TIMONIUM, Md. – Record prices were achieved at RSL Auction’s 477-lot Bountiful Harvest sale held Oct. 17, 2009, in the Baltimore suburb of Timonium, Md. The multiple-consignor offering anchored by top-tier pieces from long-held collections ended up being the company’s most successful auction to date, according to Ray Haradin, who owns RSL Auction in partnership with brothers Steven and Leon Weiss. The sale total, inclusive of 17 1/2 percent buyer’s premium, exceeded $1 million.
“Prices were very strong, and there were a number of world auction records set,” said Haradin, “but what amazed us most was the number of executives from the financial sector who were bidding in the sale, mostly by phone and absentee. They were very competitive and accounted for the bulk of the sales.”
The record books were rewritten from the very first lot of the sale – a boxed circa-1915 Hubley cast-iron Royal Circus Calliope that reached $22,325. Following closely behind, another toy from the Royal Circus series, a Tiger Cage pulled by plumed horses, mint and accompanied by its original box, earned $12,925. A circa-1890 Kyser & Rex cast-iron circus wagon with revolving bear and kangaroo figures also proved to be a crowd-pleaser, finishing at $8,812.
Cast-iron mechanical banks comprised the top tier, price wise, with the vast majority selling within estimate. A Shepard Hardware Picture Gallery bank (ex Bob Brady collection) rose to $52,875; as did a circa-1905 Kenton Hardware Mama Katzenjammer bank regarded as one of the best extant examples. Other top sellers among the mechanical banks included one of only five or six known original examples of the circa-1910 North Pole bank, $42,125; a rare Panorama bank of cast iron, wood and lithographed paper, $25,850; and a boxed, near-mint, circa-1892 Artillery bank (Union soldier version), $9,400; all three were made by J. & E. Stevens of Cromwell, Ct.
Bidding ran hot on an extremely scarce multicolored Uncle Sam bust bank attributed to the Ives, Blakeslee company. One of only two known examples of the polychrome-painted version, the cast-iron novelty sports a humorous action. When a coin is dropped into Uncle Sam’s hat, his goatee jiggles as the coin is accepted. Estimated at $7,000-$9,000, it did its patriotic duty for the economy by garnering $17,625.
A circa-1895 cast-iron and lead mechanical bank depicting the 16th-century Graz Clock Tower in Schlossberg, Austria, one of five known and featuring a “disappearing drawer” feature, was offered with provenance that included the collection of veteran bank collector John Haley. It made $8,225 against an estimate of $4,500-$6,500. Always a favorite with mechanical bank fans, a circa-1871 J. & E. Stevens cast-iron and tin Horse Race bank crossed the finish line within estimate at $19,975.
Haradin said there was intense interest in the still banks made of spelter, a thin zinc alloy that allows fine detailing in the mold, resulting in a realistic quality to the finished product. “German spelter banks are among the few still banks that attract cross-over attention from mechanical bank collectors,” Haradin said. “They like the detail and color.”
Leading the spelter banks was a Grandpa Cat with long-stemmed pipe. Possibly a unique example, the colorful 7-inch bank smoked past its $3,000-$5,000 to finish its bidding run at $8,812.
Still banks of other materials found favor with bidders, as well. A large A.C. Williams Camel bank with appealing, bright colors on its saddle raced past its $900-$1,200 estimate to settle at $1,880; while a politically important circa-1908 J.M. Harper brass “Smiling Jim/Peaceful Bill” bank representing the Taft-Sherman Act realized $3,760.
In the clockwork American toys category, a dated (1900) Ives Harvard Football Kicker, ex Louis Hertz collection and possibly the only one in existence, scored $5,580. A painted tin classic measuring 15 inches in length, Althof Bergmann’s circa-1880 horse-drawn gig with driver trotted off into the sunset at $9,400.
“What this sale told me is that there’s still a premium being paid for condition and rarity – especially rarity,” said Haradin. “We saw that with the competition over the Graz Tower bank and rare-variation Uncle Sam. Banks like this are not on the wish lists of all that many people, but seasoned collectors like to fill in the slots of their collections with things they don’t already have. Obviously these two banks fit that order for quite a few people.”
On May 22, 2010, RSL Auction Co. will host its Quality Sale at Richard Opfer’s gallery in Timonium, Md. The auction will feature 200-250 lots of select toys and banks. Additional information will be available online at www.rslauctions.com.
Photos courtesy RSL Auction Co.
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