Northwestern SellAll

Northwestern Corporation, Morris, IL, c. 1925, 13". This takes a nickel, which is unusual for a machine from the 1920's but it does dispense a whole pack, not just a single serving. In Silent Salesmen Too, Mr. Enes says that he once saw an ad for a penny version of this model that sold individual sticks of gum, but he doesn't say that he saw the machine itself. This model is made of cast iron, and the beauty above looks like it's chrome-plated although it could be nickel-plated and recently polished. I bought it in September 2017, and about 5 years on the shelf should distinguish between the 2 possible finishes.

I've always wanted an example of this model, but it eluded me. I'm not sure why I wanted one, 'cause it's sorta plain, but I did, maybe in part because I just never see them. I had a chance to buy one once, but the casting was cracked in a highly-visible spot and I thought the price was too high given that damage. So I passed, but still dreamed of finding one . . . someday . . . in my dreams . . . did I say that already?

Fast-forward to the Potter & Potter auction in Chicago, early September 2017. There it is! A really nice example, with great finish and no visible cracks. I pegged it as one of my top 4 targets, and set my upper limit at a price I thought gave me a fair shot, but I didn't really expect to buy it because of how crazy these kinds of auctions get sometimes. But that was my limit, and once I set a limit I'm disciplined about sticking to it. I learned that lesson the hard way after I'd had enough experience to know better (see here for the embarrassing story of that mental lapse).

Anyway, back to the SellAll: I'm in the audience and the bidding starts. I raise my card, the auctioneer takes my bid, and I'm off and running. I go back and forth with some dude or dudes---the competition blurs quickly, if it ever was clear---and the price is getting higher but it's not close to my max yet. After awhile---"awhile" meaning, like, 6 seconds---and it's just 2 of us, me and someone behind me. And I get caught on the bump!; the other guy bid my max, and the auctioneer looks to me. As I said, I'm disciplined, I'd learned my lesson years ago, and I shook my head.

Now, the part of the story I haven't told you yet is that I was sitting next to my friend Dave, with whom I'd shared a hotel room the night before. We'd swapped confidential disclosures of our auction interests, and we knew where each other stood with the maximum bids on our highest-priority items. Dave glanced at me and said "You're out?" "Yep," I said. He said "Go one more." Well, I thought he was asking me to bid on his behalf, and I couldn't figure out why because he had his own bidder card, but the auctioneer was going at a 106-items-per-hour clip---we timed it---and he was looking around the room for another bid, about to bring the hammer down, and I didn't have time to ask Dave why he wanted me to bid for him. I said "Okay" and raised my card, and that bought it. I was glad I could help my friend out, even though I remained perplexed. He glanced over at me again and said "You won't regret it; it's worth it." Hmmmmm . . . .

He was right; I don't regret it. It's the nicest example I can remember ever seeing, although I've not seen many so it's not like I have this vast mental database to work with, but even if I did, it'd be one of the nicest, I think . . . probably.

By the way, it may seem like I'm contradicting myself by telling you how disciplined I am, and stating it several times before I get to the part of the story where I exceed my limit. I'm not. I set my limit with internal permission to bid once more if I'm caught on the bump, if I want to at the time. I don't have to, but I can if the impulse strikes me. It's when I keep going that I get into trouble, but one more bid on the bump?---it's built into that max.

The example above is 100% original and is a really nice example, in case I haven't mentioned that yet.



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