Published: May 17, 2022
Review & Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy RSL Auction
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – On May 1, RSL Auctions presented the Alvin Goldstein Collection, a selection of 476 still and mechanical banks, of which less than 40 were from other sellers. More than 95 percent of the lots on offer found new homes and the event banked a total of nearly $550,000.
Shortly after the auction, the team decamped to Philadelphia to attend the mechanical and still bank collector’s annual convention but Antiques and The Arts Weekly managed to get Ray Haradin on the line, who said “rare banks in great condition did exceptionally well.”
Building banks were of particular interest to Goldstein, and RSL’s Leon Weiss characterized the collection as “very top drawer;” indeed, several figured among the highest prices of the day.
The top lot in the sale was both the cover lot as well as the last lot on offer, an American 1880 City Bank with majestic spread-wing eagle finial saw competition from five phone bidders. It soared well past its $5/7,000 estimate and finished with a comfortable lead at $39,000. The bank was distinguished by a few noteworthy features, including an extra window on the front panel, the words “City Bank” across the entire façade rather than stacked, and the smooth fenestrated treatment of the sides, which typically are solid and have a brick-like appearance. According to the catalog, the bank, which was massive in scale and stood 11½ inches tall, may be the only known example.
Of the City Bank, Haradin said “We knew there was a lot of interest. We thought it would trade in the high teens so it was very much a surprise when it sold for so much.”
A few mechanical banks from Goldstein were added to the mix, with strong results. Jumping into second place with a price of $25,200 was a Springing Cat lead bank, made by Charles Bailey of Connecticut in 1870. Bailey’s small production of highly detailed and ornamented lead banks rank highly with collectors; a condition described as “pristine and very bright” further warranted its $17,5/22,500 estimate.
Bailey designed the Germania Exchange mechanical bank in 1880 for the J&E Stevens Company, Cromwell, Conn., where he was the lead bank designer. It was made from lead, tin and cast iron elements and the catalog suggests the model ranks among his finest designs. Despite some condition issues – namely restored ends and a portion of the barrel being in-painted – the bank still exceeded expectations and tapped out at $10,800.
Rounding out the leaderboard at $22,800 was a 9-5/8-inch-tall Old South Church iron bank, 1875, that had the unusual feature of paper currency slots in the roof and a gold surface, which the catalog said may have been applied to just one of 20 banks. The model is illustrated in Cast Iron Building Banks and was in pristine condition. By way of comparison, another model of the same bank but lacking roof slots and painted white with a gray roof achieved just $3,900 against an estimate of $2,5/3,500.
At $11,400, a Kenton Hardware Company iron Woolworth Building bank soared well past its estimate. Made in Kenton, Ohio, in 1915, the 8-1/8-inch-tall bank had the extremely rare feature of a base and is one of perhaps just ten examples known. Cataloged as a superior and bright example, it was not surprising it outpaced its $5/7,000 estimate.
Kenton also made an iron World’s Fair Administration Building bank, in 1893. Not only did the one on offer carry the same $5/7,000 estimate as the Woolworth Building but it yielded the same $11,400 result. According to the catalog, the bank had been illustrated in Cast Iron Building Banks and had provenance to the Hubert Whiting collection. In “near mint plus condition,” it was also cataloged as “the finest known specimen” of the model and one which Donal P. Markey had tried for years to acquire from Goldstein.
Another extremely rare bank, and one of perhaps just two or three known examples, was a Hough Avenue Bank made in 1915 by an unattributed American maker. With provenance to the collection of Andy and Susan Moore, the 4-inch-tall example was in “pristine plus” condition and sold within estimate, for $10,800. The swing trap feature relates to that on the Pearl Street Bank that was likely made by the same unknown maker.
Another rarity that had provenance to the Andy and Susan Moore collection was a Kenton Hardware Co., High Rise iron bank, the large 7-inch-tall model, that was in brown and gold paint. Though RSL has sold other sizes of this bank previously, it was the first time the firm was selling the large model, which they described as “magnificent.” It brought $4,200.
The first lot of the day was the only bank in the sale by the Smith & Egge Manufacturing Company of Bridgeport, Conn. Made in 1875, the iron bank depicted portrait medallions of D.L. Moody and Ira D. Sanky. Moody was an American evangelist in the 1870s and 1880s and he founded several schools throughout New England and the Midwest. Sanky was a singer and the musical director for Moody’s evangelical campaign in the United States and England. Considered a highly superior example, and one of the finest known examples. Selling above estimate for $7,200, it got the day off to a strong start.
Most of the banks in the sale were made in the United States but other areas of manufacture were also represented. Two banks made in England in 1895 were each illustrated in Cast Iron Building Banks and both achieved $6,600. The first to cross the block was a 5¾-inch-tall Windmill bank that was one of just two known examples. Of similar rarity with just a few examples known was a Pagoda bank that stood 7¾ inches tall and had provenance to John Haley. Both were in pristine or pristine plus condition.
Purportedly the scarcest of all State Banks made was a State Bank with advertising, made in 1900 by Regent Mfg. Co., of Chicago for Alex Robinson Clothier of South Auburn, Neb. RSL was offering one of less than five known examples with varying advertising and it exceeded expectations, earning $3,240 against a $2/3,000 estimate.
RSL’s next sale has not yet been scheduled but will take place in the fall. For information, 908-823-4049 or www.rslauctionco.com.
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