Mikado mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, 1886, blue table variation, took top honors at $198,000.
Freedman's Bank mechanical bank, Jerome Secor, 1880, one of five or six known, $138,000.
Kiltie mechanical bank, Harper Ltd., England, 1931, ex-Bill Norman, ex-F.H. Griffith, $25,200.
Calamity or Football mechanical bank, J. & E. Stevens, 1905, $38,400.
Top pick in consignor Ed Sandford's 500-plus robot collection: a Diaclone Big Powered Convoy, the forerunner to Transformers Ultra Magnus, by Takara, Japan, with 6" x 13½" box, $10,800.
Morphy Auctions, Denver, Pennsylvania
by Dick Friz
Photos courtesy Morphy Auctions
A Mikado-led 180-lot mechanical bank salvo from the esteemed collection of Chicagoan Al Winick set the tempo for a rousing $2,760,000 total at Morphy Auctions' September 13-15 outing in Denver, Pennsylvania.
The three-day 2750-lot production also rang up impressive totals among an eclectic mix of dolls, robots, militaria, sports memorabilia, comic character toys and timepieces, holiday candy containers and displays, and toy transportation, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, racers, planes, and trains.
Winick's top three banks crashed the six-figure barrier. Mikado, a.k.a. Japanese Magic Bank, a spellbinder by Kyser & Rex, was reportedly inspired by the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta that debuted in London in 1885. Mikado cleverly manipulates a coin between two cones in a version of the old shell game. As if by magic, it was whisked away at $198,000 (includes buyer's premium).
Also basking in the limelight, Secor's Freedman's Bank, originally traded under the Ives, Blakeslee name at a pricey $4.50, lived up to its reputation at $138,000. The multi-action bank, ex-Westchester Historical Society, ex-Wally Tudor, and ex-Steve Steckbeck, has a reputation as the most elusive and desirable of the genre; only six examples are known. The Freedman, nattily attired in a redressed orange satin outfit, nods his head, thumbs his nose, and slides a coin into the bureau slot-a commentary on the controversial post-Civil War program to aid newly freed slaves.
A delightful Merry-Go-Round by Kyser & Rex, ex-Steve Steckbeck, depicts youngsters astride carousel animals that revolve as a bell chimes. This third-highest achiever found the brass ring at $126,000.
Talk about a depth chart, among some 180 entries, 21 mechanical banks emphatically reaffirmed their hierarchal status in the toy realm, achieving top bids of $20,000 and up, and 14 banks surpassed a rarefied $30,000 figure.
Dan Morphy attested that the Winick bank collection marked the best single-owner sale since his spectacular record-setting $7.7 million sale of Steve Steckbeck's collection in October 2007. Morphy's Bob Brady bank sale in May 2006 also proved to be one for the memory books.
Consignor Ed Sandford's collection conjured an optical buzz with an eclectic mix of over 500 Japanese die-cast robot toys from the late 1960's and '70's. They were showcased in the guise of fierce beetles, dragons, scorpions, Shogun warriors, Ninja assassins, and super-
heroes with tongue-twisting techno-babble catalog descriptions. This in no way inhibited global interest among robot die-hards. In fact, several Italians flew in expressly to take part in the bidding frenzy. Many of the most sought-after robots were produced in limited quantities by relatively obscure makers such as Popy, Clover, and Bandai. Especially appealing were entries with original boxes and inserts in stunning graphics.
Sandford performers included a boxed Takara Diaclone blue Fairlady Z No. 11 at $2160 and a circa 1976 Popy Combine-in-Box, the hobby's first large combination robot, a military-style missile display with innovative briefcase presentation case, at $2700.
The category devoted to battery-powered space toys saw the ever-elusive Robby the Robot space car by Yonezawa. Battery-powered and 9½" long, it was complete with original box and inserts, including the often missing coil and floating ball and original lithographed tin lever. The space car orbited to $6000.
Creating a major stir was part one of the 40-year 2000-piece collection of retired judge, professor, and octogenarian Jack Matthews, the author of the definitive Toys Go To War (Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1995). Matthews's Übermacht entourage encompassed composition German, Italian, Japanese, British, and U.S. toy soldiers, sailors, and tinplate clockwork vehicles and weaponry from the 1970's and '80's by German makers O.M. Hausser (Elastolin, Pfeiffer,) Tipp, and Lineol.
First on the Matthews militaria docket on Friday, an Elastolin Normans and knights set, in the triangle box, 11 combat figures, 7 cm high, advanced to $3900, over five times the high estimate.
