A house clearance of a modest bungalow packed with more than 600 random collectables attracted online bidders from the US, China, Australia and Europe on June 9.
The upright coin operated musical box (above), standing nearly 7ft (2m) tall, with 15 discs, was carved to the surmount Polyphon – the trade name for the pioneering German company which produced the first model in 1870.
However, the movement, with the serial number 29481, was by William H Russell of Leicester and was dated 1898. Key to its appeal was its ability to play large discs and a complicated ‘self-changing’ mechanism.
Two local bidders saw off international competition to compete against each other for his machine. One triumphed with a bid of £14,500.
Early mechanical music
A fine example of earlier mechanical music was a c.1820 organ clock (above) offered by Hampshire auction house Hannam’s (23% buyer’s premium).
Standing on a later mahogany pedestal giving an overall height of 7ft 8in (2.56m), it is signed to the 12in (30cm) painted dial and to the backplate: Thwaites & Reed/Clerkenwell/London.
Both clock and organ were powered by chain and fusee movements; the clock striking the hours and the quarters and the organ, wound from the side, playing through 50 pipes via a 12in (30cm) long pinned wooden barrel.
It had been bought at Christie’s London in February 2008 for a premium-inclusive £46,100. However, at the Selborne rooms on May 30 it was pitched at £15,000-20,000 – a shrewd assessment as it turned out: it sold to a UK collector at £20,000 hammer.
Symphonium with Black Forest quality
Merging the functions of Polyphons and longcase clocks, symphoniums became popular in the late 19th century, with German models probably the most highly regarded.
A c.1895 machine sold at Piers Motley (18% buyer’s premium) on June 18 had a clock movement by the Black Forest maker Lenzkirch, famous for its regulators and a guarantee of quality, even if Junghans symphoniums are better known.
This oak-cased offering stood about 6ft 6in (2m) tall and came with a dozen 11¾in (30cm) discs.
In good working order, the clock struck half hourly and hourly, setting off the music every hour except 1 o’clock. The music could be played at any time and, equally important, one would think, could be silenced.
Estimated at £800-1400, the symphonium (above) sold to a Lancashire bidder at £5200 in the Exmouth sale.