Collectibles you can 'bank' on... Mechanical bank nets $45,325 record price


Clad in age-defying cast iron, antique mechanical banks made another bulletproof run across the auction block June 4 at RSL's 499-lot sale in Timonium, suburban Baltimore, Maryland, US.

The auction offered the John Jirkofsky collection and in the end netted a $1,073,100 total, including a number of records for prices paid on individual banks.

According to auctioneer Partner Ray Haradin (the "R" in RSL, along with Steven and Leon Weiss), the sale held at Opfer Auctions' gallery attracted around 160 online bidders and another 76 bidders in the gallery and on the phones.

"Everyone waited with anticipation for the final lot, which was the top lot of the sale - a pristine, multicolored J. & E. Stevens mechanical bank commemorating the 1893 Chicago World's Fair," said Haradin.

"Only about five of the colour variation we offered are known to exist; 99% of those produced were painted gold with silver highlights."

The pristine and multicolored J. & E. Stevens mechanical bank

Estimated at $14,000-$18,000, the bank depicts Christopher Columbus sitting on a rock, with the Santa Maria at one side and an Indian chasing a buffalo on the other side. The bank "discovered" its true market value at a record $45,325 (all prices inclusive of 22.5% buyer's premium).

A Western art enthusiast, the buyer of the World's Fair bank also lodged the winning bid on a very rare Indian Head bust-style mechanical bank, probably the best of three known examples.

Against an estimate of $9,000-$12,000, the coveted money box sold for $19,600.

"Mechanical bank buyers showed no fear. They jumped right in," said Haradin. "Even in the middle stretch of the sale, the more-common banks were bringing terrific money."

RSL's sale is only the latest in a line of auctions which have demonstrated that collectors are lining up to invest their money in rare mechanical banks.


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