Sought after Spelter still banks in sale featuring John Jirkofsky mechanical bank collection

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Butting Buffalo cast-iron mechanical bank, 1888, Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia; estimate $25,000-$30,000. All images courtesy RSL Auction Co.

TIMONIUM, Md. — Neighborhood banks are paying miserly rates of interest these days, but antique mechanical and still banks are attracting a higher rate of interest than ever before.
RSL Auction Co. will present a 499-lot selection of fine banks, together with a smaller grouping of antique toys. The event will be held June 4.

The auction’s centerpiece is the John Jirkofsky collection. A longtime Midwestern collector, Jirkofsky is a member of both the MBCA and SBCCA, a reflection of his penchant for both mechanical and still banks.

World’s Fair cast-iron mechanical bank, circa 1893, J. & E. Stevens Co., Connecticut; very rare multi-color version, pristine condition. Estimate $14,000-$18,000.
World’s Fair cast-iron mechanical bank, circa 1893, J. & E. Stevens Co., Connecticut; very rare multi-color version, pristine condition. Estimate $14,000-$18,000.

The June 4 sale featuring the Jirkofsky collection will open with 177 still banks, with 27 German spelter (lead) banks taking the lead. The highest estimates have been assigned to the bank depicting a young black boy with a bouquet of flowers, $5,000 to $7,000; and a bright, near-mint example of a bear on hind legs with top hat, $1,800 to $2,200.

Spelter banks are “on a roll,” said   Ray Haradin, one of RSL’s principals with Steven Weiss and Leon Weiss. “They continue to increase in popularity and are probably the hottest of all bank fields right now. They were manufactured between 1890 and 1935, and they’re colorful and very finely detailed — qualities that appeal to collectors.”

The lineup of stills continues with transportation — most notably a boxed 1928 Buick flat-top Yellow Cab, $4,000 to $6,000; and a small assortment of silver lead banks. Made a bit later than spelter banks but probably by the same factories, silver lead banks are basically white metal forms that have been plated with silver.

Among the many figural and architectural stills are a multicolor City Bank with chimney, $6,000 to $8,000; and an unusual variation of the Ironmaster’s House. Its door is affixed with a large combination lock. Estimate: $2,500-$3,500.

Mechanicals comprise 207 of the sale’s lots, with one of the top pieces being a Punch and Judy bank, ex-Larry Feld collection, in absolutely mint condition.

“It’s probably the finest known example,” Haradin said. The bank was chosen for the auction catalog’s cover and is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.

Chosen for the sale’s closing lot, a cast-iron mechanical bank commemorating the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair is one of only a handful known in a multicolor motif of greens and blues.

“I’d say 99 percent of these banks are gold with silver highlights. Only about five of the type we are offering are known to exist,” Haradin said. “It’s a beautiful example and was a flea market find. It’s estimated at $14,000 to $18,000.” The bank depicts Christopher Columbus sitting on a rock, with the Santa Maria on one side and an Indian chasing a buffalo on the other side. When activated, Columbus raises his hand and an Indian pops out of a log with a peace pipe.

All forms of bidding will be available in RSL’s June 4 auction, including Internet live bidding through

The sale will begin at 11 a.m. June 4, 2011

For more information, call Ray Haradin at 412-343-8733, Leon Weiss at 917-991-7352, or Steven Weiss at 212-729-0011. E-mail raytoys@aol.com or geminitoys@earthlink.net. Visit RSL Auction Co. or www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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More Images:

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Young Black Boy with Bouquet of Flowers, spelter, circa 1920, near mint, estimate $5,000-$7,000.
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Cast-iron Buick flat-top Yellow Cab with original box, Arcade Mfg., circa 1928, near mint with original box, estimate $4,000-$6,000.
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City Bank with Chimney still bank, designed by Thomas Swan/unknown manufacturer, circa 1875, ex Donal Markey collection, pristine, $6,000-$8,000.
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Ironmaster's House cast-iron still bank, circa 1884, Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia; probably fewer than 25 known, estimate $2,500-$3,500.
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The Stump Speaker, circa 1875, clockwork, Ives, Blakeslee Co., wood, papier-mache, cloth and cast-iron feet; pristine plus condition, estimate $9,000-$12,000.
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Bing rear-entrance tonneau, circa 1904, hand painted with rubber tires, 8¼ inches long, near mint, estimate $12,000-$16,000.
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Punch and Judy cast-iron mechanical bank, circa-1884, Shepard Hardware, large letters, mint and bright, formerly in the collections of Larry Feld and Bill Bertoia. Estimate $15,000-$20,000.
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Uncle Remus cast-iron mechanical bank, circa 1884, Kyser & Rex, Philadelphia; one of the finest known specimens, near mint and bright, ex Rodrigue collection. Estimate $25,000-$35,000.

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