Published: November 6, 2018
Review by R. Scudder Smith
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – “The sale did extremely well, exceeding our expectations by ten percent,” Leon Weiss said, adding that “we set about 12 to 15 world records.” He named several lots that took the lead, including a hippo still bank with nickel surface, a Bad Accident mechanical bank with pristine-plus paint, a rare dime safe, a US Bank and a bronze artillery.
At the end of the day, the sale totaled $927,615, and the web accounted for ten percent of the gross, phone bidders accounted for 23 percent, 32 percent went to absentee buyers, and those present in the gallery spent 35 percent.
At the stroke of 10 am, Rick Opfer sprang into action announcing that two breaks would occur during the auction, one for lunch and the other for stretching, etc. He then got things rolling by offering lot one, Green Dressed Mammy, a tin figure in excellent-plus condition that sold for $156. That kicked off the sale with 677 lots that RSL Auction Co had pulled together, including American and European tin toys, Dr Z’s mechanical bank collection, a selection of still banks, 89 safe banks and American cast iron toys.
Following a few lots after Mammy was Hey-Hey the Chicken Snatcher, a toy made by Louis Marx Co, New York City, circa 1930s. The tin figures were in pristine condition, boxed and sold for $1,200, over estimate.
Lot 18, an Amusement Park Ride of two see-sawing cars, Germany, circa early 1910s, went over the $950 highest estimate, selling for $1,020. Masuyama Rickshaw, made by Ernst Paul Lehmann, Germany, circa 1910s, brought $1,140, over the $750 high estimate. An always popular toy is the Merry Makers Backsplash with the original box, tin and pristine, which sold for $1,920, almost twice the high estimate. This toy was made by Louis Marx & Co, New York City, 1920s, and the catalog listed it as “one of the finest examples that we have ever seen.”
The Cock Fight made by Ives, Blakeslee Company, Bridgeport, Conn., 1885, 7½ inches wide, is of wood, fabric and paper and in very fine condition. It sold just under estimate for $4,500. A few lots later, the American and European tin toys section came to a close with the offering of the Juggler, another Ives, Blakeslee toy made in 1880. According to the catalog, “Its impressive 16-inch height, along with its complex movements, makes it one of the truly great toys of that era. The finest of only three known examples.” It is of wood, lead and silk, excellent-plus condition, and it went for $19,200, which was within estimate.
Doctor Gregory Alan Zemenick, Dr Z for short, is no stranger to both mechanical and still bank collectors. He has been at it since the early 1980s, and this past June, he sold his still banks with RSL, and the mechanicals went to eager buyers October 27.
The sale of the collection started with the Darktown Battery Bank and ended 169 lots later with a brass pattern for Paddy and the Pig, a popular mechanical bank.
A bid of $3,000 took a Frog on Rock, a rare variation with the original box, by Kilgore Manufacturing Co, Westerville, Ohio. It was in pristine-plus condition, and the frog’s webbed feet are larger than other frogs of the same design. The catalog notes that the Merry-Go-Round Bank, in terms of its design, has everything going for it. It is by Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia, circa 1888, and in excellent condition. It sold for $18,000.
A bright yellow-painted Magic Bank by J&E Stevens, Cromwell, Conn., in pristine-plus condition, sold over estimate for $6,000 and was followed by a novelty bank in patriotic colors, also by Stevens, that went well over the $6,000 high estimate, selling for $9,000.
A bid of $9,000, slightly over the high estimate, was paid for Professor Pug Frog’s Great Bicycle Feat, J&E Stevens Co, circa 1888. This bank is in excellent condition and was a favorite with collectors because of its vivid color and action. Professor Pug was followed by the Circus Bank, Shepard Hardware Co, Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1880s. This bank is in excellent-plus condition and sold over estimate at $12,000.
