Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

RSL to Auction Antique Banks on June 4 in Baltimore

On Saturday, June 4, when RSL Auction Co. presents a 499-lot selection of fine banks, together with a smaller grouping of antique toys, at Richard Opfer’s gallery in suburban Baltimore.

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.

Jirkofsky bought most of his banks from local sellers. He and his good friend Bill Robinson, another well-known collector who specializes in still banks, frequented countless markets and shows in the Midwest in search of new acquisitions. Their persistence paid off, and both collectors turned up cast-iron, lead and spelter rarities in the unlikeliest of places.

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-$7,000; and a bright, near-mint example of a bear on hind legs with top hat, $1,800-$2,200.

Ray Haradin, one of RSL’s principals [together with Steven and Leon Weiss], said spelter banks are “on a roll. 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. They have the same general appearance as Vienna bronzes, which are perennial favorites.”

The lineup of stills continues with transportation – most notably a boxed 1928 Buick flat-top Yellow Cab, $4,000-$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 beautiful figural and architectural stills are a multicolor City Bank with chimney, $6,000-$8,000; and a very 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,” said Haradin. The bank was chosen for the auction catalog’s cover and is estimated at $15,000-$20,000.

Another outstanding entry is the near-mint 1888 Kyser & Rex Butting Buffalo with yellow highlights on the base and vinework on the tree. It could fetch $25,000-$30,000.

One of the finest known examples of the Uncle Remus mechanical bank will be auctioned. It has passed through RSL’s doors before, as part of the Rodrigue collection sold in 2007. With crossover appeal to collectors of black Americana, it is expected to realize $25,000-$35,000.

While not primarily known for auctioning automotive toys, RSL will be selling a superb, early vehicle on June 4: a circa-1904 Bing rear-entrance tonneau. In near-mint condition with a dressed driver, the 8¼ inch-long motoring gem will be offered with a presale estimate of $12,000-$16,000.

Additionally, the toy section will feature a small grouping of Lehmann and Martin European clockwork toys, American tin toys including horse-drawn wagons and trolleys; and 55 lots of cast-iron horse-drawn toys. Within the latter grouping are many fire toys, a fleet of surreys and wagons mainly by Wilkins and Pratt & Letchworth.

A clockwork Stump Speaker toy, which depicts a young carpetbagger on a stump. When wound up, the character pounds a table with his umbrella. The toy could finish in the $9,000-$12,000 range.

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% of these banks are gold with silver highlights. Only about five of the type we are offering are known to exist,” said Haradin. “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 at 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.

Haradin said he is especially pleased that there will be so many nice banks on hand to offer to both mechanical and still bank aficionados. “There’s so much excitement for banks at auctions these days, we’re glad we’re able to fill both those niches in this sale. I would say that, overall, there are 30 to 35 genuinely exceptional examples in this collection.”

Like previous RSL auction events, the June 4 sale will be an ideal venue in which to socialize. Complimentary hot dogs and beverages will be served to all who attend.

“Auctions have become the marketplace for banks, and it’s where collectors come to learn, meet with fellow collectors and buy,” said Haradin. “New collectors, in particular, should make an effort to join us. Networking with other, more-knowledgeable individuals is the best way to build a collection and avoid making mistakes. On the other hand, our auctions also draw the advanced collectors, who aren’t able to buy anything at shows. Auctions are, without question, the best place where collectors at any level can go and stand a very good chance of returning home with a prized piece.”

All forms of bidding will be available in RSL’s Saturday, June 4 auction, including Internet live bidding through The sale will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, with a preview on Thursday, June 2 commencing at 12 noon; Friday, June 3 from 10-7; and Saturday prior to the sale from 8-11 a.m.

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