Cast Iron Mechanical Banks, ca. 1890

Value (2013) | $7,000 Auction$9,000 Auction

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.

Appraisal Details

Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions Ltd.
Carversville, PA
Appraised value (2013)
$7,000 Auction$9,000 Auction
Richmond, VA (August 17, 2013)
Cast Iron

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