Published: May 18, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy RSL Auction Co
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – Following RSL Auction Co’s May 8 sale, auctioneer Leon Weiss said at least 30 auction records for individual banks were broken as the day went on to produce $960,000 in total gross sales.
Weiss said he had about 14 consignors to the auction, with four of them producing a majority of the offerings.
“One consignor gave us ten objects, and nine of them sold for world records,” Weiss said. “He told us before the sale that he was hoping to get $9,000 and he’s going to get a check for $19,000.”
Topping the leaderboard was a $69,000 result for the King Aqua bank, likely produced in Austria circa 1890. “The King Aqua Bank references the strained economic and geopolitical relations that sprang up between Europe and Africa during the late Nineteenth Century” due to unwanted colonization, the auction house wrote. “The menacing presence of Europe is clearly represented by the rifle-toting Imperial marksman who takes aim at the defiant tribal leader, King Aqua.” Only four examples are known of the bank, Weiss said, and this was considered the second finest. The bank was discovered by John Haley and Gerhard Riegraf at an auction in Switzerland in the mid-1980s, before it was sold into the Steckbeck collection.
“It had good pedigree,” Weiss said of the Baby Elephant Unlocks at X O’Clock bank that sold for $51,000. It had provenance to the Ed Mosler collection and was in pristine condition. The bank was produced by Charles Bailey Cobalt who, before taking the reins of the design department at J&E Stevens, independently cast a small group of toy banks in lead, the elephant included.
An auction record fell for a large size, 6¾ inches tall, Boston State House by Smith & Egge, when it sold for $43,200. “We had never seen a Boston State House in that condition,” Weiss said, grading it pristine plus. It had its original coin trap and had provenance to the Donal Markey collection.
The firm had never seen a brass Four Story Mansion still bank that went on to take $4,800. The European example had a music box and measured 9½ inches high.
Selling for $24,000 was a J&E Stevens Cat and Mouse bank in the Aggressive Cat version, depicting a cat at top devouring the mouse. The firm called it the finest known example of this version. “It has long been suggested that this ferocious version of the Cat and Mouse Bank represents the original concept developed by the designers at the Stevens Company,” the firm wrote. “However, after testing the bank among local residents, it was discovered that children were frightened by the ‘mouse devouring’ cat. They returned to their design studio and transformed the original bank into an innocuous depiction of cat and mouse at play, sort of like Tom & Jerry.”
The sale also featured Americana, including a folk art collection from a couple that was buying in the 1950s alongside Hemphill, Barenholtz and Holland. Found there was a peacock weathervane by Jewell at $15,600. A tin milliner’s trade sign for the Practical Hatters Shop in Philadelphia, circa the 1880s, had provenance to the Andy Warhol collection and sold for $4,500.
RSL Auction Co will offer the mechanical and still bank, animated cap gun and tin toy collection of Paul Cole Jr on June 26. For information, 908-823-4049 or www.rslauctionco.com.
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