Antique banks expected to draw high rate of interest at RSL's June 4 auction The outstanding John Jirkofsky collection of mechanical and still banks serves as the centerpiece of RSL Auction Co.'s June 4 sale. The 499-lot sale also includes a small selection of fine toys.
News-Antique.com - May 08,2011 - TIMONIUM, Md. – Neighborhood banks are paying a miserly rate of interest these days, but on the other side of the coin, antique mechanical and still banks are attracting a higher rate of interest than ever before. Their next test will come 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.