April 27, 1980
By LITA SOLIS-COHEN
In these inflationary times, plenty of people are putting their
money into banks with more than one kind of interest.
At an auction of amusing mechanical banks at PB 84 in New York this
month, a wooden "Presto — Mouse on the Roof Bank" sold to a collector
for $16,000 and a cast iron Wolf and Red Riding Hood bank, showing the
wolf disguised as Grandma in bed, fetched $13,000 from Baltimore dealer
Whitson had predicted that the banks would bring fabulous prices,
and he should know. A little more than a year ago, Whitson paid a record
$18,500 for a "Jonah and the Whale" bank at a sale at Roan's in
Williamsport, Pa. Later he traded it to Leon Perelman and it is part of
the comprehensive collection of banks that are on display at the
Perelman Toy Museum in Philadelphia.
in the sale brought $5,000 or more. It didn't seem to matter if they
were made of wood or tin or cast iron.
A cast iron "roller skating bank" in the form of a rink with two
skates competing and two that have taken a spill sold for $5,000. The
same price was paid for a painted tin alligator that swims in a trough.
A Regina musical savings bank, which plays seven 8-inch discs, sold for
Mouse on Roof
Bank . . . sold for $16,000
The Presto savings bank brought such a tidy sum because two
collectors, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, had to have
it. This fragile bank is in the form of a wooden house a little more
than six inches long, decorated with lithographed paper, out of which —
Presto — pops a tiny mouse which pushes a penny across the roof and into
a slot when the knob is turned.
The cast-iron "Girl Jumping Rope" bank which brought $9,500 has a
lot more going on. When a penny is put in its slot, the girl's head
turns, her feet move and the rope goes around. Most of the original red,
green, yellow and blue paint is still on it and it is in good working
One hundred and eight of the banks came from the collection of
Miriam Meyer Butler and the late Harold Butler of Short Hills, N.J. Not
all of them were very expensive. A Hall's Excelsior cast iron bank in
the form of a bank building brought $30, and a Tammany bank showing Boss
Tweed in a chair fetched $75, because part of it was painted over.
Many of them were given to the Butlers by John D. Meyer, Butler's
uncle, who wrote the pioneer book on mechanical banks,
Old Penny Banks.
It was published in 1952 and pictured 340 mechanical banks, out of the
380 known. About one-third of these banks are worth $1,000 or more if in
Butler said that her "Uncle John," a bachelor who was the president
of a bank, gave her a mechanical bank each time she visited him. "He
would say, 'Miriam, pick out a bank and take it home with you.' You see,
I was his only niece."
"When I picked out the Presto Bank," she continued "he asked me why
I picked that dirty old mouse. He didn't like it much, but it turned out
to be a nice one."
Butler though is that the nice banks are not nearly as valuable as the
hideous ones. She cited the gruesome Giant Bank which eats a penny in
one gulp. It was so homely that only a few were made. No one reordered,
so it is rare. It brought $10,500.
Butler said she decided to sell the collection after her husband
died last year. "I have three daughters so it would be hard to divide
them," she said. "I will give them the proceeds of the sale.
"About three-quarters of the banks were gifts from Uncle John. My
husband and I collected the rest. Uncle John left his collection to
Franklin and Marshall College." About six years ago, the college sold
all the banks to Edwin Mosler, who has the largest collection of all. He
found only one bank in the sale he didn't have and spent $3,000 on a
bureau wooden mechanical bank in the form of a chest. When its drawer
opens, a colored print of two soldiers pops out of its top.
. . .
Comments and questions are welcome. Write Lita Solis-Cohen, The
Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33101. If you would like a
reply, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
1980 Banks bring big money,
Antique Tooy World