Over the weekend my brother Mike and I attended an auction presented by Mel White Auctioneer in Lansing, Michigan, that offered a collection of "salesman's samples". Salesman's samples were miniature versions of products, perfectly made to scale, that the salesman would take on his route to potential clients to show the product and its features. The retailer might also use the small scale version in his store to show prospective customers large items that weren't kept in stock but would need to be ordered. This way the customer could see what they were ordering ahead of time, and the retailer saved space by not having to house full size product examples.
Salesman's samples are highly sought after by collectors, and are getting harder and harder to find these days. Sometimes people get doll and child size items confused with salesman's samples or unscrupulous sellers might try to pass them off as such. Today I'm showing you the real deal!
One of the highlights of the auction was a blue enamel porcelain cookstove (below left). It sold for $2,000. The item behind the brass bed is actually a "Murphy bed", the kind that has a mattress that folds out. When folded up, it has a decorative mirror. It sold for a reasonable $285, and I'm regretting that I didn't bid on it. I doubt I'll ever see another oak salesman's sample Murphy bed in my lifetime. The brass bed in the picture below sold for $175, another good deal.
All images courtesy of Mel White Auctioneer
The miniature spool cabinet proved to be very popular, selling for $2,400, as well as the barrister bookcase, which sold for a whopping $4,900. To give you an idea of scale, a Coke can would have barely fit inside one of the bookcase shelves.
The oak icebox in the picture below was another popular item, selling for $1,200. The saddle sold for $300 and the little piano stool sold for a reasonable $190.
The oldest item in the auction was the wringer washer in the rear center. The gavel fell at $2,200. The item to its left is a fanning mill, which sold for $700. The two little wooden barrel shaped items in the front right are ice cream makers, which sold for $475 and $275 (one had a missing stave).
More minis! Here we have tiny shoes, a dresser, and even a tiny toilet seat! The toilet seat sold for $50, and the flat top trunk sold for $110. I don't have prices for the other items in the image below, but I'm quite sure the oak dresser on the right was a popular piece and sold for over $1,000.
The round oak dining table (far left, below) sold for $4,000. I absolutely loved the kneehole desk, just like your teacher had, but I don't have the final price on that. It was a little hard to keep up with all the auction action! In front of the furniture are several little boxes that contain miniature hats. These weren't exactly salesman's samples, but promotional giveaways by hat companies like Dodd's and Stetson.
The next image doesn't have salesman's samples, but I threw this picture in because I wanted to show something I actually purchased. The Rolling Rock thermometer I bought for my "Mantiques" booth at the Livingston Antique Outlet in Howell, Michigan, and the pink chest I purchased for my "Pink Booth", at the Antiques Market of Williamston:
When I got home I had a chance to unpack and arrange things to photograph them. Here are some of the charming children's books I purchased, in front of the collection of amber apothecary bottles that I brought home. I think "All About Milk" will be a fascinating read:
I usually don't buy much mid-century stuff, but grouped together this aluminum ware looks awfully cool. I've never seen napkin rings before, either:
An adorable set of Scottie coasters:
In case you are wondering, I didn't purchase any of the salesman's samples. I just don't have that much money in my antique buying budget for the more expensive items, even though I believe the items sold were worth every penny. If a second oak salesman's sample Murphy bed comes along someday, though, I'll take it as a sign that I'm being given a second chance, and I'll buy it!