Cast Iron Mechanical Banks, ca. 1890
They belonged to my husband's grandfather and they started out in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and made it to Richmond, Virginia.
Well, they're what we call penny banks, and they date from the late 19th century. And they're made of cast iron. America was one of the few places that made their toys out of cast iron. And the penny bank, or mechanical bank, was invented in America and was a great form in America. The other curious thing is in the world of toy collecting, these little mechanical penny banks were the first things that began to be collected. And one of the reasons they were so popular in the late 19th century is by encouraging children to put pennies in them, they were encouraging thrift. These are two really very, very nice examples. One of the things I like about these is they have a sculptural quality that is just extraordinary. They carve these out of wood, they make brass patterns and then they pour them in cast iron, and they're really sculpture. And when they have this quality of paint, they're really kind of exciting. These particular banks were made by a company called J & E Stevens in Cromwell, Connecticut. And very few toy banks were identified on the banks by the maker's name, but we know a J & E Stevens bank always because it had this kind of circular coin trap. Both have that. This particular bank was inspired by the excitement in the late 19th century of Buffalo Bill and the Wild West, and this bank is called "Indian Shooting Bear." And it has a wonderful little mechanism. We pull it back like this, that cocks it, then we put the penny here. Now, we're going to shoot it, but first, I want to show you something else. You could put a cap in there to make a noise.
Oh, I didn't know that.
Very few people do. And there it shoots it.
Oh, there it goes.
And this is called "Hen and Chick." And here, we put the penny here, and when we pull this hen... And the penny goes in. These are exceptional examples. The thing that makes a bank really valuable is the quality of the paint. The other thing on an Indian and Bear, these feathers are easily broken off, but these are all original. In this condition, at conservative auction estimates, I would estimate this at $3,000 to $4,000.
Oh, my goodness. This one?
Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness.
And this one also, great paint, wonderful condition, I would estimate at $4,000 to $5,000.
Oh, my goodness, I had no idea. Oh, my goodness. I just... I can't get over it.
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.