The Confectionary Bank by Kyser & Rex Co was made circa 1880s and proved to be very popular among bank buyers. To operate the bank, put a penny in the slide and push the lever forward. The shop lady will turn to fetch you a candy from a drawer. This example, in excellent-plus condition, sold for $11,400, within estimate. Several lots later, Hold The Fort – Five Holes, manufacturer unknown, circa 1877, sold for $2,700, just over the high estimate. The bank references the confrontation between the North and South at the battle of Fort Sumter.
Thrifty Tom’s Jigger Bank by Ferdinand Strauss, New York City, circa 1920, was in excellent-plus condition and sold over estimate at $1,200. Several lots later, Man Watering in His Garden, a bank made by Gebruger Bing, Nuremburg, Germany, sold over high estimate for $4,200.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon when lot 344, Peg Leg Beggar – Rare Black Face was offered. This bank was made by H.L. Judd Co, Wallingford, Conn., circa 1880s. Following the Civil War, injured and maimed soldiers could be seen on every street corner across America. The Peg Leg Bank underscores the need to give alms to all beggars. This bank is in pristine-plus condition, ex Griffith collection, and brought $8,400, just above the high estimate.
William Tell was selected to end the offering of mechanical banks from Dr Z’s collection. This final bank was made by J&E Stevens Co and is near mint and bright. It is one of the finest examples known to exist. In all his glory, William sold for $6,000, the high estimate.
Fifteen doorstops were sold prior to the still bank collection, with Three Geese by Hubley, Lancaster, Penn., 1930s, cast iron, bringing $840, just over double the high estimate. It is in excellent-plus condition and was the most popular doorstop by far. Two lots later, the Penguin With Top Hat, again Hubley, 10½ inches high, brought $270, the low estimate.
The Arcade Manufacturing of Freeport, Ill., made half of the still banks illustrated on page 117, including the Rhino, in excellent condition, for $270; the Possum, in excellent condition, for $510; and a small blue donkey, near mint condition, for $156. A few pages later, nine bubble banks were offered, the most popular being You Can Bank on America, 1930s, glass and wood, in excellent-plus condition, which went for $600.
An Oriental Camel by Kyser & Rex, 1890s, in excellent and bright condition, went over the high estimate, selling for $1,320, and a Yellow Cab Limousine by Arcade Manufacturing Co, cast iron, in excellent condition, sold over estimate for $1,560.
A selection of 89 safe banks was put on the block towards the end of the auction, with a Security Safe in pristine condition bringing $132. The Puzzle Try Me safe, possibly made by Smith & Egge, American, 1868, 2½ inches tall, brought $780, above estimate. Lot 584, Keylock Safe No. 50, with advertising, J&E Stevens Co, sold for $1,320, over estimate. The back panel of this safe carries advertising for “J.S. Round & Co Jewelers, Boston, Worcester, Hartford and Portland.” It was followed by the American Bank, large version, Arcade Manufacturing Co, 1915, pristine condition, which sold for $1,440, within estimate.
The Hexagon Door Safe with Grill by Klotz Manufacturing Co, American, 1895, sold within estimate for $660. It is in pristine condition and is an all cast iron version with keylock trap. The next to last bank offered was the Bank of England by Kyser & Rex, and it is in excellent condition. This example is one of the scarcest of the Kyser & Rex-produced safe banks, and it sold for $1,050, within estimate.
Building banks of all shapes and sizes were the last category of the auction and included the Pavilion Bank, in very fine condition with blue and yellow paint. It sold for $480. A John Brown Fort bank, circa 1890, in fine condition went for $660, followed by an Oriental Bank by Kyser & Rex, pristine, for $570. The Marietta Silo, circa 1920, very fine condition, sold for $180, and a Home Bank with dormer windows, J&E Stevens Co, multicolor, went for $3,240. City Bank with Chimney, large-scale and multicolor, retaining its original butterfly trap, sold over estimate for $1,680.
The auction schedule for RSL includes a Cyber Toy Auction, date to be announced, and another bank auction on March 23. For more information, call 908-823-4049 or www.rslauctionco.com.
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