Among numerous other entries triggering bidding firepower, a soldier-driven German armored car, 1970's, eight-wheeled, tinplate clockwork, with Morse code unit and electric lights, 12" long, roared off to $6600. The vaunted canvas-topped WH-731 half-track Zugmaschine, touted as the finest piece Hausser ever made, managed $4500. A Hausser camouflaged antiaircraft truck, 13" long, bought out of the Hausser archives in the 1980's, sold at $1140.
Adolf Hitler appeared in many Elastolin incarnations, most of which sold in the $270 to $390 range. An exception, a Tipp Mercedes staff car, 9" long, with a porcelain-head Führer as passenger, was bid to $2700. Tipp Luftwaffe fighter planes and bombers hovered at $660, but a prewar trimotor plane with Nazi swastikas, maker unknown, winged it to $2040.
Some 100 industrial-strength pressed steel cars, trucks, and trains hit the high road in Saturday's session. Clearly the topper here was a pressed steel Buddy "L" huckster wagon, 1925-30, 14¼" long, the largest and scarcest in the flivver-type series. This, the finest example Dan Morphy and other observers had ever laid eyes on, sold nearly three times over estimate at $16,800. A Sturditoy side dump truck, late 1920's, 24" long, with metal disk wheels, lumbered to $2400.
A 1930's pressed steel Buddy "L" freight train set that included a steam engine (25½" long) with tender, ten freight cars, and track sold for $6600. A Kingsbury stake truck, 1925, 25" long, with working crank motor and starting lever, gunned it to $2700. (Kingsbury seldom missed an opportunity to highlight a perceived product advantage. In this instance, an ad included with the truck featured a 10¢ offer of a nonskid eraser in the shape of one of the truck's innovative balloon tires.)
Sports mementos, including Hartland figures, baseball cards, bats, gloves, uniforms, and other tools of the trade plus autographs, marked the final segment in Morphy's action-packed agenda. A major surprise was a 1934 Babe Ruth Quaker cereals framed advertisement, 36¼" x 25¼", that invited youngsters to join Babe Ruth's Baseball Club, offering gloves, balls, and free trips to New York City and Chicago as prizes. It proved a winner at $4200 despite minor repair. Many admired an Exacta Time Corp. wristwatch in a baseball-shaped display box depicting the Babe holding a few bats; it brought $1680.
Most of the clipped autographed cards and papers scored in the $200 to $300 range, although cards signed by Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb each brought $720. A grouping of 17 cabinet-style photo images, dated 1887 or 1888, came from an upstate New York consignor. According to Morphy's chief operating officer, Tommy Sage, most pictured minor leaguers, but many of them later made it to "The Show" (as they call the major league in the film Bull Durham). Offered separately, the photos were a mixed bag, bringing $210 for a sepia tone of John Flynn of the Omaha Omahogs (who later pitched for one season with the Chicago White Stockings with an impressive 23-6 record) to $450 for a Gypsy Queen Cigarettes photo of a little-known catcher, Washington's C. Boyce.
As a long-suffering St. Louis Browns fan, I was especially intrigued by a ball, bat, and glove autographed by Pete Gray, the only one-armed athlete who ever played in the major league. He became a Brownie in 1945 during the war when many of the stars were in service. An anemic .218 batting average and fondness for booze cut short his career. The signed pro model glove brought only $60; the autographed Kren's Professional Model bat fetched $360; and the Rawlings baseball, inked with "Pete Gray," with some fading, made a disappointing $90.
For further information, call Morphy Auctions at (717) 335-3435 or visit the Web site (www.morphyauctions.com).
Roller Skating Rink (Prize Skater Bank) mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, circa 1880. Boy and girl skaters speed on the course, and a judge presents a wreath to little girl winner. It sold for $84,000. Kyser & Rex ads proclaimed, "Our new bank this year represents the latest popular craze."
Cat and Mouse mechanical bank, J. & E. Stevens, 1891, balancing cat in clown costume version, $31,200. Stevens's original design, produced in limited numbers, showed a menacing cat, with mouse in mouth; it was not a big seller, as appalled parents were loath to expose their youngsters to such gore.
Harlequin mechanical bank, J. & E. Stevens, 1877, second casting, $49,200.
Shoot the Chute mechanical bank, J. & E. Stevens, 1906, depicts comic icons Buster Brown and Tige in a boat, ex-Walter Chrysler, late addition to the sale, $49,200.
Chimpanzee mechanical bank, J. & E. Stevens, 1880, red variation, $37,200.
Uncle Remus mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, 1891, $31,200.
Organ Grinder and Performing Bear mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, 1882, $34,800.
Merry-Go-Round mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, 1888, $126,000.
Confectionary mechanical bank, Kyser & Rex, 1881, $34,800.