Discover Vintage America - October 2013

Slot machine from 1920s was altered, yet still valuable

Q: I have a Bell Fruit Gum 1910 nickel slot machine #99096. It is also identified as BD Novelties, L. A. Calif. It is in original condition and works perfectly. After I owned it for 60 years, my grandson hit the jackpot, which explained the upper discharge dish, which had puzzled us for as many years. Does this machine have any value?

Bell Fruit Gum 1910 nickel slot machine

A: Your slot machine was probably originally made by Mills Novelty Co of Chicago, IL. During most of the 1920s slot machines did not have an "extra" jackpot on them. The maximum jackpot payout on machines during the '20s was 20 coins. During the very late 1920s slot machines started coming out with a "new" physical jackpot on them that would dump extra coins when three of the same graphics were lined up. Immediately after these initial machines came out, non-jackpot slot machines were obsolete.
A few smaller companies saw a window of opportunity and decided to buy up the old slot machines and "restore" them. This process consisted of tuning the machine up, possibly repainting it and installing a new upper or lower casting on the machine. This casting was made by the new company and would have a jackpot compartment on it. The company would then re-name the machine and sell it as its own.
Your machine was "restored" by B.D. Novelty, also known as Bull Durham Novelties of Los Angeles, CA. Bull Durham installed a new lower front casting that features an American shield, a bull, new award cards and jackpot housing (the paper strips on the reels of all Mills machines have the 1910 date) so we can assume that the reels were not redone by B.D.
As for its current market value, since your machine is functional and appears to be in excellent cosmetic condition including the wood enclosure and should sell for $1,800-$2,500.


Q: I have a Coca Cola clock that is orange with white lettering, lit from behind, rectangular in shape. I was told that very few were made. It is still in the original box. How much is it worth?

A: It is terrific that you still have the original box as this adds to the overall value. Your clock was given to establishments who sold Coca-Cola products in the 1970s. As long as it is in good working condition with no bad scratches on the surface or chips on the edges it would sell in an antique shop for $100-$125. As for rarity, since it was made for distribution to retailers there are not as many available as a mass-produced item intended for public sale. The fact that you have the original box and it has the typical and much sought after 1970s style and lettering makes it desirable to collectors.

Coca-Cola clock, circa 1970


Q: I have a porcelain lady and cherub figurine that is white with hints of cobalt blue. It has blue marks on the bottom that look like a bunch of lines and maybe a crown with the letter "N" underneath. Below the crown, is written "King's," and in cursive "Capodimonte." It is signed B. Merli. HELP!

A: Capo-di-Monte has a long history so here is the Reader's Digest condensed version. The Capo-di-Monte porcelain factory was founded by the Bourbon King Charles of Naples in 1743. The original back stamp during this first period was a Fleur de Lis also known as a "Bourbon Lily."
In 1780 a new phase of porcelain manufacturing began in the Capo-di-Monte style with a factory in Naples founded by King Ferdinand IV. The mark with the crown and "N" for Naples is from this period, or the Crown Over Neapolitan N Mark. In 1867, Alfonso Majello, knighted "Cavaliere del Lavoro", founded the Majello factory, which continues to produce Capo-di-Monte porcelain. In 1896, the Doccia (Ginori) factory was merged with the Milanese company and thus began the Richard-Ginori period.
Since the 1920s other companies have made and marketed items as Capo-di-Monte. Some of these are indeed fine porcelain and marked as Capodimonte/ Capo-di-Monte made in Italy. Many of them have some variation of the crown over Neapolitan N mark in their stamps.
Many factories and studios made later figurines carrying on the rich tradition of Capo-di-Monte porcelain during the 20th century. In fact, works of Capodimonte inspired Signora Carozzi to found the Industria Lombardo Porcellane Artistche (ILPA) in 1925.
From that company the more famous Industria Porcellane Artistche (IPA) was formed. Many artists broke away to form King's Porcelain and numerous?other studios as well. Most of these pieces were marked with some form of the crown with N logo similar to that used by the second generation Capo-di-Monte factory.?
In 2012 the first website/store of Capo-di-Monte Porcelain was founded by Vincenzo Castaldo through "Capodimonte's Finest".
The Crown Over Neapolitan N Mark was never copyrighted so this opened the door for anyone to put this mark or similar back stamps on their wares. The "B. Merli" mark is for Bruno Merli a master sculptor and artist who worked at several porcelain factories over the years including King's and the Tyche factory. He was still living in 1990. I was not able to find any information on whether or not he is still living. With all of that being said, the lady figurine manufactured by King's Porcelain and designed by Bruno Merli has a resale value of $175-$200.

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.


Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. Her online Q&A column is now active!