The world’s love affair with the automobile began a long time before it became the most popular and affordable means of travel. From the late 1800’s until pre-WW II, the realm of the automobile and specifically automobile racing, was a playground for the wealthy. MastroNet, Inc. auction house will provide collectors with unprecedented access to some of the rarest pieces of memorabilia representative of the automobile’s early leisure and racing years. Included in the hundreds of items available are one-of-a kind silver cups and racing trophies, automobile embellishments, personal effects of noteworthy racers, ceramics, historical documents, engraved artwork, paintings, posters, photographs, presentation bronzes and models.
According to Doug Allen, president of MastroNet, Inc., the importance of the
Charles Schalebaum Collection cannot be emphasized enough. “This collection represents the proverbial needle in the haystack opportunity for automobilia collectors,” said Allen. “If it’s important to an automobile collector, chances are you’ll find it in this collection…and nowhere else.”
Charles Schalebaum has been a leading and widely respected figure in the
automotive antique business for over 5o years. His is one of the most well known sources
in terms of purchasing, selling, and appraising vintage, veteran and grand classic automobiles. For five decades, Schalebaum, an Allentown, PA resident, traveled across North America and Europe searching for unique and valuable pieces of automobilia and appraising them for a variety of clients. His specialized efforts have resulted in the discovery and preservation of many of the most impressive automobile artifacts known to exist.
One of Schalebaum’s greatest accolades was the acquisition and appraisal of the Raymond E. Holland Collection. This collection, which at the time was the most important collection of automobile art in the United States, numbered thousands of highly desirable automotive objects. The collection was initially displayed in The Blackhawk Museum, an automotive museum in Danville, CA and now resides in a Dutch museum.
Throughout his impressive career, Schalebaum built a collection of his own that today is without rival. While the collection includes other significant items associated with maritime and aviation memorabilia, its heart and soul resides in automobilia. Some highlights of the collection include:
Hood ornaments weren’t always used to identify and market car manufacturers. Before there were established car manufacturers, luxury automobile bodies were crafted by numerous coach companies across the world. Built on either a long or short chassis, the automobile was very much the result of the buyer’s fancy. This whimsy was capped off by decorative hood ornaments designed to capture aspects of the buyer’s personality. As a result, hood ornaments of the early automobile era are extraordinarily rare with many being one-of-a-kind.
One of the most intriguing hood ornaments being offered is a chrome over brass ornament of a wild boar wearing a 1914-19918 helmet. Speculation is that it was produced by a private owner as a spoof against the German army. The ornament’s minimum bid is $300.00. Another interesting hood decoration is a 1920’s wind-driven “Le Gui” ornament. The ornament, manufactured in France, is finished in nickel silver and features a chrome-plated ballerina perched atop a helmet-shaped body. The ornament is constructed with a wind-driven turbine blade that rotates the ballerina when wind passes through it. It is in superb original condition and has a minimum bid of $200.00.
With the development of early custom automobiles came the inevitable need to prove each buyer’s creation the best. This gave rise to the sport of automobile racing. The desire to set land speed records and win races became a worldwide obsession. What has evolved into today’s NASCAR, Indy and Grand Prix racing has its roots in the pride of the wealthy from late 18th and early 19th centuries. For those who could afford to participate in the sport; automobile racing was an event where cost was no object.
Obviously neither was safety. Automobiles often carried engines with too much power for the tires and other technology of the day. The races were perilous and fraught with accident and injury.
As a result, trophies symbolizing race wins or speed records were highly prized possessions, rarely leaving families for generations, if ever. That explains their rarity to this day and why having an array of them to offer from the Schalebaum Collection is so extraordinary. One of the most incredible trophies available is a 1908 sterling silver Royal Automobile Club trophy tankard. This stunning tankard was produced by Elkington & Co. of London, England for the Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.) of Pall Mall, London. The trophy was awarded to Henry Cordery, in a 458 horsepower Ariel automobile that was a Class “J” entry in the 1908 Touring Car Trial. The 9 ½” engraved trophy resembles a 17th century tankard and features a cast Royal Automobile Life Members badge on its lid. The minimum bid is $1,000.00.
Another intriguing award is a bronze trophy cup awarded in 1914 to Rene Thomas in France for setting a world record land speed. In addition to any trophy cup being a rare entry on the public auction block, the career achievements of the driver it was awarded to dramatically increase its importance and value. Rene Thomas was a foreigner who won the 1921 Indianapolis 500 in a Delage car. The foreign driver and foreign car were a long shot in the marquee American race and his victory stunned the American racing world. The 1914 trophy cup has a minimum bid of $2,000.00.
Metal Car Models
The automobile was an invention of unprecedented proportions. Everything associated with the automobile was magic and everyone wanted anything that represented these amazing machines around them. As a result, memorabilia reflective of the automotive industry, called automobilia – entered its heyday. One of the most popular manifestations of automobilia was the car model. Created to adorn desks, bookcases, shelves and mantles, car models were decorating staples in many of the wealthiest homes in the world.
A classic example of one of these treasured models is the 1930’s Bugatti Type 57
Atlante Coupe Art Nouveau desk model being offered in MastroNet’s December auction.
This exquisite bronze model features a dual patina finish and is set on a marble base that
signals that it was a period desk piece from the 1930’s. Fine, original Bugatti bronzes rarely enter the public market so this offering marks a truly rare opportunity. The minimum bid is $500.00.
Another fascinating model is that of a Napoleons Parade Coach produced by the Fisher Motor Company. The Fisher family members were blacksmiths in 1835. Some time later, they began building carriages and other horse drawn vehicles. In 1908, The Fisher Body Co. was formed and still exists to this day as major car body producers. This Fisher Motor Company model, created in silver with gold embellishments, was intended to be a display item for Fisher showrooms. Most of the remaining examples reside in museums and fine collections. The minimum bid is $1,000.00.
In the same vein as the metal pieces of automobilia, similar items were crafted in ceramic. One piece in particular adds a decidedly humorous flavor to the typical fare of car model automobilia. A circa 1905 glazed ceramic displays a brown, hat-wearing bear, holding a steering wheel and serving as a chauffeur. This unusual French automotive figurine is believed to be the only one in existence. Produced by an unknown manufacturer, the ceramic epitomizes the French’s love of automotive humor and exhibits the fine craftsmanship that made them the leaders in this type of automotive artwork during this time. The minimum bid is $300.00.
A second French delight can be found in an offered 1900 Madam Benzine porcelain
pitcher. The French treasured automobile collectibles like no other country. This one certainly was coveted for its craftsmanship and playful nature. The glazed ceramic pitcher is molded in the form of a plumpish woman about to fill the tank of her automobile. The pitcher’s minimum bid is $300.00.
Just Getting Revved Up
There’s something for every collector in the eclectic Schalebaum Collection. The previously mentioned items are just a small sampling of the rare items that compose this multi-million dollar collection. Allen suggests the best way to absorb it all is to get an auction catalog early, sit back and enjoy pouring through the pages that detail this exquisite compilation. “Any collector, whether automobilia is their specialty or not doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to own a piece of this history,” said Allen. “An offering of this magnitude and importance is not likely to be seen again.”
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To register for the MastroNet December auction featuring the Charles Schalebaum Collection, call 630-472-1200 or go to www.mastronet.com.