DENVER, Pa. – On Oct. 27, as a CBS Television film crew rolled tape, the 489-lot Stephen and Marilyn Steckbeck collection of mechanical banks and related ephemera set a new world record for a toy auction, grossing $7.7 million.
A near-mint-plus example of J. & E. Stevens cast-iron “Jonah and the Whale/Jonah Emerges” bank led the sale’s top 10 with a selling price of $414,000 (all prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium). The late-1880s moneybox depicting Biblical character Jonah being expelled from the mouth of a whale flew past its $150,000-$200,000 estimate to become the second-most-expensive mechanical bank ever sold at public auction.
An 1886 Kyser & Rex “Mikado” illusionist bank and an 1880s Charles A. Bailey bank depicting an African-American boy landing a fish at the end of his pole tied for second place, with each achieving $287,500. Another tie landed two items in the third-place slot: an 1888 Stevens bank in which an black man kicks a football over a watermelon, and an 1880s Kyser & Rex “Roller Skating” bank. Each of the banks realized $195,500.
The Steckbeck collection was built over a 53-year period, and its sale attracted a who’s who of bank collectors and dealers from throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. CBS will air a special feature on the Steckbeck auction and the world of mechanical-bank collecting on n upcoming edition of its Sunday Morning program.
Morphy Auctions is a division of Geppi’s Entertainment Publications and Auctions.