Some of the most unusual items ever to grace an antique cabinet were put on display on 26 May, when a vintage science and technology auction was held in Cologne, Germany.
Visitors from Lancashire are unlikely to see Victorian oak pedestal desks at Team Breker, where the auction was held, although an antique desk calculator is a distinct possibility. Specialists in the field of “technical antiques”, their sales focus on the world of vintage precision engineering and technology, with many of the objects – which range from mechanical musical instruments to vintage toys – being German made.
The 26 May sale included objects that were rare even by Breker standards. Pride of place went to a German-made Enigma machine, one of the most complex ciphering devices ever invented, which was sold for £64,663 to a private collector. Office rarities included a Russian Odhner “Arithmometer” and an 1882 Hammonia typewriter with its original ribbon; both sold for well above their upper estimates.
There were many items of exquisite beauty, too, such as a Bruguier silver-gilt singing bird automaton, circa 1835, which realised £3,360. Moving from the beautiful to the bizarre, an English pier-side working automaton of a public execution attracted a lot of attention, as did a German triple-horn ballroom gramophone. A surprisingly modern concept was a 1920s music player incorporating revolving mirrors and lights, while a Palmodian-inspired gramophone, with a violin in place of the usual horn, was by far the most surreal attraction.
If you are looking for unusual objects for your antique cabinet, Preston is a lot nearer than Cologne, and an antique dealer won’t charge you the high commission rates and other fees of an auctioneer.
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