Mechanical Banks activity and where to buy them
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - July, 1976

Mechanical bank collecting activity has certainly taken an upward surge in the past few months. This upward trend is particularly so with regard to auctions and the mechanical banks appearing in them. It really is fantastic the number of auctions of antiques occurring every week all over the place. And many of these auctions have one, two or even three mechanical banks in each of the respective sales. The mechanical banks, as well as cast iron toys, are advertised as being in the individual sales. This is a fairly recent addition to the advertisements covering antique auctions. It wasn’t too many years ago that this was not the case — a mechanical would show up here and there in a sale, but there was no particular fanfare about it beforehand.

Today we even have special sales and auctions of mechanical banks and toys. The well known auction house P.B. 84, in New York City tries to have one or two toy and mechanical bank sales in a given year. Sotheby Parke Bernet, esteemed above all auction houses, have had mechanical banks in a sale or two. So mechanical banks, along with certain cast iron toys, have really arrived, attaining a status of being one of the hottest of collector’s items. Auctions, then, in one definitive area have certainly added to the increased activity.

We have come into a period where toy meets or sales are held in various sections of the country. Individuals bring toys to sell at these events. As opposed to auctions, they are priced and usually exhibited on tables and so on. These meets as a rule show a good turnout of cast iron toys in various categories, mechanical banks, still banks, and tin toys also in various categories. Items are traded and bought between the exhibitors themselves and to collectors and the public in attendance. Here again, toy meets of this type have added to the up trend in activity.

Now we come to the vastly increased number of antique shows and so called ‘flea markets’. When this phenomena of our modern times comes to a saturation point is anyone’s guess, but there is one thing for sure, there would seem to be too many of them now, although all are well attended. Flea markets, as such, cover a multitude of sins under that name. Many are merely heaps of junk. Transversely, others aren’t too bad. Some rare mechanicals, as well as cast iron toys, turn up in these markets. True it’s not very often, but it does happen, and occasionally a real ‘buy’ is made in a mechanical bank — then it goes through three or four hands and the price gets up there usually before it winds up in the hands of a collector. The greatly increased number of antique shows have brought more mechanicals out of hiding. Probably one of the top real antique shows was held in Philadelphia, Pa., recently. This is an annual show of high caliber antiques. It was surprising to see a number of mechanical banks scattered through various booths at this show, and the prices, while fairly high, were not exorbitant. As a matter of fact, a couple of the banks, including a fine Lion And Two Monkeys, all original and excellent paint, were priced quite reasonably. So we wind up with increased activity in mechanical banks due to antique shows and flea markets.

We arrive in another area where certain individuals deal exclusively in mechanical banks and still banks. Others are in cast iron toys, as well as banks. These specialists in this field generally do a good job and are a good source for mechanicals. They advertise, particularly in the Mechanical Bank Section of the magazine you are now reading. Most of these dealers are specialists in mechanical banks, and are not newcomers. Because of a possible omission or two, the writer will not attempt to list these specialists and, in any case, anyone can see their ads in this publication. With an increased number of individuals entering this field of mechanical banks and cast iron toys, a natural result has been an upswing in action.

There is another category of individuals who operate in a sort of fringe area with respect to mechanical banks. They are not antique dealers as such and not necessarily collectors. They have a certain interest, some are opportunists, and now and then come up with a mechanical bank, sometimes a rare one. They have other work as a rule, but do this fringe operation on the side. They don’t advertise, and operate in sort of a gray area. They do get around, however, and now and then hit on a good bank. This is a difficult area to pin down in any definitive way except to point out as more have entered the field in this fashion of operation naturally they have added to the action.

Generally speaking, antique dealers who deal in a general line of antiques have an increased awareness of mechanical banks. There was a time when many antique dealers didn’t know what you were asking about when you inquired about mechanical banks. Not so today, they all know and any one of them is subject to having a bank. This has added a dimension to the collecting of mechanical banks with a broader field of recognition.

Now we come to advertising. There are today more ads wanting to buy mechanical banks than in any previous time since mechanical banks were first collected. This is a good way to get results, not only for buying, but also selling. And naturally this increased advertising for banks to buy or to sell has added greatly to the activity in the field.

In closing, the writer hopes that the net result of this article will serve to answer the many, many letters he has received asking — ‘Where can you buy mechanical banks? — What is a good source?’, and so on. Good luck in your collecting and we have tried to be as definitive as possible.