Published: September 2, 2015
VINELAND, N.J. — In California, the term “private reserve” usually refers to wine of particularly high quality — often a type that has aged over a long period of time. It also describes to a “T” the Clive Devenish bank collection, whose contents have “aged” serenely for decades in their owner’s various California homes. Undoubtedly one of the all-time great bank collections, it also stands out as being one of the least publicized, known to few in the hobby. That will change on Saturday, October 3, when Bertoia’s presents at auction Part I of the Clive Devenish collection of mechanical, still, tin and spelter banks. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet.
“Clive’s banks are going to astound collectors, not only because of their rarity and fabulous condition but also their provenance,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “Clive was able to buy banks from the heirs of several important early collectors, including Ferdinand Wieder, Leon Cameto and Hall Henry. He also has banks that were formerly in the Stan Sax, Edwin Mosler, Bill Norman and Stephen and Marilyn Steckbeck collections.” Bertoia said some of the banks were initially added to collections in the 1930s and only changed hands twice over the next 85 years.
Devenish also bought through his own local network of bank enthusiasts. He recalled: “I knew other collectors around California during the 1980s, and consequently I was able to purchase several collections, including those of Charles Klappert from La Jolla, in 1986; and Morley Golden from San Diego, in 1987. Golden’s collection already had a pedigree, since it included many banks purchased from Hubert Whiting of Rancho Bernardo.”
Apportioned into 175 lots, Bertoia’s single-owner sale of the Devenish collection will open with mechanical banks, which comprise 85 to 90 percent of the session’s entries. A premier mechanical is the Kyser & Rex Roller Skating Bank, ex Steckbeck collection, which Bertoia describes as “a gem” ($150/175,000).
Several banks are accompanied by their coveted original boxes: a Chief Big Moon (“so bright you need sunglasses”), a Mason bank, a Shepard red-version Speaking Dog, and a yellow, flanged-base version of a Horse Race bank, ex Bill Norman collection.
Numerous other banks fall into the pristine to near-mint category, among them a Springing Cat described by Bertoia as the best one he has ever seen, and exquisite examples of Leap Frog, Bread Winners, Picture Gallery and John Bull banks.
“Collections of this magnitude are much easier to vet because there are far fewer problems. In the Devenish collection, even the more common banks become ‘rare’ because of their age-defying condition,” Bertoia said. “Those who know Clive have always thought of him as a well-respected, well-liked dealer. Few realized he had a private collection, much less a collection of such incredible quality, but over the years he methodically kept the banks he thought were great and just kept on upgrading.”
Many of the still banks in the collection came to Devenish through Donal Markey, which, in itself, speaks volumes about their condition. There are both large and small painted Camels, as well as several Mammies and a Mulligan Cop, all in immaculate condition. The Battleship Oregon is brilliant white and gorgeous, in contrast to some other Battleship banks that have incurred metal breakage. Another top entry is the Mascot bank depicting a baseball player standing on a baseball. The player’s socks still display original red paint, which is quite unusual, Bertoia said.
The selection of German spelter banks — a fast-rising auction category over the last few years — includes a Standing Bear, a Rabbit with long ears, and several dogs in different poses.
There are many amusing lithographed tin banks, including semi-mechanical vending types. Leading the assemblage are: Clown and Dog, Clever Dick, and Saluting Sailor. Vending or semi-mechanicals of note include British-made rarities known as “African,” “Lion” and “Clown.”
Bertoia’s will present the Devenish collection in two separate sales, with the second auction slated for spring.
Bertoia Auctions’ gallery is at 2141 DeMarco Drive. For more information, 856-692-1881 or www.bertoiaauctions.com.
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