Published: December 15, 2015
Review by R. Scudder Smith
Photos Courtesy RSL Auction Company
WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — “We had some great building banks and mechanicals, and they all did well, as did the collection of penny toys with a couple of them setting auction records,” Leon Weiss, the “L” in RSL Auction Company, said a couple of days following the December 5 sale. Under the hammer wielded by Richard Opfer, the 671 lots brought a total of $626,000, including the buyer’s premium. All prices noted in the review include the buyer’s premium.
Prior to the 10 am start of the auction, 209 people had signed up to bid online, with 136 of them successful in buying at least one lot. In addition, seven phones were in action servicing 22 actual buyers, 54 people left winning absentee bids, and about 17 people were in the gallery overall.
The selection of cast iron still banks began with three US Mail banks, two in green paint, the third painted black, all with eagle design on front, that sold under estimate for $132. A few lots later, a Templetone Radio sold over estimate at $570. The Burglar Proof Safe by J&E Stevens, Cromwell, Conn., near mint plus condition, went over the $350 high estimate, selling for $840, and Billy Possum, aka Possum & Taters, by J.M. Harper, Chicago, circa 1909, went within estimate at $3,600.
The Mascot bank by Hubley, featuring a young baseball player standing on a hardball, pristine condition, Mike Henry provenance, went over estimate with a $4,200 bid. The large multicolored camel, A.C. Williams, circa 1920, sold over estimate at $1,320. Two lots previously, the small multicolored camel, same colors, sold for $330, within estimate.
The Rocking Chair bank by Ives, Blakeslee of Bridgeport, Conn., circa 1890, pristine condition, went just over the low estimate, selling for $2,640. A large Cupola bank, yellow and red, near pristine, also went over its estimate, bringing $1,200. Another large Cupola bank in off white, green and brown, near pristine condition, by J&E Stevens, circa 1880, brought $1,320, over estimate.
The Columbian Expo Administration Building was offered in two sizes, the smallest and the largest, Kenton Hardware, Ohio, circa 1895, with both selling within estimates. The small went for $720 and the largest at $780. The large version of the Boston State House, an old red painted surface, circa 1890, went within estimate at $2,400; the House with Basement, Ohio Foundry Co., circa 1893, in pristine condition with Donal Markey provenance, went for $2,880, below the estimate; and the Ironmaster’s House, no legs, Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia, circa 1884, again a Donal Markey provenance, sold for $3,360, just under the low estimate.
The mechanical bank section led off with the Artillery bank, nickel plated, Shepard Hardware, Buffalo, N.Y., selling within estimate for $330, and a Dark Town Battery by J&E Stevens Co., fine condition, circa 1888, bringing $1,560, just over the high estimate. An Elephant and Three Clowns bank by J&E Stevens, very fine condition, sold within estimate for $1,320; a Jonah and the Whale by Shepard Hardware, circa 1890, sold slightly over estimate for $780; a Mason and Hod Carrier, also by Shepard, went for the same price, as did the Owl, slot on book, by Kilgore Mfg. Co., Westerville. Ohio, circa 1925,.
A collection of 18 penny toys proved to be popular, with lot 425, Transitional Landau by J. Meier, Germany, circa 1910, bringing $1,140, almost three times the high estimate. The Boy and Rabbit in Rocking Chair, same maker, a superior example of this toy, near mint tin, went for $1,020, just over the high estimate.
A section of the auction was devoted to European toys, including the Waltzing Couple, Germany, circa 1915, tin and cloth, 8½ inches tall, that sold for $780, over estimate, and the Diminutive De Dion with Articulated Driver, Karl Bub, Germany, circa 1910, 7 inches long, for $1,080. The Ram Front Battleship by Gebruder Bing, Germany, circa 1920, 26 inches long, a painted tin toy that works very well, brought $1,800. The yellow painted c-4 Pickup Truck, French, circa 1930, 16 inches long, tin and rubber in perfect condition, sold within estimate for $2,400.
Among the 14 American tin toys in the auction was lot 493, the Fancy Goods and Toys horse-drawn wagon, painted red and blue with black roof, drawn by a pair of black horses with driver, fine condition, 17 inches long, James Fallows Company, Philadelphia, circa 1885, that sold for the low estimate at $1,800, and the “City Passenger” Trolley, same maker, 16 inches long, tin and in excellent condition, that went just under the high estimate for $2,880.
A double goat cart by the Harris Toy Co., Ohio, circa 1890, 15 inches long, cast iron and in excellent condition, black cart with yellow spoke wheels pulled by a pair of goats, went for $1,920, followed by a Two Seat Brake, red with yellow spoke wheels, two white horses, and four figures (three replaced), Hubley Mfg. Co., Lancaster, Penn., circa 1905, 16 inches long, painted cast iron, brought $3,360. Both pieces sold just under the high estimate.
The folk art portion of the auction included a horse head hitching post by Melchers, Detroit, dated 1872, 14 inches tall, at $1,560, cast iron and in excellent plus condition, and bringing just over the high estimate was a swordfish bill sword, painted with the battleship USS Arkansas, American, circa 1920, 44 inches long, in wood and swordfish bill, pristine condition, at $2,040.
The final selection of mechanical banks included the Clown on Globe, yellow base with box, J&E Stevens Company, circa 1890, cast iron in excellent plus condition that went for $3,120, and the Dentist bank, also J&E Stevens, circa 1885, very fine cast iron with minor restoration, at $4,200, over estimate. Falling just short of the high estimate was the Home Bank with dormers, also Stevens, circa 1875, yellow and green with brown roof, pristine plus, at $5,400.
The Time is Money recording bank, S. Heyman designer, Newark, N.J., circa 1891, cast iron and brass, went over estimate at $3,600, followed by the Columbian Registering bank, tall version, Magic Introduction Company, New York, circa 1891, cast iron near mint, ex Bill Norman, Stanley Sax collections, that went over estimate, bringing $3,240. The Memorial Money Bell, Enterprise Mfg Company, Philadelphia, circa 1876, in pristine and bright condition, sold over estimate for $6,000. This bank was made for the United States Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 and the sides of the bank have transfer images of several exhibition halls from the fair.
RSL is known to have an annual early spring sale, but 2016 will be different. “Because of the amount of excellent material we have, we are now planning a two-day auction to be on May 14–15,” Leon Weiss said. For more information, 908-823-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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