown musician automaton


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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Antique Jumeau piano-player automaton

Antique Jumeau piano-player automaton
In an effort to show some of the classics on a regular basis, here is a vintage Jumeau automaton depicting an girl playing the piano.

From the eBay listing:
The automaton encompasses an EXQUISITE toy piano measuring 14 1/2" high, 6 1/2" deep and 14" wide, with an antique Jumeau head doll measuring 20" tall standing in front, making the total depth of the automaton about 14" from the back of the piano to the back of the doll.

The piano is made of ebony and walnut veneer wood with original fancy BRONZE side handles and two elaborate three-armed CANDELABRAS in the front, with IVORY KEYS and original music holder with antique French lithograph SHEET MUSIC! Unlike most stamped Jumeau heads that were used for automatons, this one is a size 6 RARE INCISED DEPOSE bisque head with red artist's marks! She has her original long brown MOHAIR WIG and CORK PATE, brown PAPERWEIGHT EYES, and STUNNING painted facial features and modeling! We did not want to compromise her originality by removing her original wig and pate as they are still attached firmly to her, but from well lighting and scrutinizing the outside of the bisque it appears to have no hairlines, chips, cracks or restorations!

She wears FACTORY ORIGINAL clothes including a cotton red jacket and matching skirt embellished with fancy black SOUTACHE trim, original white ORGANDY jacket collar and undergarments with pleated under slip and matching pantaloons, both trimmed in identical lace! Antique JET GLASS doll earrings, antique dark brown leather shoes with silver buckles and antique black cotton socks, and an original black satin JUMEAU hat with silver BEE INSIGNIA and red plumage complete her overall ORIGINAL FABULOUS presentation!

The automaton has FOUR melodies including the famous French tune "La Toreador" from the opera "Carmen", and FOUR distinct movements including PAPER MACHE hands that move up and down on the piano, and sideways, simulating "playing" of the ivory and ebony keys, as she "glances" moving her head from side to side and then up and down, as if nodding her head to the beat of the music! When the original key is wound and the knob is pulled out on the side of the piano, the entertainment begins as this lovely little girl gives her MELODIOUS CONCERT!

All movements are in good working condition and the tunes are consistent except for times where there is a fading in and out of the music, but overall still PLAYING BEAUTIFULLY!

Here is the full listing with many additional photographs of this antique Jumeau piano player automaton


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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vintage automaton of rabbit eating a cabbage

Vintage automaton of rabbit eating a cabbage
Here is a classic vintage automaton motif -- the rabbit eating a head of cabbage from the inside out. This one (like many) is of French manufacture and is currently up for auction on eBay.

From the eBay item description
Clockwork windup mechanism that when wound activates both the movement of the rabbit and the music box inside. After winding just pull the activation rod and the music begins. Rabbit emerges from the cabbage with a slight turn to the right, chews a small piece of cabbage in its mouth, raises and lowers its ears while chewing, quickly makes a slight left turn and drops back into the cabbage. Rabbit fur covered metal skeleton with glass eyes.

Here is the eBay listing with many additional photographs of the rabbit eating cabbage automaton.


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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Video of vintage automaton cat restoration

Here is bit of video from the folks at Automatomania showing the inner workings of a antique cat automaton made by the famous makers Roullet and Decamps.

From the YouTube description
This is an automaton of a fur covered papier mache cat by Decamps of Paris Circa 1900. The film shows the restoration at the stage where all the parts have been repaired and the cat is tested prior to re-assembly.

Note the tail curl, it is a realistic action achieved with wooden balls wedged along a tapering spring within the tail, the cord pulls on the last ball only to curl it. This is a fragile part of the cat and is always broken in antique examples I have seen.

The restored cat is now for sale and can be seen at the Automatomania shop online shop.


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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roullet and Decamps smoking monkey automaton

Here is a good video of a smoking automaton -- once a popular theme. This one, made by Roullet and Decamps, features a monkey puffing away on a cigarette.

