Published: March 28, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by R. Scudder Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy RSL Auctions
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – “You don’t have to question these banks” was the comment made by Rich Garthoeffner, well-known antiques dealer from Lititz, Penn., after he had eyeballed the glass cases that held the 410 lots of still and mechanical banks from the collection of the late Jim Rocheleau.
This auction, anticipated by bank collectors for many months, confirmed that still bank collecting is alive and well and that condition is the ruling factor. Steven Weiss, the “S” in RSL Auctions, said, “The uniformity of the quality in this sale is so high it is exciting to handle this sale and catalog the banks.” He added, “You have to strain your eyes through 410 lots to find any serious defects.”
A great admirer of this collection is Terry Farynk, a resident of Franklin, Mich., and a longtime friend of Jim Rocheleau. “I knew Jim since 1981, sponsored him for the Mechanical Bank Club, introduced him to Donal Markey and visited his collection many wonderful times,” Terry said. He noted that “there were many banks in the collection that I loved, but my favorite was Darktown Battery, a bank I tried to get for over 30 years.” Terry was seated in the front row for the auction and was successful buying 39 lots, including Darktown Battery. He left New Jersey, heading for Franklin, a very happy collector.
This shower of praise for the Rocheleau Collection is easy to back up. Take lot 120 (pictured), the Chanticleer by A.C. Williams, one of the finest of the ten or so known examples of this still bank. It was once in the Frank Kidd Collection, and it is now in another important collection. This bank set a world record, selling for $15,600, well above the $6,500 high estimate.
Just about at the end of the still bank offerings was a superior example of the Boston State House (pictured), small version, that retained the original trap and was in pristine-plus condition. It sold for an impressive $14,400.
Jim Rocheleau lived in Detroit and grew up collecting banks. Over the years he carefully groomed his collection, partly with the help of his mentors, Dr Greg Zemenick (Dr Z), Donal Markey and Ray Haradin. He collected rare and common banks, all the time with his eye on beautiful condition.
Jim shared his collection with many people and welcomed the bank club to his home in 2014. It was a great loss to the bank world when he passed away in April 2016, and his son Mike and daughter Jennifer decided to share his banks with collectors and selected RSL for the auction. His fine collection, built with love and an eye to perfection, is now spread worldwide.
Listed in superior and bright condition was Boy with Large Football, the figure in red uniform holding a white/silver large football over head, Hubley, circa 1914, that carried a $3,000 high estimate and sold for $4,500. Mary and Little Lamb in excellent-plus condition went just over the high estimate at $1,080, and the Dutch Boy, pristine-plus, had interest that took it over the $900 high estimate to $2,400, while the Dutch Girl sold within estimate at $660.
The small lamb, rarely found in pristine-plus condition, brought $960, a bit over twice the high estimate, and the Walking Bear was the target of a phone bidder and the net battle that was won by the phone for $1,920, above the $1,200 high estimate.
Serious bidding contests happened often during this sale, as was the case of the Songbird on Stump, an A.C. Williams product in pristine condition that carried a $450 high estimate. The final bid by a person in the gallery was $1,920. That same buyer got the next lot, Old Abe with Shield, for $1,140, again over estimate.
Selling just shy of the high estimate was the Sun Dial by Arcade Mfg Co., at $2,400, a large Battleship Oregon by J&E Stevens, circa 1895, brought $1,020, and the Alphabet Block, noted in the catalog as “one of the best examples that we have seen,” pristine condition, reached $3,600, within estimate.
Building banks, numbering 226 through lot 295, were again a parade of pristine and mint condition pieces, including the large Washington Monument by A.C. Williams, pristine, that more than doubled its high estimate, selling for $960. Among the painted buildings was lot 244, a medium Cupola Bank in white with red trim and yellow steps, ex Donal Markey collection, at $1,560, over estimate, and a State Bank with flat top, red and blue paint with yellow trim, Kyser & Rex, at $1,680, again over estimate.
The largest Flatiron Building (pictured) did well, as did the smallest Columbia Bank by Kenton Hardware, also pictured. Selling just a hair below high estimate at $3,480 was the large Crown Bank by J&E Stevens, red, white and blue; a Mosque bank in bright yellow with red highlights, Kenton Hardware, sold for $1,200, twice the high estimate, and the Crown with Tower, J&E Stevens, circa 1875, went over the $3,000 high estimate, bringing $4,500.
The collection of mechanical banks in the auction kicked in at lot 326 and finished at lot 404. After the sale, Leon Weiss said that of the 78 mechanical banks, 22 did exceedingly well and 25 did well. A sampling of the sales includes a Bank of Education and Economy by Proctor Raymond Co., Buffalo, N.Y., that brought $1,560, over estimate, and Uncle Tom with lapels and star, Kyser & Rex, excellent-plus condition, for $2,040, over the $1,500 high estimate.
Indian and Bear bank, white bear, J&E Stevens, sold over the $4,500 high estimate for $6,000; the Trick Dog bank, six-part base, pristine-plus, was just shy of the high estimate at $11,400; ‘Spise the Mule, Jockey Over, J&E Stevens, near mint and from the Donal Markey Collection, that sold within estimate for $2,920, and Reclining Chinaman, another by J&E Stevens, pristine, that came within $200 of the high estimate at $7,800.
The internet won the Boy Scout Camp, another Stevens creation, excellent-plus condition, for $9,600, over the $7,000 high estimate, and Punch and Judy, large letters, circa 1884, sold in the gallery for $3,000, the low estimate.
Selling for $4,800 in the auction room, exceeding the $3,000 high estimate, was lot 396, Leap Frog by Shepard Hardware; the same buyer bought Chief Big Moon, very fine condition, for $2,400, over estimate, and was right back two lots later, claiming the Two Frogs bank for $3,280, within estimate.
This first day auction started at noon and finished at 4:30 pm, and when Ray Haradin was asked for a comment on the sale, his smile widened and he said, “We are very happy with it.” He noted that the exceptional still banks often doubled or went even higher than the high estimate, adding, “The condition of even common banks outshined previous sales.”
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