Published: January 23, 2017
Review by R. Scudder Smith, Photos Courtesy Morphy Auctions
DENVER, PENN. — January 14 finally arrived, the date highly anticipated by collectors of both still and mechanical banks, when the Peter & Joanne Brown Foundation Collection went up for sale at Morphy Auctions. “We gave this collection a great deal of exposure prior to the sale date, showing it all in our gallery for several months for hands-on inspection,” Dan Morphy, president and founder of the auction company, said. “We also printed 1,000 catalogs, 212 pages with many full-page illustrations, and had them out to collectors weeks before the sale,” Dan added.
Bidding fell pretty much in line with today’s trends, with more than 1,200 people signed up to bid online through one of the three platforms available, seven people were on hand to take phone bids, the auctioneer was busy with absentee bids, and about 20 collectors made their way to the gallery. “We really did not expect a large gallery attendance because the collection was on view for inspection for an extra long time,” Dan noted.
The auction started promptly at 9 am, with Dan at the helm, and the first lot, Mammy and Child, a cast iron mechanical bank by Kyser & Rex, yellow dress version, sold to a phone bidder for $3,383, under the low estimate. All prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
Among the German tin mechanical banks was The Magie, 7 inches tall, in near mint condition that sold for $5,535, in the middle of the estimate. For this example a coin is placed on a tray, the lever is pressed, the magician covers the coin and it disappears when he raises the cover. A few lots later a Jolly “N” standing mechanical bank, cast aluminum and made in Austria circa 1920s, 12½ inches tall, excellent-near mint condition, brought $3,383, within estimate, while a wooden Cabin mechanical bank, 6½ inches tall, very good condition, brought $270, over the $200 high estimate.
Donald Duck is among the comic figures that have appeared in bank form, and the example here was tin, 5½ inches tall, made by Chien Co., US, circa 1930–40. It sold for $1,107, over the high estimate. Clever Dick, a dog, is featured on a tin mechanical bank made in Germany, 7¼ inches high, that went within estimate to a phone bidder for $554. In this case, a coin is placed on the dog’s nose and a lever is pushed, causing the coin to flip over Clever’s head and into the bank.
One of the popular cast iron mechanical banks is Dentist, 9½ inches long by J&E Stevens. This beautiful, near mint example that came out of the Griffith Collection sold for $27,675, at the high end of the estimate. A coin is placed into the left pocket of the dentist and then the lever at the dentist’s feet is pressed. The dentist will then extract the tooth and drops back to deposit the coin. At the same time, the patient falls back in his chair and throws up his arms. Another J&E Stevens mechanical bank, Two Frogs, in excellent condition, went over estimate, bringing $3,998. Several lots later Bulldog Savings, a cast iron mechanical bank by Blakeslee &Williams, excellent condition, sold over estimate at $3,998 to the internet.
Dreadnought, a cast iron still bank made in England, near mint condition, almost doubled the high estimate, selling for $1,353; the Bismark Pig by J&E Stevens, cast iron mechanical bank, with some repaint, went over high estimate, bringing $2,768; lot 159, the “US” cast iron mechanical bank by J&E Stevens, excellent plus condition, went just under the high estimate at $14,760, and an excellent example of Old South Church, cast iron still bank, 10 inches tall, went just over the low estimate, garnering $8,400.
Both the phones and the internet became very active when lot 168, an Indian Chief, was offered. This aluminum mechanical bank was made in England, 7 inches tall, near mint condition, showing an Indian with headdress and right hand extended to accept a coin. A lever causes the arm to lift and send the coin into the Indian’s mouth. The final bid of $7,380 was just under the high estimate. Following a few lots later was the Globe Savings Fund, a cast iron still bank by Kyser & Rex, near mint condition, that went to the internet for $4,305, over the high estimate.
The largest still building bank in the auction was lot 227, Canadian Traders, 10¼ inches long and nickeled overall with a japanned roof. It went for $960, just over estimate. A bid of $14,400, the middle of the estimate, took the John Hall Novelty Johnson’s cast iron mechanical bank, 8 inches tall. The patent for this bank was sold to J&E Stevens, which then created the novelty mechanical bank from this design. This is the book example for Dan Morphy’s Mechanical Banks.
A bidder in the gallery bought the Wheel of Fortune cast iron semi-mechanical bank, a rare bank in excellent condition, that sold for $6,000, exceeding the high $5,000 estimate, and the popular J&E Stevens cast iron Jumbo mechanical bank, on the original wheels, went for $2,768, besting the $2,000 high estimate. When a coin is dropped into the trap, it will cause the elephant to nod its head.
Another book example used by Dan Morphy for his mechanical bank book was the tin Alligator Hunt, 5 inches tall, excellent condition, that sold for $9,000, the high estimate. This bank depicts a cast lead native spearing and hitting the alligator with a club. Following a few lots later, and five hours into the sale, was the cast iron mechanical bank featuring Atlas, 8½ inches tall, excellent condition with only a minor piece of paper missing from the globe, that went over the $6,000 high estimate to $9,840. The manufacturer of this bank is unknown and it is operated by sliding the lever on top, inserting the coin and releasing the lever, allowing the globe to rotate.
A hard-to-find cast iron mechanical bank is lot 425, the Motor Bank by Kyser & Rex, 9 inches long and in excellent condition. It sold just under the high estimate for $9,225 and to operate, wind the car with a key and insert a coin into the slot. The car will then move forward, making bells chime. The last bank of the day, Magic Bank manufactured by John Hugo Company, New Haven, Conn., was in excellent condition and far exceeded the $150 high estimate, finishing at $2,768.
On January 28–29, the Barry Goldfarb Collection of Coin-Op and Gambling, 1,758 lots, will be sold in Las Vegas, and Automobilia & Petroliana will be offered on February 12 in Denver, Penn. For more information, call 877-968-8880 or www.morphyauctions.com.
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