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WHITEHOUSE STATION, NJ – In the foreword to RSL Auction Co’s catalog illustrating its June 27 sale of the collection of guns and hoods that belonged to the late Paul Cole, Steven Weiss recounted the first time that he met the venerable collector at an Ohio auction in 1983.
“We talked and talked throughout the auction. I remember we were even berated by the auctioneer for speaking too loud… I was planning on taking the long cab ride to my grandmother’s house in Cleveland, but Paul insisted to drive myself … adding almost three hours to his driving time.
Cole has collected antique toys for nearly 50 years, filling many of the narrowest categories in the field with fine and rare examples from American and European manufacturers. From his homeport in Bluefield, Va., Cole proselytized his hobby with a knowledgeable enthusiasm that saw him take the helm as president of the Antique Toy Collectors of America Club.
After his death in 2020, Cole’s vast train collection totaled more than $ 2.5 million at a New Jersey auction house in late May, but the collector’s treasures were far from being exploited. The family turned to RSL to sell their bank of 552 lots and collection of hooded guns, for a total mintage of an additional $ 1,024,000.
Auctioneer Leon Weiss said much of this material has passed into Cole’s collection from his auction house or Gemini Antiques, the Weisse’s private dealer.
Mechanical banks were run for $ 26,400 by an iron Chimpanzee bank of Kyser & Rex, circa 1880s. The auction house said the topic hinted at the then controversial theory of evolution, published in Darwin’s About the origin of species in 1859 about 20 years earlier. When a deposit is made to the bank, the action depicts the formally dressed chimpanzee recording it in the ledger in front of him as if he were a banker. In the early 1880s, American designer of mechanical banks Charles Bailey independently produced a small group of lead molded toy banks. Among them was the Baby Elephant Unlocks at the X O’Clock bank, which showed an elephant dangling a man over the wide open mouth of an alligator, with the character lamenting “Oh if I had only put money on it.” ‘money in the bank’. With a restored clock hand, the bank sold for $ 18,000. Another example featuring a clock was the Time Lock Savings Bank, produced by Louis Mfg Company of New York in 1892. The bank played the dual role of a working fireplace clock and the owner could set it to seal until to seven days. Bidders thought it was good and it sold for $ 13,800. Kyser & Rex’s Confectionary Bank, circa the early 1880s, is still a crowd pleaser, grossing $ 12,000. Cole’s example featured a red and blue counter with a golden yellow drawer cabinet behind red painted letters and a red hood. Also from Kyser & Rex, The Motor Bank brought in $ 5,400. The auction house noted that the model was a commercial failure for the company – its complex mechanism most often failing – although it remains popular with collectors.
Cole’s strongest cast iron stills were all architectural in nature. Bidders coveted a large house with a slit chimney that surpassed its high estimate of $ 3,500 to take $ 9,600. It was from an unknown maker and featured a black house, gilded steps and letters, and a fireplace highlighted in red at its base. The house was 4 inches high.
“It’s an extremely rare bank,” said Leon Weiss. “Maybe three or four known. Three people competed, all three have at least 2,000 banks each and none of them had – that’s how rare this is.
Slightly taller at 8 ?? ½ inches high and 15 ½ inches wide was a full-size Independence Hall, known to be the tallest of all the still banks, which grossed $ 7,800. Less than ten of these banks are known. Even taller at 10 ½ inches tall was an Eagle Bank with a mansard roof, produced by an unknown American manufacturer in the late 1880s, in excellent condition, which sold for $ 2,040. From the Gray Iron Casting Company in Pennsylvania was a remarkably detailed and painted state bank, which sold for $ 2,640. With painted reflections delineating the individual bricks of the building, combined with vividly gilded doors and windows, the auction house said these were the most intricate and developed details they have ever had. seen on this bank. Smith & Egge’s Boston State House Bank, circa 1880, was selling for $ 6,600. A powder-blue house with floor-to-ceiling windows with a red roof and a green gable was from an unknown maker, but was shiny enough that bidders would take it to $ 7,200. With the provenance of Mark Suomi, a Belfry building from Kenton Hardware would cost $ 4,200. The 8-inch-high bank featured brilliant gold paint on its architectural columns, window panes, doors, belfry brackets, and finial.
Among Cole’s cast iron figurative stills was an entire unit of Mulligans, an old pejorative for Irish cops – he had 23 with 15 advertising various clothiers. Two were produced by Hubley, one by Arcade and the rest by AC Williams. They sold for $ 60 to $ 2,400, the top made for an example of AC Williams advertising “Smith the Shoeman”.
When the Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago in 1893, English manufacturer John Harper Ltd produced The Chicago Bank as a keepsake for attendees. In exceptional condition, Cole’s copy sold for $ 4,800.
The tin banks were run by an $ 8,400 Church bank with a white exterior, a black roof, and an arrow that featured a ringing bell. It was produced by the Merriam Mfg Company in Durham, Connecticut, and originated from Donal Markey.
This result was still pale compared to his best pewter mechanical bank, Saalheimer & Strauss’s 1920s Golliwog, which was priced at $ 21,600. The auction house said only three or four of these specimens are known, making them one of the most elusive pewter mechanics on the market. Weiss said he had four bidders vying for the lot. The maker was also a $ 6,600 tiger and a $ 5,400 lion.
Once a beloved member of the Weiss Family collection for over 20 years, a Merriam Mfg Co., No. 162 Pure Milk Delivery Wagon toy sold for $ 12,000. Its provenance also included William Holland and Bernard Barenholtz. “This is truly one of the best toys that I have come across from the Merriam Company,” Weiss wrote, noting that he is not aware of any other example of this toy. Behind it at $ 11,400 was a tin “Pegasus” mechanical locomotive by Ives, Blakeslee & Company. The auction house said it was one of the finest and most intricate mechanical pewter toys made in the 19th century. The example was discovered in an attic on Long Island about ten years ago. Condition drove the result on a Farmer Chasing After His Pigs toy from Fallows, which grossed $ 11,400.
The best of the $ 4,500 hooded guns was a rare example of a black cat by Ives, Blakeslee & Company, who patented it in 1882. The cat appears to be sitting with its long tail curled down to form the grip. The firm said it was one of the most important and sought after hooded guns in the hobby. At $ 4,200, there was an example of Uncle Sam Said Git that came from the Hegarty collection. RSL called it “one of the most historically significant toys created in the 19th century” because it featured Uncle Sam pulling a Spanish admiral from the barrel of the gun, like a board. The side of the weapon reads “Dewey – Remember the Maine – We Do – We Did It”, referring to the Spanish American war hero, Admiral George Dewey, who demolished the Spanish Pacific Squadron with a single victim by his side in one of the most decisive naval battles in American history.
“The sale went extremely well,” said Leon Weiss. “It exceeded our expectations by about 12 to 15 percent.”
RSL will hold its first crème de la crème auction on August 21, offering a premier and boutique assortment of mechanical and mechanical banks, iron and pewter toys, and American folk art. The company said this sale will take place once a year in the summer.
All prices shown include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.rslauctionco.com or 908-823-4049.