”Stump Speaker“ Mechanical Bank, ca. 1886

Value (2009) | $8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction

GUEST:
This bank was actually purchased by my husband's grandfather at the turn of the century, and my husband's grandfather gave it to my father-in-law, his son, when he was born. And tragically, the grandfather committed suicide during the 1930 stock market crash...

APPRAISER:
Oh, my God.

GUEST:
and this became very sentimental to my father-in-law and then when he passed away, my husband got it, and it will also go to our son as well.

APPRAISER:
Well, it's a sad story, but it certainly explains why this was treasured and why the condition is so extraordinary. It's called a Stump Speaker bank. It's made by a company called the Shepard Hardware Company. And the bank dates from circa 1885. That was the period when there was a lot of ferment in the country about blacks voting and whether to allow them to vote. There was constant turmoil about this issue. The stump speaker is the traditional name for a politician, because a politician would go into a small town and stand on top of a stump to give a stump speech. In the 1880s, to depict a black man as a politician giving a stump speech was part of the whole racial ethos of the time. It was a caricature and demeaning. So it speaks to the racial tensions of the time. Shepard Hardware made two banks like this. They made an Uncle Sam on a similar base with the same action. Great action. You put the penny in the stump speaker's hand, and in the Uncle Sam, it works the same way. The satchel opens and he deposits the penny and he's moving his teeth. Great action. But what's really extraordinary about this bank is the condition. When they get into grading mechanical banks, they basically get into counting the flakes of paint in some cases. This man has all but barely a flake or two on the hat, a chip or two on the teeth, a chip here...This is an extraordinary bank. The depth of color in the paint, everything, it is amazing. A run-of-the-mill example of this bank could be $ 1,000 to $ 1,500, maybe $ 1,800 or $ 2,000. At auction I would estimate this bank at $8,000 to $12,000.

GUEST:
Are you kidding me?!

APPRAISER:
No, I'm not.

GUEST:
Are you kidding me?

APPRAISER:
No, I am not.

GUEST:
I am... totally astounded.

APPRAISER:
And one of the problems with evaluating banks in this condition is the sky's the limit. This could be possibly one of the best-known examples. So $8,000 to $12,000 I think would be conservative.

GUEST:
Wow! I'm just blown away.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions Ltd.
Carversville, PA
Appraised value (2009)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Event
San Jose, CA (August 15, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Form
Bank
Material
Cast Iron, Paint

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