DENVER, Pa. – Although the cast-iron mechanical bank-collecting world is a very active one spanning several continents, only a few bank collections can be accurately described as “highly important” or being of “premier quality.” As any serious collector will attest, reaching that level of excellence takes dedication, constant upgrading and a long-term commitment to the hobby. The special camaraderie connecting bank aficionados worldwide is how Bob and Judy Brady managed to build a collection that is both admired and recognized throughout the hobby as being one of the very finest. On Saturday, February 27, 2021, Morphy’s in Denver, Pa., will auction the Bradys’ incredible 40-year collection, which boasts some of the most elusive, high-condition banks in existence.
Most mechanical banks have complicated inner workings, which naturally appealed to Bob Brady, who has an MBA in mechanical engineering. Following his graduation from college, Bob went to work for General Motors, then for the Fortune 500 commercial printing company R.R. Donnelley, which transferred him in 1972 to Lancaster, Pa. It is there, in America’s renowned antiques hub, that the Bradys put down roots and soon became active in the toy and bank-collecting community. Years later, Bob would serve as president of the prestigious Mechanical Bank Collectors of America.
The pedigree runs deep in Bob and Judy’s museum-worthy bank collection. During the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Bob was able to buy banks with provenance from revered collections at tag sales, shows and other events. Those acquisitions include pieces that were once held in the collections of such pioneers of the hobby as Edwin H. Mosler, Bernard “Barney” Barenholtz, and Stephen and Marilyn Steckbeck; as well as the legendary Perelman Museum of Antique Toys.
Condition has always been of utmost importance to the Bradys. “We’ve probably upgraded banks up to half a dozen times each to satisfy the threshold we’ve set. Our rule has always been that a bank had to have 95% paint or better, unless it was something super rare,” