WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — “RSL Auction Company continues its rise as world records fall,” Leon Weiss, one of the owners of the company, said after a successful sale of antique toys, banks and black Americana at the close of last year. This sale was the first one held at the firm’s new auction gallery, 295 US Highway 22 East, Suite 204 West, in Whitehouse Station. This new space, with ample cases for exhibition and good lighting, comfortably seated the 55 who were in attendance for the auction.
In addition to those at the sale, 76 people left bids, 43 bid by phone and just over 350 people were bidding online. “Bidding was especially fierce over rare color variations on common banks in exceptional condition,” Ray Haradin, the “R” in RSL said. The auction set close to 50 new world records for toys, still banks and mechanical banks, offering 809 lots, and it was 97 percent sold. The total for the sale came in at $1,010,000, including buyer’s premium. All prices reported include buyer’s premium.
The sale got off to a good start, with a Palace bank in red going for $38,080. It was followed by a Home bank with dormers, polychrome, J&E Stevens, Cromwell, Conn., circa 1872. This rare version in tan with green, red and black highlights, cast iron and in pristine condition, went for $7,140, over the $5,500 high estimate. Lot 73, the multicolor 1878 House still bank, American, circa 1878, was in pristine condition and came from the Donal Markey collection. The catalog notes “multicolor examples are rare” and this one brought $803, just over the high estimate.
The Town Hall still bank by Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia, circa 1882, retains the original paper clock label, cast iron and is in pristine condition. It sold over the high estimate of $1,800 at $2,737. A small example of the Boston State House, Smith & Egge, circa 1890, very fine condition, sold just over high estimate at $5,950, while a Windmill bank, maker and origin unknown, circa 1890, “unbelievable rare bank with only two or three known examples,” from the Robert Peirce Collection, brought $11,305 against a high estimate of $7,500.
The First Presbyterian Church, a rare, colorful and graphic example by an unknown maker, measuring 15¼ inches tall, sold for $19,040. It is believed by some that this is the Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, Penn.
A selection of spelter bank included a dog, top hat and umbrella on chest, German, circa 1910, near pristine condition, for $2,023, and a seated cat with blue bow around the neck and a padlock hanging from the collar, for $1,309.
A cast iron Patriotic Eagle Bell toy, Gong Bell Mfg., Connecticut, circa 1876, a toy made for the Centennial Celebration of 1876, 5¾ inches long, brought $2,499. Lot 192, a Clockwork Firehouse, Ives, Blakeslee Company, Bridgeport, Conn., circa 1890, excellent working condition, cast iron and wood, near pristine condition, realized $3,451, and Santa Sleigh, Hubley Toy Company, Lancaster, Penn., circa 1906, sold for $8,925, over the high estimate of $6,000. This toy was owned by a 94-year-old woman who never played with it as a child and it was set up only at Christmastime. In near mint and bright condition, it measures 16 inches long.
Many of the mechanical bank did very well, including Boy Robbing the Bird’s Nest by J&E Stevens, circa 1906, cast iron and near excellent condition. In good working order, it went over the $9,000 high estimate, selling for $11,305. Lot 361, Frog on Round base in blue, J&E Stevens Co., is of cast iron and in pristine plus condition. It had two important things going for it, the rare color combination and the Donal Markey provenance. That combination sent the final bid well over the $4,500 estimate, end at $11,900.
Ferris Wheel by Hubley Toy Company, Lancaster, Penn., circa 1930, is a Ferris Wheel toy converted into a mechanical bank, with about 20 known. It is of cast iron and sheet steel, near pristine condition, that sold for $11,900, just under the high estimate. Also selling just under the high estimate at $10,115, was Giant in Tower by John Harper and Co., Willenhall, England, circa 1892.
Hall’s Excelsior Bank, J&E Stevens, circa 1869, cast iron and wood, near mint plus condition, went for $10,115, well over the high estimate of $6,000. Jumbo, elephant on wheels by J&E Stevens, circa 1883, cast iron, near pristine, sold for $5,950, exceeding the high estimate of $4,500, and Organ Grinder and Performing Bear, Kyser & Rex, one of only two mechanical banks with windup mechanisms, cast iron and in excellent condition, went over the high estimate of $7,000, selling for $9,520.
Selling for just over three times the high estimate at $11,305 was the Ten Cent Adding bank, 1889, of cast iron and lead. Dimes are inserted into the bank until it reaches $10, and then the door will open. The catalog reads, “It is one of the finest Ten Cent Adding banks we have ever seen and much harder to find than the Five Cents Adding bank.”
Among the European toys offered were the Banjo Player, German, circa 1905, tin, hand painted windup musician, that realized $2,737, and an open touring car, Japanese, circa 1920, 11 inches long, with a driver who goes up and down. It brought $2,499.
A selection of black windup toys included Amos and Andy, Louis Marx & Co., New York City, circa 1930, tin, both in good working condition, $1,130, and Alabama Coon Jigger with box, circa 1920, tin with cardboard box, pristine condition, that almost double high estimate, finishing at $2,124.
A carnival penny game toss, Penny Catch, 23 inches in diameter with a carved black face in the center, wood and gesso, very fine condition, brought just under the high estimate at $3,094, while a Black Dandy ball toss, German, circa 1895, 22 inches high, papier mache and cardboard on a wooden base, bright paint, brought just over the high estimate at $5,950.
“We have a wonderful auction scheduled for June 7 and it is filled with prime and rare examples of both mechanical and still banks,” Leon Weiss said. He went on to name a couple of collections, including the mechanical bank collection of William Robison of Newark, Ohio. “It is a great collection and there will be about 175 banks,” Leon added. He also listed the still bank collection of Andy and Susan Moore, formerly of Chicago and now of New York City. About 100 banks will come from that collection, making a total of about 350 still banks when added to those from other private collections.
The sale will be held at either the new gallery in Whitehouse Station, or a nearby location, depending on how much space will be needed for both the exhibition and the auction. And once again Richard Opfer of Timonium, Md., will be the auctioneer.