Published: March 27, 2018
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy RSL Auction Co.
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – A quality mix of banks, toys and folk art graced the RSL Auction Company’s 686-lot March 17 sale that offered the single-owner collection of Kirk Addis. According to RSL, Addis formed the collection with his mother and father from 1985 to 2010, focusing largely on mechanical and still banks. The cumulative sales total reached $525,000, including the buyer’s premium, with a 97 percent sell-through rate. Online sales represented 20 percent of the total, with 275 bidders registered and 85 of them coming away as successful buyers. The house sat 27 people in the audience and a further 66 absentee or phone bidders.
Reached after the auction, Steven Weiss, the “S” in RSL, was pleased with the sale as he jumped from category to category, listing off the lots that stuck out in his mind. “Overall, it did well,” he said.
At the top of the sale was an Initiating Bank-First Degree, which brought the low estimate at $18,000. The auction house cataloged it as a superior example in excellent-plus condition. The cast iron mechanical bank was made circa 1895 by Mechanical Novelty Works, a New Britain, Conn., firm. Indicative of the role that goats once played in initiation rites, the bank’s mechanism propelled a goat forward into a boy’s behind, where the coin in his hand would then fall into a frog’s open mouth.
Coming in at $12,000 was a 10-inch-tall clockwork mechanism banjo player toy made by Jerome Secor of Bridgeport, Conn. Secor was an entrepreneurial inventor who made himself a wealthy man at a young age in the Nineteenth Century by manufacturing sewing machines of his own design. His business, the Secor Sewing Machine Co., was located in East Bridgeport and his home residence, as fate would have it, would be in one half of a double residence, the other half owned by prominent toy manufacturer Edward Ives. Along with his sewing machines, Secor began to create singing bird automatons and would show them at exhibitions, including the Universal Exhibition at Vienna in 1873. Around 1876, Secor closed his manufacturing plant and would begin producing toys two years later in 1878. The banjo player in this sale would strum the instrument, keep time with his foot and sway his head and shoulders.
“There are maybe 20 of them known,” Weiss said. “Secor’s toys were very expensive in their day, retailing for $5 or more in the 1870s.” Adjusted for inflation, it would make the toys worth around $120 today, relegating them to the adult market.
Mechanical Banks held the title as the best earning category of the sale, claiming half of the top ten lots. Selling for $10,800 was a White Hen and Chicks bank, manufactured by J&E Stevens Co., circa 1901. The paint on it was judged “pristine.” Following up behind was a Giant Standing bank, which the auction house presumes to be one of fewer than 20 in existence. The Giant Standing bank is the most rare of any manufactured by H.L. Judd Mfg Co., and it brought $10,500, squarely within its estimate. The Merry Go Round bank by Kyser & Rex Co., circa 1889, sold for $8,160 and was in overall very good condition. From the same maker, finishing at $5,100, was an Uncle Remus cast iron bank in excellent condition, only some minor repaint along the fence.
Cast iron still banks were also on offer and produced some notable results. At the head was a circa 1905 Santa with Pack Safe, manufactured by Chicago firm J.M. Harper, which brought $8,400 after a bidding war among three phone bidders and four absentee bids. One of the most desirable Harper banks, RSL said it was the best condition specimen that it had ever sold. A Rocking Chair bank by Ives, Blakeslee Co., Bridgeport, sold for $3,360. It featured an unpainted, open work cage with hearts and circles. At $2,640, a Kenton Hardware blue and gold Statue of Liberty bank, in excellent condition, sold over high estimate. Weiss listed it among his favorite still banks in the sale. Another scarce bank by J.M. Harper, a Basket of Corn, circa 1905, went out at $2,160.
Though they may not have finished in the top, there were a number of other notable still banks sold, including a Hubley Indian with Tomahawk, circa 1920, that brought $510. A J&E Stevens Trust Bank, featuring a portly banker sitting with a green vest under his black overcoat, sold for $1,560. A spelter Sailor Bull Dog with Pipe bank caught a buyer at $1,200, above its high estimate. Fewer than ten examples are known of the I Made St Louis Famous Donkey, and RSL listed the one in this sale as the best condition example it had ever handled. Made by J.M. Harper, it took $1,200. A cast iron US Navy Zeppelin still bank by A.C. Williams floated to $420, double its high estimate. Finally, a Hubley Baseball on Three Bats, with a silver ball and red painted bats, circa 1914, sold for $1,080.
Folk art and Americana also had their place in the Addis collection. A circa 1895 carved gilt pilot eagle with detailed feathers and a 29-inch wing span was the top lot of the category, finishing at its $3,000 high estimate. An Iroquois Indian chief whirligig in orange and black paint, circa 1910 and measuring 15 inches high, brought $1,980. A gilt wall-mounted horse head, carved like a hunting trophy and likely a trade sign for a saddler shop, made $1,800. Finally, a cast iron eagle flagpole topper, measuring 19 inches tall, with a primitive, sculpted eagle atop, realized $1,140.
There was no shortage of good toys in the sale, with American and European examples commanding strong results. Finishing at $10,200, an Ives, Blakeslee Co., clockwork Seesaw with Boy and Girl, circa 1875, was the top lot in the category behind Secor’s banjo player. It was made of tin, wood, brass and fabric, and was cataloged as pristine condition. Made by the George Brown Company, a Giant passenger train went out at $5,520. In all original condition, RSL called it the “Granddaddy of American tin floor trains.”
Finishing between the estimates at $5,040 was a circa 1880 tin carousel by New York City maker Althof Bergmann. At $4,500, one bidder got a good buy on a live steam America ocean liner by Gebruder Marklin. The circa 1915 example was made of tin and measured 18 inches in length.
“The German painted tin toys did unbelievably well,” Weiss said, as many of them surpassed their high estimates.
A Mr Elephant with Cane, made by Guntermann circa 1915, went for $2,880, well exceeding the $900 high estimate. Two other toys, both also likely made by Guntermann, also went past their high estimates, with Men on High Wheel Bicycles finishing at $2,880 and Cats Playing with Ball selling for $2,520 over a $900 high estimate.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
The firm’s next sale will be held June 2-3 and will feature the mechanical bank collection of Thomas Sage Sr and the still bank collection of Dr and Mrs Gregory Zemenick. For more information, www.rslauctionco.com or 908-823-4049.
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