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Vintage slot machine goes for $80K at Las Vegas auction

It took only 60 seconds for Dan Morphy to sell an antique slot machine for $80,000 Saturday morning.

Morphy’s Denver, Pennsylvania, auction company became something of a novelty to Nevada gaming regulators in August, when he sought a distributor’s license to sell slot machines in the state. Regulators approved, and he had one of his first opportunities to use the license over the weekend.

There were 22 gambling devices and 150 other coin-operated machines for sale at the two-day event, at which 1,045 coin-op and advertising objects were auctioned to collectors at Morphy’s Las Vegas auction house and gallery near The Orleans.

It takes about an hour for Morphy to rattle through 60 sales. Once he gets in rhythm, he can double an opening bid to a final sale in seconds.

In the middle of the second hour of sales, Morphy rolled out one of the big prizes of the day — a 50-cent Caille Bros. Big Six Double Upright Slot Machine. The 1904 machine was described in a catalog as “an excellent restoration of a rare original machine” with nickel plating on iron castings in a tiger-stripe oak cabinet.

The catalog projected a sale of between $90,000 and $125,000, and the opening bid was $45,000.

A minute after Morphy introduced the machine and a managed a rapid-fire volley of bids from about 100 people gathered at the gallery and hundreds more bidding by phone or over the internet, the machine was sold for $80,000 to “Buyer 21,” who was monitoring the auction online.

During a break in the auction action, Morphy said even he wasn’t sure who bought the machine and would have to check the registration log.

“I think I might know who it is and if it is who I think it is, he wouldn’t want me telling you who he is,” Morphy said.

It’s a description that applies to most of the bidders attending the event.

Buyers don’t want the public to know what they’ve got and how much they’ve paid for it, nor do they want to be solicited by others who know how much money they turned over in a sale.

Under terms of the license, Morphy must receive written administrative approval from the state Gaming Control Board prior to an auction or sale, notify the board of upcoming auctions, sell only consigned antique devices, and report a device’s owner to the board on a form.

When regulators considered the license in August, they said they knew Morphy wouldn’t be selling machines to the likes of Caesars Entertainment Corp. or Wynn Resorts Ltd. because the antique machines take nickel coins and only pay out jackpots of around $2.50. Both the Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission approved the license unanimously and without much debate.

In his niche as an auctioneer, it’s clear Morphy isn’t a traditional slot machine seller.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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