Published: October 17, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by R. Scudder Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy RSL Auctions
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – Fall has arrived and with it comes football, storm windows, colorful trees, winter vacation plans and a toy and bank auction conducted by RSL Auction Company. A total of $820,000 was spent for 663 lots on Saturday, October 7, with 21 percent of sales going to the internet. Bidders were active, using every means of placing a bid, including 305 bidders registered to use the internet, 27 active phone bidders, 49 people left absentee bids to be used by the auctioneer, and 20 bidders in the gallery, with most of them taking home either toys or banks to add to their collection or inventory
As usual, Richard “Rick” Opfer was the auctioneer, maintaining a brisk pace of 120-130 lots per hour for certain sections of the auction, and at the same time maintaining a good sense of humor. At one point, while selling a spelter bank of a dog and doghouse, he mentioned that “I have been there a couple of times.”
A miniature State Bank got the show rolling, bringing $460, while the next lot, a Six-Sided Building by Grey Iron Casting Co., Pennsylvania, got $300. A Kyser & Rex State bank, 3½ inches tall, fine condition, sold for $120, while the Deposit Bank, with open windows, Kenton Hardware, brought for $144.
All prices included the buyer’s premium.
It is not often that one is able to bid on the three versions of the Log Cabin by Kyser & Rex of Philadelphia, but it was possible at this auction. Lot 7 was the Log Cabin with the chimney right, cast iron and pristine, that went for $270, the chimney center, very fine condition, made $360, while the chimney left version brought $168.
Seven out of the nine cast iron banks pictured on page 7 were by Kenton Hardware, Ohio, including the Penthouse Bank, circa 1920, that went for $660; the Flat Iron Building, smallest size, circa 1915, $420; the smallest High Rise Building, circa 1920, $168; and the Tiered High Rise, circa 1915, at $228.
The large Washington Monument, circa 1915, cast iron and in very fine condition, brought $420, over the $225 high estimate, while the Mosque Bank with Cupid Door, A.C. Williams, excellent-plus condition, circa 1910, also went over the $750 high estimate, selling for $900. Lot 62, the Aktiebolaget Bank, Swedish, circa 1920, went over the $650 high estimate, selling for $720. The bank is of brass, pristine, and the term “Aktiebolaget” means “limited company” in Swedish.
A fair number of the cupola bank were in the sale, all sizes, and popular ones were lot 93, the large version in brown and gray by J&E Stevens, circa 1875, cast iron and pristine, selling for $840, and lot 100, burgundy and gray, same description, but this time at $900.
The Palace bank, one of the grandest and most intricate building banks ever produced, was offered this time in a green and red surface, circa 1890, 7½ inches high and in fine condition. Cast iron and manufactured by Ives, Blakeslee Company of Bridgeport, Conn., it sold within estimate at $2,760.
Out of the nine tin banks pictured on page 17 of the catalog, four were the Gothic design and all by George Brown, Connecticut, dating circa 1875 and measuring 4¼ inches high. The colors, condition and prices advanced as the banks were offered, with lot 107, red with gold trim, very fine, going for only $24, followed by one in yellow with red trim and the word “Wealth” under the coin slot. Here the condition was excellent-plus and the final bid was $840. Shown bottom left in the catalog was lot 113, red with faded gold trim, a superior example with the stenciled words “Savings Bank” and from the Donal Markey Collection, pristine, that went for $1,320, and lower right was lot 115, red with gold decoration and trim, noted to be “one of the finest early American tin banks in existence.” Again, the Donal Markey Collection, near-mint condition, with a final bid of $1,800.
“We have never seen this bank before” read the catalog about lot 125, the Chalet Fleuri du Loiret, French, circa 1915, light blue with a touch of gold on the finial, roof and steps. Bidding for this brass bank in pristine condition opened at $1,200 and ended at $2,040, above the $1,500 high estimate.
It is not often that both sizes of the Old South Church still bank are offered in one sale, but that was the case on October 7. The small version, 9¾ inches high, circa 1870, has an old replaced tin back panel, but no cracks or repairs, cast iron, very fine condition. The provenance lists Walter P. Chrysler to William Werbell, and it brought $3,120, within estimate. The large version of Old South Church measures 13½ inches high, American, circa 1870s, cast iron and fine overall condition. This bank descended in the family of the original owner and was repainted in the period 1895-1905, and it now retains a crusty old surface. It sold for $14,400, under the low estimate.