From the YouTube description
This monkey has been trained to smoke cigars and cigarettes. He was made around 1900 by the Parisian firm of Roullet and Decamps and is made of Papier Mache covered with real fur. His enigmatic green glass eyes show just how much pleasure he gets from a fine tobacco.


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Vintage automatic cigarette dispenser music box

Vintage automatic cigarette dispenser music box
Here is a neat vintage automatic cigarette dispenser on eBay. There is a button on the front that when pushed starts a the music box. The multiple doors of the dispenser gently open to reveal the chamber inside and reverse side of the doors where cigarettes have been placed. The doors then close on their own to finish the cycle.

Here is the full eBay listing with many other pictures for this Vintage automatic cigarette dispenser music box


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Monday, April 20, 2009

Gorgeous automaton chronograph pocket watch

Take a look the video showing all the functions of this magnificent pocket watch. Brass case, skeleton back, and animated bell-ringing figures. I am in love.

Details of this Pocket Watch
Movement: Swiss made 1/4 repeater and chronograph movement
Case Material: Brass case
Dial: Brass & Enamel
Size: 58mm round excluding the crown.
Condition: Overall in vintage condition and time keeping time, repeating function working correct.

One of many detailed photographs, this one showing the mechanism in back...
Gorgeous automaton chronograph pocket watch
Here is the full eBay listing with a number of outstanding detail photographs of Brass cased automaton chronograph pocket watch


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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Wind-up automaton dancer from 1800s

Wind-up automaton dancer from 1800s
According to the eBay description for this item, it is a wind-up dancing automaton from the 1800s. The piece was made by Perry and Company, London.

For more details and additional pictures here is the eBay listing for the Wind-up automaton dancer from 1800s By Perry and Co.


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reproduction monkey automaton sewing machine

Reproduction monkey automaton sewing machine
From the Sewing Machine Collector site:
Over 100 years on, and the sewing machine legacy left by Max Sandt appears to be alive and well. As a tribute to the father of figural automaton sewing machines, a French enthusiast has created the gilded monkey. The project, which took three years to complete, certainly seems to have attracted attention, for a full story is to be filmed for French TV. A series of only ten machines has been produced. The stitch plate carries the serial number together with further identification marks. These fully functional chain stitch machines are not inexpensive, but the edition has sold fast. As long as no more are made, they will surely become highly desirable in future years. And speaking of the future, our creative machine manufacturer reports that further projects are already in hand....
Here is the original posting on The Sewing Machine Collector site.

[ Thanks philsing! ]


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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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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Airway Suspenders - advertising automaton

Airway Suspenders - advertising automaton
Automata have been connected with advertising for a VERY long time. Some of the masterworks from the 1700s were made by clockmakers showing off their expertise. Here is a more modern, but clever version. This automaton actually demonstrates that Airway brand suspenders say put when you move.

From the eBay listing for the Airway Suspenders display automaton:
Up for auction is this very amusing, 19 1/2" tall X 13 1/2" wide, electrical automaton figural advertising display rack & unit. The composition man rocks/sways slowly from side to side while the cloth elastic & leather suspenders practically stay in place. The base in made of oak and the mechanical unit is in fully-functional condition. The man has had an old restoration to the neck area, but it was extremely well executed. The unit seems to date from the 1940s or '50s.

The eBay listing has many large pictures showing all angles of the automaton including the motor assembly.

Here the link to the Airway Suspenders advertising display automaton.


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The automaton who saved the world!

According to the YouTube description, we all may owe this drinking bear automaton a lot!

An automaton bear that was played with by Gromyko at an important UN meeting during the Cold War, after a frosty start, the automata were produced, and this one melted his heart. The result was he took his finger off the red button. I have the pictures to prove it!

From our friends at www.automatomania.com.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic cats

Wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic catsHere is a wall-mounted wind-up automaton selling on eBay today. The scene depicts performing acrobat cats. The cat figures are printed paper applied to wood. As an integrated music box plays, a few of the cats perform flips on the high wire, while others below dance.

