Mechanical banks bring in the money at Mophy

High-energy atmosphere at Morphy’s record-setting $2.8 million spring auction

The esteemed Bob Brady American antique toy and mechanical bank collection set off auction fireworks at Morphy’s March 30-April 1 spring auction in Lancaster County, Pa., and contributed mightily to the $2.8 million sale total — a record for the auction house.

Two cast-iron mechanical banks — an 1870 J&E Stevens Horse Race and an 1887 Shepard Hardware Co. Circus bank — chalked up individual selling prices in excess of $100,000 (inclusive of 12 percent buyer’s premium), with applause erupting as the hammer came down on each of the coveted lots. In all, more than two dozen mechanical banks finished in the five-figure range or better.

Brady’s circa 1870s musical companion clockwork toys by Jerome Secor — a “bones” player and a tambourine player — hit a high note at $42,000 and $39,200, respectively. The former of the two came with provenance through the Perelman Museum of Philadelphia.

Three solid sessions had begun with the sale of vintage toys from the collection of film star Leonardo DiCaprio, whose charitable foundation will benefit to the tune of $110,000. The stardust factor obviously came into play as bidders paid premium prices to own toys carrying special tags denoting them as having come from the DiCaprio collection. A Star Wars plastic-coated Jawa figure, for instance, had the “force” with it all the way to $5,040 — a remarkable price by any enthusiast’s standards.

A Felix Frolic depicting the cartoon cat chasing mice across a platform led the selection of comic character toys from the Gary Selmonsky collection, at $28,000; while Japanese superheroes unleashed their power to knock down top dollar, one example being the large, walking Ultraman with original box than ended its run at $6,720.

Full coverage of Morphy’s Spring sale will appear in the May 3 issue of the Antique Trader.