"Stump Speaker" Mechanical Bank, ca. 1886

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

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...

Oh, my God.

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.

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.

Are you kidding me?!

No, I'm not.

Are you kidding me?

No, I am not.

I am... totally astounded.

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.

Wow! I'm just blown away.

Appraisal Details

Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions Ltd.
Carversville, PA
Appraised value (2009)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
San Jose, CA (August 15, 2009)

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.