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1868 Deacon/Muller Baseball Figural Statues - Pitcher & Striker
Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $4,200
Two exceedingly rare and highly prized baseball figural pieces dating from 1868. The figures, representing a pitcher and striker, respectively, are crafted in white metal and were produced by Deacon and Muller, who were among the most prominent artists of their day with regard to baseball figural pieces. (Muller is best known today for his exquisite figural baseball clock produced in 1876.) They were costly for the time ($16 for the pair), so despite the high degree of craftsmanship displayed by each figure (they were sold in clay as well as metal), only a small number were sold, with even fewer having survived to the present day. While we have seen a few examples of the pitcher figural piece, the striker appears to be even more elusive. According to a period advertisement issued by John Deacon, these pieces were promoted as "Base Ball Statuettes, suitable for Prizes for Matches and Tournaments, Interesting and Beautiful Ornaments for the Parlour." It also notes that both a "catcher" and "short stop" figural were scheduled to be produced in bronze provided he received 100 orders. The fact that neither has ever been seen probably indicates that his self-imposed order quota was never met, leaving only the pitcher and striker available to collectors today. Both figures are dressed in period baseball uniforms, with the pitcher striking the traditional pitching pose of the era. Lettered in relief on the base of each statue is "K. Muller & J Deacon Pat 1868." A second credit on the underside of each reads "N. Muller N.Y. N: 532/Patent 1868." These statues have a unique provenance. Our consignor remembers that these statues came to his family from the estate of Charles E. Manderson (1837-1911), who was a United States Senator from Nebraska (1883-1895). Manderson married the sister of our consignor's great-grandfather and eventually these statues were handed down to his family in the early 1960s. This is only the second complete pair of Deacon/Muller statues we have ever offered. The first appeared as Lot 1155 in our Spring 2013 auction and realized $10,072.
The striker figure has had a complete break to the throwing arm that was partially repaired some fifty years ago by the insertion of a wooden dowel, but the break is clearly evident (the dowel simply allows the arm to remain straight so that it can be displayed properly). Without regard to the arm repair, each statue displays surface wear commensurate with its age and is otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition. These are two of the most highly prized of all extant nineteenth-century baseball figural pieces, which are seldom, if ever, available as a matched set. These figures would be a significant and worthy addition to even the most advanced museum-caliber nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia or early American figural collection. (Interesting note: While in all our years we have never seen one available for auction, we are aware of the existence of an umpire figural example as well!) Height (for each): 10 inches. Total: 2 figures. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000++. SOLD FOR $4,200
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