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Part II of Berry bank, toy collection earns $2.92M

An early 20th century mechanical bank, deemed one of the greatest treasures of his collection by famed collector Max Berry, sold for $228,000 recently.

VINELAND, N.J. – Washington attorney Max Berry left Bertoia’s gallery on March 28 with a smile on his face – not because Part II of his collection had just been auctioned for $2.92 million, but because

Freedman's mechanical bank

Jerome B. Secor Freedman’s mechanical bank, circa 1939, sold for $228,000. (All photos courtesy Bertoia Auctions)

of the enthusiastic way in which the toy community had come together over a two-day period to celebrate his lifetime of achievement in the hobby.

“Max was happy to see who the next caretakers of his toys would be,” said Bertoia Auctions associate Rich Bertoia. “He was very focused throughout the entire auction and did a lot of positive nodding.” Added to the $3.1 million realized by Part I of Berry’s collection last Nov. 14-15, the March 27-28 auction pushed the series grand total to $6.02 million. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of buyer’s premium.

The top-selling lot was a J. & E. Stevens Darky Kicking Watermelon mechanical bank designed by Charles A. Bailey and patented in 1888. One of three known examples, its long and illustrious trail of provenance includes pioneer collectors Wally Tudor, F.H. Griffith, Leon Perelman and Stan Sax. It sold at the upper end of its estimate range for $270,000.

A different bidder paid $228,000 (estimate $150,000-$200,000) for a Jerome B. Secor Freedman’s mechanical bank, described in Bertoia’s catalog as “one of the best-known, historically important banks ever made.” In 1939, an antiquities dealer purchased the bank from a source in Mexico for $8, then resold it to Fostoria, Ohio banker and collector Andrew Emerine. The African-American-themed bank later passed to another legendary collector, Mosler Safe Company president and CEO Edwin H. Mosler Jr. After Mosler, the bank’s next owner was the aforementioned Stanley P. Sax, whose collection was auctioned by Bertoia’s in 1998. Max Berry, who purchased it at the Sax auction, always regarded the bank as one of the greatest treasures in his collection.

A collector bidding from the floor paid $210,000 (estimate $125,000-$175,000) to own a Santa-

Ding Dong Bell toy

Ding Dong Bell hand-painted clockwork tin bell toy, made by Weedens, $64,800.

themed Zig-Zag bank – a possibly unique survivor made of cast iron, tin and cloth. “The Zig-Zag generated more interest and bids than any other item in the sale,” said Bertoia. “You could have heard a pin drop during the auctioning of all of the top three banks. People were very respectful of the amounts of money being spent for them.”

Yet another collector from New York prevailed on a Charles A. Bailey lead bank known as Chinaman in Rowboat, one of fewer than 10 such banks known to exist. Against an estimate of $80,000-$90,000, it sailed out the door for $96,000.

A red-version Mikado bank surpassed expectations at $90,000; while a lever-activated cast-iron Sewing Machine Girl, ex Donal Markey collection, doubled its high estimate at $24,000.

From a fine selection of tin clockwork banks in Berry’s collection, a Ding Dong Bell bank by Weedens, with superior original paint, rang up a winning bid of $64,800. A circa-1913 lever-activated Empire Cinema tin bank finished in brilliant primary colors and depicting a movie theater filled with people doubled its low estimate to close at $24,000.

To contact Bertoia Auctions about consigning to a future sale, call 856-692-1881 or email Visit Bertoia’s online at

Empire Cinema lithograph

Circa-1913 Empire Cinema lithographed tin bank, $24,000.