Published: June 19, 2018
Review by R. Scudder Smith, Photos Courtesy RSL Auctions
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – When an aggressive collector started gathering banks, folk art and toys in the late 1970s, he arrived at the inevitable situation where his house is bulging at the seams. This is the case for Dr Gregory Alan Zemenick, better known as Dr Z, who is moving with his wife Bernadette to a location nearer their grandchildren.
RSL Auctions came to the rescue, and over the June 2-3 weekend conducted two auctions, including a mix of things on Saturday that brought $229,248, including the buyer’s premium, review following. A small selection of iron pieces and a still bank collection were sold on Sunday, reviewed last week.
On Saturday, October 27, RSL will sell mechanical banks, more folk art and toys from the Dr Z collection.
Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky Banks made by Sandman Design, circa 2000, aluminum and in mint condition, were hammered down by Rick Opfer, auctioneer, for $330, above estimate. Other not-so-old banks followed, including the well-known Uncle Sam mechanical bank by Ohio Foundry Co, Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1940s, pristine cast iron, for $840, over estimate, and Bank on Uncle Sam, Charles Reynolds Toys, Fairfax, Va., was near mint, aluminum, and sold for $960, double the high estimate. This bank was made for the MBCA convention in 2002, Providence, R.I.
Four banks were by George Ohr, Biloxi, Miss., all pottery in various shapes, including “Shell Out,” circa 1898, which brought $660, just over estimate, followed by a pear-shaped satchel at $420, an apple-shaped satchel for $360, and a pear-shaped baby bird, illustrated, for $1,680.
In excellent and bright condition was the Caisse with Napoleonic finial, French, circa 1895, that brought $570, over estimate. The catalog notes that “we have not seen this exact bank before.” From a selection of spelter banks, Dog with Spiked Helmet, Germany, circa 1920, pristine condition, brought within estimate at $2,640.
Two lots later, another spelter bank, Dog with Bandaged Paw, also Germany and of the same period, fine condition, brought $216 from an internet buyer.
Among the folk art objects was “Naughty” Ballerina, marked “Nema,” probably Austrian, circa 1920, and measuring 7¾ inches tall, went over high estimate, selling for $1,080. This piece was of brass in excellent condition. Strong interest was shown for a cast iron and tin lighter, “Smoke Geo. W. Childs Cigars,” made by Harburger Homan & Co, New York City, and dated 1877. It measures 14 inches high, excellent condition, and sold for $2,520, above the $750 high estimate. Two lots later, a coin-operated match dispenser, American, circa 1890s, 14 inches high, brought $1,020 – twice the high estimate. This piece, cast iron and tin, was in excellent condition.
Eight hand presses were offered in various shapes, including a beaver, eagle and two hand-shaped presses, both American and dating circa 1880s. One of the hand-shaped presses was in excellent condition, cast iron with a fantastic paint decoration, and went almost three times the high estimate, bringing $1,320 from an internet buyer.
A selection of six padlocks followed, with the most popular one featuring a werewolf by Trenton Lock & Hardware Co, Trenton, N.J., circa 1880. Cast iron and in very fine condition, it sold better than twice the estimate of $1,440.
Lot 338, Cow on Platform, George W. Brown Co, Forestville, Conn., circa 1870s, 4 ¼ feet long, sold for $1,020, over estimate. This toy was in excellent plus condition and made of tin. A tin Rocking Horse Bell Toy by James Fallows, Philadelphia, went over the $1,500 high estimate with a final bid of $2,640. It dates circa 1885, measures 7 inches long and is in pristine condition.
Tin boats are always popular items, such as the Steamship Great Western, possibly made by Francis, Field & Francis of Philadelphia, circa 1860. This toy measures 19 inches long, very fine condition, and sold for the high estimate, $4,500. The Great Western was the first steamship built for the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, and her maiden voyage was on April 8, 1838. She traveled between Bristol, England, and New York City and was in service from 1838 to 1846.