The listing has additional photographs, including a few of the back of the piece in which you can see the mechanism.

Here's the full eBay listing for the wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic cats.


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Monday, February 16, 2009

'Batteries Not Included!' mechanical toy exhibit

Batteries Not Included! mechanical toy exhibit
To celebrate the history of moving toys, the Fairfield Museum and History Center has a new exhibit called 'Batteries Not Included!'

The exhibit features mechanical toys dating from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. No plastics here: the toys are made of painted tin, tinplated steel, and cast iron. Show above is a mechanical tin beetle made by E. P. Lehmann of Germany, patent in 1895.

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, February 2oth, 2009.

Here is where you can get more information on the Batteries Not Included! toy exhibit.


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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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Monday, December 01, 2008

Classic automata film: Princely Toys

Here is some very rare film footage of vintage French automata from the collection of Jack Donovan. The film was shot in 1976.

Thanks to Michael and Maria Start of Automatomania for this video.


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today is the last chance to pre-bid on Theriault's

Today is the last chance to pre-bid on Theriault's
You can register to bid live online with real-time video and sound feed to make you feel as if you were at the auction itself.

If you are interested in following the auction or bidding online, it is important to pre-register today.


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Monday, November 17, 2008

Theriault's automata auction book with essays

Theriault's automata auction book with essays
Even if you do not bid on a gorgeous antique automaton or attend Theriault's upcoming automata auction, you can still own a piece of this event in the form the auction catalog.

The catalog -- a hardcover book, really -- features a hologram of the "Kneeling Egyptian Harpist" on the front. Of course, the book contains detailed descriptions for the 150+ fine automata that are in the auction. But it goes far beyond being just a catalog because it also features a series of essays on various common automata themes. The essays deal with the great outdoors, exoticism, spectacle, theater, and occupational themes.

I am told that there is something for everyone here -- including magic automata, very complex clock automata, and the earliest animated window displays.

Here is where you can order Theriault's auction catalogs, including the one for the upcoming automata auction.


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Sunday, November 16, 2008

19th century life-size musical peacock automaton

19th century French musical peacock automaton
This truly astounding automaton depicts a life-sized peacock with a fanned-out tail spanning over 7 feet.

From the auction listing:
The Peacock begins its grand performance in the tail-down position, regally he turns his head and body separately from side-to-side. then he proudly raises his elegant tail plumage and fans his tail out for the fullest effect. The bird then turns side-to-side again, such that all can appreciate his beauty. At the conclusion, he lowers his tail back down in a graceful and realistic manner. All the while, music plays.

The maker is unknown and no other examples of this model are known to exist! The size, age, condition, superb construction, and uniqueness set the estimated value of this automaton between $50,000 and $75,000 USD.

Here is a page with the full description with a video of The Magnificent Peacock automataon.


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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Theriault's to auction automata on Nov. 23, 2008

Theriaults to auction automata on Nov.  23, 2008
Theriault's will be having a large auction of automata on November 23, 2008. The collection of Jerry and Bunny Steinbaum is to be auctioned. The Steinbaums collected for over 20 years, traveling to France, England, and New York to acquire an amazing collection of very rare and fine automata.

There will be more posts over the next few days about this extraordinary event and the treasures that will be for sale.

Here is a great article that presents an overview of the collection and the event.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Griesbaum whistler - singing bird box automaton

Griesbaum Whistler bird box automaton
I love these little spring-driven singing bird boxes. It's simply amazing that they were able to pack all of the mechanics for pieces like this into such a small box (its longest side is a only 4 1/4 inches). This one is by German maker Karl Griesbaum and dates to the middle part of the last century.

From the eBay listing:
When activated, the hatch on top opens, bird appearing, and there is bird song. The bird turns from side to side as it sings. The beak/tailfeathers/wings move to some degree while the bird is singing. The bird darts inside when it has finished singing and the hatch closes automatically.

Here is the full ebay listing with many more pictures of Griesbaum Whistler singing bird box automaton.


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