Crown News



The Largest Private Ventriloquist Dummy Collection &

Magic at Crown Auctions!

 Seabrook, NH- When you rounded the corner into the Billiards room at Dan Willinger’s house in Malden Massachusetts you would stop in your tracks and stare in disbelief. Staring back at you were over 250 pairs of eyes. The incredible collection of ventriloquist figures was neatly seated all around the antique billiards table.  As soon as you could get over the initial shock, Dan was more than happy to walk you around the room and introduce you to each figure and would explain who made each figure, what era it was from, the special movements some had that made them even more special and who used the figure in their act. It was evident that the assembly of this collection was a labor of love decades in the making.

Dan’s passion for ventriloquist figures began as a kid when he traded another boy a wagon full of old books he had picked from the trash for a K&S Danny Talk, (Dummy Dan). His mother made him give the doll back. “My mother felt that I had taken advantage of the other boy and took me and the doll by the hand and marched us over to my friend’s house and made me give it back so I was out the doll and the books!” Dan laughed as he recalled the story but Dan never forgot about the doll. As an adult he found the same doll and purchased it and this was the beginning of what was over the course of the next 25 years to become the largest privately held collection of antique and vintage ventriloquist figures and accessories. Over the years Dan not only collected the figures but also did extensive research into the art and craft of using and building the figures. He created a website called Ventriloquist Central which was a treasure trove of historical data.

The decision to disperse the collection was an extremely difficult one. Sudden life changing events created a situation that led Dan to move cross country to California. After long deliberations with his son Jason who was moving with him they decided that it would be impossible to safely transport and store the figures where they were going. They chose Crown Auctions LLC to conduct the auction. “I have been into antiques all my life and I have a personal relationship with the auctioneers at Crown Auctions and it will be a true and honest auction. Also by selling the figures at public auction EVERYONE has the chance to bid on any of the figures from the entire collection,” stated Dan.

The auctions will be held in 2 sessions in September and October. The collection highlights include 3 George and Glenn McElroy figures with provenance that are considered the holy grail of ventriloquist figures by historians and collectors alike.  There are over 60 Frank Marshall figures which are also highly sought after and very popular among collectors. Several true antique figures will also cross the block including 3 by Louis Grannat, a Brooklyn New York figure maker.

There are a number of figures that have solid provenance and a history of who performed with them. For example, one 1920’s Herbert Brighton figure named Ginger comes with the entire act of Jack Breezy, the ventriloquist who used Ginger, including his matching sailor suit, his scripts, makeup and even his mug and mirror all intact inside the original suitcase. There are also some unusual figures like Lolly the Frog made and used by Cecil Parkee in the 1950’s and the bird ventriloquist figure by Brian Hamilton who made exquisite figures but unfortunately passed away in his twenties. Another rare figure is the 1940’s James Tattersall figure. Tattersall was a famous ventriloquist in England in the 1940’s and 50’s who made his own figures but all of Tattersall’s figures have remained with the Tattersall family except for this one that he gave to his friend. This is the only one known to exist outside of the family collection and outside of the UK. There are also several more contemporary but no less extraordinary figures by today’s masters including Ray Guyll, Brant Gilmer and Bob Isaacson.

The auction will also feature a large selection of magic posters, magic tricks and magic books. Before Dan got into collecting ventriloquist figures he and his son Jason who is a professional magician collected magic. The magic collection includes a selection of rare posters and some unusual vintage illusions.

Crown Auctions LLC with 3 locations throughout New England including their newly built Seabrook facility where the auction will be held will conduct the auction in two sessions. Session 1 will be on Sunday September 27th and will feature over 100 ventriloquist figures and 100 lots of magic posters, magic books and related items. Session 2 will be on Sunday October 25th and will feature over 110 ventriloquist figures and 100 lots of magic tricks and magic related items. Live, phone, absentee and online bidding will be available for anyone wishing to participate.  “This is a once in a lifetime event for collectors of ventriloquism and magic and we are very excited to be able to participate,” stated Klia Ververidis Crisafulli, CEO and Senior Auctioneer. More information is available at or by calling 781-324-4400 and online bidding is available through invaluable, auctionzip and ebay.



Master Photographer Bela Kalman’s Works to Be Offered for the First Time at Auction

Medford, MA- Master photographer Bela Kalman’s (1921-2011), works as well as his extensive art photography collection will be offered at auction for the first time at Crown Auctions in Medford, MA. The esteemed Kalman was a fixture in the Boston commercial and art photography scene for decades and his studio on Newbury Street was a well known stop for anyone interested in the genre.

The Hungarian born Jewish photographer survived Hitler’s Europe and the oppressive regime that followed World War 2 and escaped to the United States in 1957. Once in the US he spent several years working for prominent photography firms in Chicago and New York before finally settling in his own firm Studio 350 on Newbury Street in Boston. During the first half of his career Kalman enjoyed success as a commercial photographer servicing companies such as Dunkin Donuts, Honeywell, Hood, Polaroid, Stride Rite, Houghton Mifflin and the Boston Ballet.

At the age of 62 he decided to change the focus of his work to creative and began to concentrate on photography as an art medium. Kalman went on to publish 4 art photography books including Indian Country, America’s Sacred Lands, (1987), with Tony Hillerman now in its third printing and The Third Eye, Bela Kalman, A Lifetime in Photography in 1994. His work is in the permanent collections of 24 museums and he exhibited widely in galleries and exhibitions throughout his career. In 1984, Kalman was given the title of Master in the Federation of International Artistic Photographers (MFIAP). The title is reserved for only 25 photographers at a time worldwide and once granted, the titles are held for life. At the time of his appointment he was the only American photographer to hold the title of Master of FIAP.

Kalman passed away in July of 2011 leaving behind a large body of work. This will be the first time a collection of his work will be offered at auction. The auction will also include Kalman’s personal art photography collection that includes works of other notable art photographers such as Walker Evans, William Clift and Gyorgi Kepes. “While cataloging the collection we were struck by the beauty captured in each image. Whether it was a portrait, a landscape or an abstract, each image was more captivating and personal as the next and by the time we were finished we felt like we had known Kalman for decades. A true artist.” states Klia Crisafulli, CEO of Crown Auctions. She went on to say, “Since this is the first time many of these photographs are available to the public at auction, it is a great opportunity to invest in a true piece of art.”

Crown Auctions was selected to conduct the auction because of their experience and expertise in first time to auction single artist collections. The auction will be held simultaneously live and online on three different platforms on Sunday April 26th at 1pm at Crown Auctions Headquarters located in Medford, MA. Online bidders can bid on, or on Absentee and phone bids are also available and a preview will be held on Saturday April 25th from noon to 3pm and on auction day from 11am until the auction begins or by appointment. More information is available at or by calling 781-324-4400.

Yehudi Wyner Test Runs an Antique Steinway at Crown Auctions Medford

One of the perks of working at the Crown Auctions gallery is one never knows who might stop by for a visit. On this particular day we were all in awe when Pulitzer Prize winner and Grammy Award nominee Yehudi Wyner stopped in to check out an antique Steinway piano. The spontaneous concert that ensued was amazing and we all felt privileged to hear him play!