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April 27, 1980
They Pay
Big Money
For Banks

Herald Columnist
     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 Frank Whitson.
     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.
     SEVEN BANKS 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 $5,250.

     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 order.
     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 good condition.
     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."
     WHAT PUZZLES 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.

Also see:
1980   Banks bring big money
, P.B. Auction,
Antique Tooy World



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