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Bumper crop of banks set to sell July 11-12

A seldom-seen large-version Old South Church 'still' bank is expected to be a standout among more than 1,250 lots of banks and toys coming before bidders July 11-12. About half of the items in the sale, which is being presented by RSL Auction Co., is from the extensive antique toy and bank collection of William and Elaine Werbell, amassed over the course of more than five decades.

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. – The prestigious William and Elaine Werbell antique toy and bank

Old Southern Church still bank

Cast iron, monumental size — 13-1/2" tall, Old Southern Church still bank, circa 1870s. The actual church this bank is based on was located in Boston, and served as the United Church of Christ between 1730 and 1875, and counted among its parishioners historical figures including Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and William Dawes. The bank has an estimate of $25,000-$30,000. (All photos courtesy of RSL Auction Co.)

collection will step into the auction spotlight on July 11 and 12 in Whitehouse Station, N.J., halfway between Manhattan and Philadelphia. RSL Auction Company will offer the collection of pristine wind-up toys, mechanical and still banks at a live gallery auction with all additional forms of bidding available, including absentee, phone or live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.

“This is an old and very fine collection that was started in 1955,” said RSL partner Leon Weiss. “Very few people have ever seen the collection, which was displayed very discreetly in the Werbells’ New York City residence. Bill Werbell attended a lot of shows but seldom invited people to his home. We know of one collector who has known Bill for 30 years, and even he never saw the collection. It’s as fresh to the market as a collection could possibly be.”

Those who were privileged to view the Werbell collection in situ would have found the toys and banks arranged in handsome cabinets equipped with blinds that could be drawn to repel sunlight. “Because Bill and Elaine were so careful about the way they stored their collection, the pieces have remained vibrant and beautiful over the years,” Weiss said.

The Werbell collection comprises at least 50 percent of RSL’s July 11-12 sale, which features 550 lots in the Saturday session and 725 lots in the Sunday session. There will be 600 lots of still banks and 150 mechanical banks from which to choose over the two-day period, as well as hundreds of superior-quality German and American toys.

The bumper crop of top-notch still banks is given an additional boost by the inclusion of a famous single-owner collection from Europe. Topping the “still” highlights is a large-version Old South Church that is all but unknown to collectors. Only the fourth one to be discovered by the collecting community, it is expected to make $25,000-$30,000 on auction day.

A mint-condition House with Bay Window in the very rare medium size is estimated at $6,000-$8,000; as is a Tammany Tiger still bank, only the fifth one ever to have surfaced. A Peters Weatherbird bank in excellent-plus condition, and a St. Louis World’s Fair “Globe on Hand” still bank – one of two or three known – carry individual pre-sale estimates of $4,000-$6,000. Also, the only known original pattern for a Palace still bank is entered with a $9,000-$12,000 estimate and is in good company alongside such enviable rarities as an Old Volunteer F.D. Fire Plug bank and baseball-themed Mascot bank.

An appealing selection of some 100 German spelter banks – a category for which RSL has developed a strong and loyal following over the past decade – is led by the only known example of a “Dinner For My Kitten” bank, near mint and estimated at $8,000-$10,000. Other important spelter still banks include a pristine “Boy with Cane” – the first one RSL’s partners have ever seen, estimate $3,000-$5,000; and a Snowflake bank, $4,000-$6,000.

Marx and Strauss toys

Some of the nearly 100 Marx and Strauss toys that will cross the auction block.

Opportunities don’t come along very often to acquire mechanical banks of the condition seen in RSL’s July 11-12 auction lineup. One of very few Picture Gallery banks known to exist – this one in pristine condition – is estimated at $45,000-$55,000, while a Germania Exchange in excellent condition could command $30,000-$40,000. A coveted green-dress version of a Mammy bank – near mint and possibly the finest of all known examples – is cataloged with a $25,000-$30,000 estimate.

The near-mint Boy and Bulldog mechanical bank estimated at $7,000-$9,000 was described by Weiss as having the best paint he has ever seen. “It’s a rare variation,” he said. “Usually this bank is japanned overall, but this one is painted black and has a distinctive copper-plated dog figure.”

Other prized mechanicals include an exquisite Cat and Mouse, the only known Magic Man bank, and near-mint examples of a Boy on Trapeze, Punch & Judy (with large-size lettering), and Acrobats bank.

Two American classics within the cast-iron toy section of the sale are a Carpenter Burning Building in pristine condition, estimate $30,000-$40,000; and a rare variation of an Ives Firehouse, estimate $6,000-$8,000. “It’s only the second one we’ve ever seen that has a hose reel coming out of it,” Weiss noted.

Approximately 70 Marx and Strauss tin wind-up toys will be auctioned, as will 75 German and French tin toys by such revered manufacturers as Lehmann, Martin and George Levy. A special highlight is the selection of 15 hand-painted Gunthermanns, always a favorite with collectors of early European toys.

The auction sessions will begin at 10 a.m. (Eastern Time), both on Saturday, July 11 and Sunday,

spelter banks

Five spelter banks from a 100-piece auction selection.

July 12. The preview will be held on Thursday, July 9 and Friday, July 10; as well as on auction days from 8 a.m. till start time. Complimentary food and beverages will be provided, and a cocktail party will be hosted by RSL at an Italian restaurant following the Saturday session.

Catalogs are $50 postpaid ($60 international) and will be available starting in mid June. View the fully illustrated catalog online at or

The RSL Auction gallery is located at 295 US Hwy. 22 East, Suite 204 West, Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889. Watch for the “One Salem Square” sign. Gallery telephone: 908-823-4049.

For additional information on any item in sale or to organize a phone line, call Ray Haradin at 412-343-8733, Leon Weiss at 917-991-7352, or Steven Weiss at 212-729-0011. Email or or Online:

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