The large size of Independence Hall by Enterprise Mfg Co., Philadelphia, is rare and generally painted entirely in gold. Lot 140 has gold buildings with red roofs and was mounted on a wooden base years ago. It is of cast iron with “Pat. Oct. 19, 1875” stenciled on reverse and is in excellent condition. It brought $4,800, within estimate.
The US Navy Safe Bank by Arcade, cast iron and in near pristine condition, sold for $390, within estimate, was among 14 safe lots offered. A few lots later, a World’s Fair Globe on Base, American, circa 1893, 5 inches high, cast iron, wood and paper and in excellent condition, went over the $900 high estimate, selling for $1,320. The globe is a very scarce bank made for the Columbian Exposition of 1893.
A selection of spelter banks started off with a Parakeet, 3½ inches high, German, circa 1920, very fine condition that realized $1,020, above the $900 high estimate, and Red Riding Hood standing in front of her house, with the wolf looking out of the window, German, circa 1925, pristine condition, went just over the high estimate at $510.
There were seven pages of animal still banks, a total of 63 banks, and a selection included a Seated Bulldog by Hubley, $144; Spitz by Grey Iron Casting Co., $300; Squirrel with Nut, Ober Mfg Co., $420; Honey Bear, maker unknown, $660; Elephant with Blanket, Kenton Hardware, $570; Professor Pug Frog by A.C. Williams, $450; Large Turkey, also by Williams, $168; Cat with Bow, seated, Grey Iron Casting Co., $390; Thrifty Pig, Hubley, $420, and lot 305, Billiken bank by A.C. Williams, mint condition and noted in the catalog as “one of the best and brightest examples that we have ever seen,” brought $420, above estimate.
The first section of mechanical banks, 48 lots, included Boy Stealing Watermelon by Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia, cast iron in overall good condition, going for $1,300, above the $900 high estimate, and Cat and Mouse Bank by J&E Stevens, Cromwell, Conn., circa 1891, very good condition, went slightly over the estimate, bringing $1,080. A very fine example of Uncle Sam, Shepard Hardware, Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1886, sold over estimate at $2,160, and Volunteer, an English bank by John Harper & Co., circa 1885, went over estimate at $1,320. Selling within estimate was a very good example of Initiating Bank 1st Degree by Mechanical Novelty Works, New Britain, Conn., at $3,480.
Motorcycles seem to be very popular among cast iron toy collectors and this auction offered one by Vindex Toy Co., Illinois, green painted with policeman driver, circa 1930 and in excellent condition. The catalog notes that “Vindex toys are scarce” and this one brought $2,280, within estimate. Dent Hardware Company, Fullerton, Penn., created “Lucky Boy” Airplane. The example here, orange/red body with green wings, 9 inches long with a 10-inch wingspan, cast iron and excellent plus condition, sold for $2,040, just under the high estimate. The catalog suggests that “there are probably only about 20 known examples.”
Close to 20 cast iron toys from the Richard and Lenore Weiss Collection of Antique Toys were offered, starting with the Hansom Cab, Pratt & Letchworth, Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1890, 13 inches long, excellent condition, that went for $1,920, over the $1,200 high estimate. It was followed by a Victoria Phaeton, Kenton Hardware, 17 inches long, one horse pulling a carriage with driver and one passenger, cast iron and very fine condition, that brought $2,760, over the $2,500 high estimate. The provenance lists James Maxwell to Weiss family. A Doctor’s Gig, Hull & Stafford Company, Meriden, Conn., circa 1876, tin and in very fine condition, sold for $4,200, within estimate. Richard and Lenore acquired this toy from Bernard Barenholtz.
A double Horse Tandem Gig, acquired by the Weiss family from Frank Diliberto, has two white horses pulling a two-wheel cart with driver and passenger, Wilkins hardware, that brought $4,200, over the $3,500 high estimate. Also selling for $4,200, within estimate, was a Back-to-Back Trap, Kenton Hardware, circa 1910, cast iron and pristine condition. This toy came to the Weiss Collection from the late Russ Harrington, and there are probably only a dozen known examples.
The always-popular Penny Toys included the Gyroscopic “flirt” Runabout by Hess Toys, Germany,1910, lithographed tin in pristine condition, for $720, over estimate, and Two-Man Flying Hollander, Charles Kellerman, Germany, 1920, lithographed tin, that went over the $750 high estimate, bringing $1,020.
