Reader Leslie has given me numerous ideas for stories coming up – including this incredible find – and watch for her groovy house to be featured this Saturday. I didn’t know anything about these Baranger displays. This one is on eBay (and YouTube) for $5,500 – but reading all about it, is free! Thanks, Leslie!
For sale is a truly rare, desirable and very large Baranger Motion diamond jewelry store advertising display from 1947. This is motion #136, “Casey Jones”. This beautiful, wonderfully detailed moving display features an active steam locomotive and coal tender rolling down the tracks. Intended to catch your eye, and lure you into a diamond jewelry store with its hypnotic motion, this item has a dizzying array of actions: the large wheels turn with piston-action like a real steam locomotive, both the locomotive and coal tender bob up and down, and the engineer rings the bell with one hand, and occasionally pulls the steam whistle with the other, causing the “steam” to turn so you can see it! The fireman also lowers his oilcan to oil the wheel, both engineer and fireman turn their heads, and finally the furnace is lighted, and glows in the mica windows below the boiler between the wheels, simply fabulous! The smoke coming out of the smoke stack declares “You Will Always Be On The Right Track With One Of Our Beautiful Diamonds!”
The Baranger Studios produced these fabulous, whimsical electric moving displays for diamond jewelry store windows from 1937 until 1957. They were never sold, only leased on a monthly basis to jewelry stores around the country. Each month, a store would receive a new motion with a different theme, then return the old one to the factory in South Pasadena, California. The factory would then clean it, touch it up if necessary, and send it out to yet another store, which in turn sent its current display back to the factory, only to be sent out to yet another store. An ingenious business plan! The Baranger Studios had hundreds of accounts all over the country, and each month each one would receive a different display.
Over the course of about 20 years, with engineering, foundry, paint shop, and shipping facility all under one roof, the company produced 169 different styles including space themed motions, cowboy/western, musical, transportation, fairy tale, and others, but they only produced 30 units of each one. Each motion not only has a number and name, but each has a tag showing its number hyphenated with which number of 30 it is! However, today not all 30 of each motion have survived. When the company closed, motions still out in the field were offered for sale to the stores that had them. Barangers also dismantled many of them over the years for salvage, or to make other motions, so in many instances there are far fewer than 30 of certain motions, as is the case with this Casey Jones; 11 of the original 30 were destroyed for salvage, leaving only 19 Casey
Jones motions surviving worldwide! Of those 19, there may be even fewer that survive today. The word “rare” often gets over used or misused on eBay, but with only 19 Casey Jones motions in the world (and probably far fewer), this truly is a rare item!
The company stopped producing new motions in 1957, but continued to lease them to jewelers until they went out of business in 1977. I grew up, and still live in the same town right around the corner where the factory still stands, and have been involved with these wonderful displays since the company closed. These motion displays are a very esoteric collectible, and many folks don’t even know they exist, but the ones who do, collect with a fervor and zeal reserved only for the rarest and most coveted antiques and collectibles; some motions have brought as much as $20,000. and entry-level motions often start at a minimum of $6500.