Lot 363, a Four-Wheeled Articulated Horse by Ives, Blakeslee Company, Bridgeport, Conn., opened at $2,600 and ended at $4,800, above estimate. This is one of the most iconic and graphic toys produced in the Nineteenth Century, and this cast iron example, 10 inches high, was in pristine condition. A selection of bell toys followed, including Monkey in Chariot by Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia, that surpassed the $6,500 estimate, selling for $8,400. This toy dates circa 1880s, 6¼ inches long, cast iron and near mint condition, causing the catalog to note that this is “one of the best examples we have seen.”
The Swan Chariot pattern, one of only a handful of these patterns to exist, is by J&E Stevens, Cromwell, Conn., circa 1880s, measuring 10½ inches long. In pristine condition and of brass, it brought $2,280. The Old Dutch Cleanser pull toy by Hubley Manufacturing Co, Lancaster, Penn., sold for $2,040. This cast iron toy was in pristine condition, even though it was missing two rubber tires. Wilkins Hardware of Keene, N.H., a firm that produced toys for only about ten to 15 years, made a Hook & Ladder, 20 inches long, horse drawn, cast iron and in pristine condition. This circa 1890s toy sold within estimate for $2,520. Selling above estimate and offered a few lots later was the Surrey with Woman Driver by Pratt & Letchworth, Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1890. This toy is of sheet steel/cast iron and measures 17 inches long.
The last few cast iron animal-drawn toys included The Brownie Sleigh, Kenton Hardware, that sold within estimate for $7,200. This toy dates 1900, 17 inches long, and is in near mint condition. This is probably the rarest of the Kenton Comic toy series, and there are about six to eight known examples.
Fire pumpers were the two final cast iron lots. Lot 386, a Clockwork Fire Pumper with the original box, Ives, Blakeslee Company, circa 1890s, in near mint condition, sold just under high estimate at $5,700. This toy measures 19 inches long and is perhaps only one of 50 examples made with a mechanism. Selling to an absentee bidder for $4,800, over estimate, was the popular Clockwork Fire House, also by Ives, Blakeslee Company. These firehouse toys, circa 1890, are scarce, and even rarer when accompanied by the correct Ives miniature pumper.
A Saloon Gambling Device, American, circa 1890s, of very fine condition, cast iron and wood, was offered among other folk art objects and brought $1,920, almost four times the high estimate. This particular instrument is a countertop piece that plays poker when nickels are deposited. The only weathervane in the auction was a Fiske rooster, New York City, 26 inches high, with a crusty painted surface over copper. It surpassed the high estimate, selling for $3,360.
A Pure Milk wagon, painted red and pulled by a white horse, was made by Hull & Stafford, Conn., circa 1880, and almost doubled the high estimate when it sold for $2,280 to an internet buyer. It was in fine condition, tin, measuring 14 inches long. A Duke Floor Train by James Fallows, Philadelphia, matched the high estimate, selling for $1,800. This tin train engine pulls two passenger cars and one coal car and measures 35 inches long.
Towards the end of the sale, several more boats were offered, including a Fidele Clockwork Paddlewheel Boat by Adolph Bergmann, New York City, circa 1880, and made of tin and iron. This boat is quite scarce, with a pair of rear wheels, and it sold at estimate for $2,520. The last tin toy in the sale was the Colossus Fire Pumper by Adolph Bergmann, circa 1885, 22 inches long, which sold over estimate at $5,100.
McGintry Bones/Skeleton Dancer by Ives, Blakeslee Company, circa 1885, 11 inches high, helped close out the auction by doing a routine standing on his box/platform. He is of wood, tin, papier mache and wire, in pristine condition, and the catalog notes that this figure is the rarest of all jiggling toys. It brought $2,400, below estimate.
As already noted, more of the collection of Dr Z will be offered at RSL Auctions on October 27, so mark your calendar.
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