Finally, a golden opportunity to pick up that vintage operating table, adjustable and on wheels, that you've always wanted. It's locally manufactured by Denyer of Melbourne and would make a great conversation piece at dinner parties. Yours for $500 to $750.
To complement it, how about a stainless steel mortuary specimen bucket, along with the information that this was last used to hold the kidneys of a Mr McNabb? Just $50 to $100. These are two of some 291 lots listed at the Leski sale of medical, dental and pharmaceutical memorabilia, to be held in Melbourne next Wednesday. Much of it was sourced from the decommissioned medical museum at Kryal Castle, near Ballarat.
Other items of note are the two vintage dentist chairs (estimates $300 to $500) one with a bonus foot-pedal powered dental drill that those of us over the age of 50 will remember with dread.
There are a couple of wheelchairs, one from the 1920s operated by a hand control, as often seen in period dramas ($300 to $500). Charles Leski predicts that film and television props departments should be there in force. They should also be interested in a range of vintage nurse's uniforms. There's enough here to recreate a hospital surgery in the decade of their choice.
Interior designers are likely to be interested in a couple of operating theatre lights, now featured in groovy apartment makeovers. The largest, of massive proportions, is in the $300 to $500 range, a smaller one from a dental operating theatre is $50 to $100. Overall the estimates appear to be low, guesstimates in some cases, as who would know what a pre-loved baby incubator is worth these days. Leski suggests $100 to $200.
A few are highly-priced, such as the stainless steel autopsy bench top ($750 to $1500). They must know there's a market for these among all those fans of surgical procedure TV shows. Another big ticket item is an iron lung with motor-driven bellows ($500 to $750) made by Boath Equipment Co. of Adelaide and Sydney.
Some readers may be wondering why but there's a surprising number of people fascinated by this technology, including those working as medical professionals. Pharmacists in particular like to decorate their shops with vintage apothecary bottles, and there's a wide selection here.
Then there are many who collect the bizarre, as shown in February by the Harry Houdini magic sale at Lawsons in Sydney. Some of the prices achieved were staggering. Lovers of the bizarre should be the ones most interested in lot 74, an electric shock therapy machine with estimates of $300 to $500.
There are also two human skeletons, used as demonstration models for training purposes. The estimates of $100 to $200 should be exceeded.
One notable collector is Dr John Fluit, a GP from Newcastle, who readers may remember from his 2007 appearance on the ABC TV Collectors series when he brought in one of his prized possessions, a 19th-century hand-operated surgical chainsaw. Prices for such instruments have been steadily increasing over the past 10 to 20 years, especially in Europe.
Hospitals also collect their own medical history. The Alfred in Melbourne and Sydney's Royal North Shore both have significant collections, as does a group known as SPASM (the Society for Preservation of the Artefacts of Surgery and Medicine) with about 7000 objects and documents displayed in a museum in the old Gladesville Hospital site in Sydney. This group is endorsed as a charitable entity by the ATO so your donation of a vintage operating table should be tax deductible.
The Leski Auction sale of medical, dental and pharmaceutical memorabilia is on Wednesday, May 8 at 13 Cato Street, Hawthorn East, Melbourne. Inspection days are Sunday to Wednesday. For a gallery of some of the items in the auction, go to theage.com.au/money.