Rare mechanical banks top $1 million at Bertoia Auctions
A sale of rare mechanical banks has raised more than $1 million at auction in rain-swept New Jersey.
Despite the impending threat of Hurricane Joaquin, which eventually veered out to sea, collectors turned out in force for the first sale of the Clive Devenish collection. Assembled over 40 years, the collection's treasures drew competitive bidding throughout the 175-lot sale, achieving a final total of $1,011,180.
Leading the sale was a Kyser & Rex Roller Skating mechanical bank with five skating figures, made circa-1880. Regarded as one of the finest of a few known examples, the near-mint bank sold for $120,000.
Another example from the Philadelphia manufacturer also brought a strong price, as a Kyser & Rex cast iron Merry Go-Round bank circa 1889 sold for $36,000.
Drawing some of the highest prices of the sale were three examples made by the J. & E. Stevens company of Cromwell, Connecticut.
First was a near-mint Bread Winners mechanical bank, offering a wry comment on labour monopolies and political corruption on the 1880s, which sold for $72,000. It was followed by a Boy Robbing Bird's Nest bank, circa 1906, offered in its original box and sold for $42,000, and a Milking Cow bank circa 1888 which sold for $39,000.
Further notable lots included a Charles A. Bailey-designed Springing Cat bank, patented in 1882, which sold for $33,000; a Hold the Fort bank, circa 1887, which fetched $36,000; and a Shepard Hardware Co. Mason bank, patented in 1887, which brought $42,000.
"It seemed that bidding decisions were made far in advance of the auction," said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. "Collectors appeared to know exactly what they wanted. The buzz in the air was that the banks were in great condition, but were they going to be affordable? And as with any auction, the answer was the same – some items would go on to exceed estimate, but there would also be some great buys.
“Outstanding items are still bringing very good prices. That’s the case with almost any category of antiques. The interest curve for banks has held strong for many years, and the hobby is still at its peak of popularity. We noticed a few new collectors at the auction on October 3rd, and that’s always a good sign.”
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