Confessions of a
Mechanical Bank Collector
The Edwin Mosler Mechanical Bank Sale
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – August, 1982
When I was first approached to write an article
on the dubious distinction of being first in line for the June 2nd sale of
the Edwin H. Mosley collection of mechanical banks at the Statler Hilton,
my first thoughts were to deny the entire experience. However, after some
contemplation, I couldn't resist relating the tale of a man obsessed in
his desire to own a bank belonging to one of the most prestigious
collectors of all time — the late Edwin Mosler.
The fact that Ed had taken great pleasure in the ownership of one of
my favorite mechanicals gave impetus to my desire to acquire it. The
purchase of this treasure involved the planning of how far in advance of
the sale must one begin standing in line. A month? Two weeks? A day? After
all, the ad announcing the bank sale did state "choice of banks would be
handled on a first come-first served basis."
I began wondering if anyone else was already standing in line. The
sale was, after all, only six weeks away. I immediately took a discreet
stroll up to the sixth floor of the Statler Hilton. Whew! No one standing
in front of Suite 600A, the office housing the Mosley collection. I still
had time to station a human body in front of the Mosler suite to insure my
number one position in line. I found this desperate soul on an
unemployment line in Brooklyn, and coincidentally he was in the number one
position there. This individual was perfect — a recent graduate from
college in need of a job and possessing unquestioning patience. After
introductions and discussion of mechanical banks, I was convinced that
my search need not continue. I had found "Ira."
On Friday, May 28, at noon. both Ira and I met in front of Suite
600A. What luck. Only five days before the sale and still no one had
arrived. Ira didn't know what to make of the situation, but he didn't
object since I had given him his first payment in advance; however, I did
catch him eyeing me suspiciously for the next few days.
I proceeded to rent a room on the sixth floor, not more than twenty
feet from the infamous Suite 600A, where I slept the next five nights as
Ira stood vigil — a beer in one hand and a book in the other.
Saturday approaches: I'm still number one, and Ira is second. We
discuss the uneasy feeling that, perhaps, we are wasting our time and have
arrived too far in advance. As doubt creeps in, Ira glibly reassures me
that" the early bird catches the worm," and asks for his next day's pay.
Secure in the knowledge that my new found friend will hold the
numbers one and two spots in line. I remain free to spend my nights
dreaming of that "one great bank" — the reason I am willing to "vacation"
at the Statler. The alarm rings; seven hours have passed, and it is time
for me to take over for Ira. He informs me that overnight, he had made
friends with all of the security guards. In fact, he has convinced them,
as well as the hotel guests of the sixth floor, that he is, indeed, one of
the security guards!
As day four approaches. I notice that my protégé is getting caught up
in the passions of bank collecting. He actually begins to think he's there
to add banks to his collection. Ira rambles on about owning the Mikado,
the Bread Winners, the Shoot the Chute. Too bad the Freedmans has already
been sold off. With some trepidation, I must burst his bubble. Ira is
informed of the prices of the banks of his fantasy. A momentary depression
follows, but he immediately bounces back when I tell that we're having his
favorite for dinner this evening — Chinese food.
Day five: another standee shows up. Sent by a Mr. S.S. from Chicago,
this person stakes out the number three spot in line. Soon afterwards, Mr.
I.A.M., another Chicagoan appears on the scene. He is a bit disappointed
at the realization that others are ahead of him, but graciously accepts
the number four position on the line. It is somewhat reassuring to see
other people waiting, proving that there are other obsessed persons in
this world of bank collecting.
Before long, who should appear but the famous toy dealer, Mr. F.W.
from Baltimore, Maryland. A look of frustration and dissatisfaction
appears upon his face as he sees that there are four people ahead of him.
It is difficult for someone as determined as F.W. to realize that others
are possessed with equal determination.
As additional people began arriving, I realized that my first bank
choice was also the first choice of 90% of the other collectors. Within
three hours, the hallway in front of 600A becomes crowded with people.
Suddenly, security guards and the manager of the Statler are upon us. We
are told to disperse or "be removed bodily." In an attempt to retain our
positions in line, the standees already there form a numbered list as more
people show up for the sale, they are assigned a place on that list. Mr.
I.A.M. from Chicago graciously allows his room to serve as the
registration center and Ira is called upon to register the new arrivals.
The day of the sale approaches; there is electricity in the warm,
stuffy hotel air. People are frantically offering both Ira and myself
large sums of money for our places in line. I stand firm, but will Ira
submit? No way! Ira can't wait to enter that forbidden room housing 600 of
Edwin Mosler’s mechanical banks. He will actually see and touch many of
those elusive objects we so passionately pursue.
The moment we have all been waiting for arrives — 10 a.m., Wednesday,
June 2nd. Lines are formed once again outside of Suite 600A according to
the numbers on our unofficial list. At that time we are offered official
numbered tags that are to be used as admission places for the sale, which
will begin at 1 p.m. sharp. As I am handed the small yellow tag with the
number "ONE" written on it, I may now be assured of that one prized bank
which I've been waiting in line for all of these days. Ira is handed the
number two tag, Mr. S.S. the number three, Mr. I.A.M. number four. Mr. F.W.
number five, and so on, and so on....
At last, 1 p.m. — "Sale Time." The doors of 600A are flung open and
the line of people enter in an orderly fashion (after having been advised
if they should become disorderly, they'll be ejected on their butts). As I
enter Ed's office —the same room in which I've spent so many memorable
hours engaged in friendly bank conversation with Ed — a sadness passes
over me. Ed's banks, which had meant so much to him, are in evidence, but
Ed is no longer here to enjoy them. The outward appearance of the office
remains unchanged, but it now lacks the warmth and friendliness imparted
by its former occupant. It is with difficulty that I glance at his chair
as I pass the large walnut desk. Reluctantly I proceeded to remove my
number one bank from its place on the shelf, as well as thirty-seven
others for various collector friends.
After payment is made, my friend Ira bids me farewell. I am thanked
for this unbelievable experience and for the new world which has been
opened to him.
As I leave Suite 600A for the last time, carrying many of the great
Mosler rarities, I notice another collector friend has been eyeing me
enviously. Not being able to resist the impulse. I stop and ask him
whether he thought it was a crazy idea to endure the tedium of waiting
just for that number one tag. The collector looks at me, shakes his head,
and replies, "Yeah, crazy like a fox."