Windup toys included “Popeye The Champ,” with box, by Louis Marx Co., New York, tin and celluloid and in excellent condition, that sold over the $1,000 high estimate for $1,440. Close behind was a Prussian Soldier Firing, German, circa 1915, 10¾ inches long, a hand painted tin and steel toy in superior condition. This toy works very well and sold within estimate for $1,560. It was followed by the Ostrich Trainer, a tin and steel hand painted German toy, that went $1,000 over the high estimate, selling for $4,500. It dates circa 1910, is in excellent condition, and works well.
There is always a folk art section in a RSL auction, and this time lots varied from a painted wood toy featuring Felix Riding on the Crescent Moon, probably French and in mint condition, circa 1930s, measuring 14 inches wide and 10½ inches tall, that went for $5,700, against the $1,250 high estimate. The catalog says, “Felix appears to harness the energy of the moon as he rides like a cosmic scooter.” Right after him, a copper and tin weathervane, banner shaped, American, circa 1910, 49½ inches wide, excellent condition, sold for $2,160, over estimate.
The only other weathervane in the auction was next, a lighthouse on arrow of sheet tin, copper and zinc, original surface, Cape Cod origin, circa 1840s, 28 inches long, that also went over estimate, bringing $3,120. This vane spent its early years on a garage in Truro on the Cape and the family removed it, circa 1990, to the safety of an enclosed porch.
The last section of the auction, 127 lots of mechanical banks, started with the Speaking Dog, another J&E Stevens bank, circa 1895, cast iron and excellent plus condition. It went over the $2,000 high estimate, bringing $3,120. A few lots later Trick Dog – Six Part Base, Shepard Hardware Company, circa 1888, cast iron and very fine condition, sold over the $1,000 high estimate for $1,560.
Hall’s Excelsior Bank was offered in three different color combinations, starting with red, white and blue, next by brown and gray, and lastly yellow and red, the best of the trio, that sold for $1,920, within estimate. The Excelsior was made by J&E Stevens, circa 1869, and when a chain is pulled the top of the bank opens revealing a small figure sitting at a table.
The high estimate of $2,000 was passed when the Gem Bank sold for $2,280. This mechanical by H.L. Judd Mfg Co., Wallingford, Conn., dates circa 1880, cast iron, is in near mint condition. The action is provided by a dog standing near a house. Deposit a coin on the tray in the dog’s mouth, lift the tail of the dog, and the spring action causes him to drop the coin in the house.
Canary in Birdcage by George Zimmerman Co., Germany, is of tin, colorfully painted, excellent condition, sold under the low estimate for $3,000. Another tin mechanical was the Tiger, a bank that brought $18,000 and was pictured in last week’s paper.
Two Magic Banks were offered, the first with a number of troubles that kept the bank from selling over $960, while the second one, fine paint in yellow and red, J&E Stevens, circa 1876, went for $5,280. This cast iron bank, with a cashier at the front of the bank who spins around when a coin is placed on his tray, leaving the coin inside the bank, is in near-mint condition and came from the Donal Markey Collection.
Selling just shy of the high estimate at $3,480 was the Dog Tray Bank by Kyser & Rex, circa 1880s, cast iron and sheet steel, and in excellent condition. The round grillwork portion of the bank is painted dark blue, with red top and bottom, and a white dog to deposit the money. Selling between the estimate at $10,200 was the Giant in Tower, an English bank by John Harper & Company, circa 1890s, cast iron and in pristine condition. According to the catalog, “This is one of the simplest, and yet most delightful, mechanical bank ever created.”
Another popular J&E Stevens mechanical bank is Panorama, this one in green and red, cast iron and in excellent condition, that went for $8,400, just about $1,000 over the high estimate. It was followed by Coin Registering Bank, Kyser & Rex, cast iron and pristine, circa 1890, that brought $8,400, over the $7,500 high estimate. The catalog notes that “this is the rarest building bank that Kyser & Rex produced.”
Selling for $6,300, just over the high estimate, was Lion Hunter, another mechanical by J&E Stevens, circa 1911, and in very fine condition. Calamity Bank, another Stevens creation, circa 1905, cast iron, was in very fine condition and just skimmed over the high estimate, selling for $9,000.
Rick dropped his hammer on an impressive mechanical, Ferris Wheel Bank, the last of the auction, selling it for $7,200, just under the high estimate. This converted fantasy creation was made by the Prendergast Bros, Philadelphia, circa 1930s, of cast iron and sheet steel.
The next auction by Cyber Toy Auctions will be on November 19. For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org. RSL Auctions next auction will be in the spring; for more information 908-823-4049 or www.rslauctionco.com.
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