WHAT: When more than 300 still banks from a noted private collection sold at Bertoia Auctions last month, a highlight was the rare Kenton cast-iron Statue of Liberty figure bank. Still banks lack action and/or mechanical parts. The bank, estimated presale at $2,000 to $3,000, soared to $6,000 (including buyer premium) for several reasons. First, the figure stands about 9 inches tall. As toy banks go, that is a rare height. Also, the bank was in impeccable condition down to the glossy, like-new surface paint.
MORE: The bank was consigned for sale to an auction house with a stellar reputation in the field. Known for decades and celebrated for selling the finest in figural cast-iron and old toys, Bertoia is solid as they come. The consignor/collector was a major player in toy bank collecting, so bidders knew that his lots came with top vetting. Provenance counts big time in the secondary market.
SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: A critical factor in collecting still and mechanical banks is the trap closure usually found in the bottom of the base. This trap is where inserted coins are retrieved. In all cases, it must be old and original to the model. Here, the bank has its original trap closure marked with an 1875 patent.
HOT TIP: Patent dates do not reflect the date of make. This bank may date into the 1920s, long after the patent was applied.
BOTTOM LINE: Incorporated in Kenton, Ohio, in 1890, the Kenton foundry started making cast-iron toys in the early 1900s. After a series of setbacks, some patterns were transferred to other toymakers, including J. & E. Stevens.
That's why similar cast-iron toys and banks were made by differing companies, and why this figure is valuable as a Kenton-made bank.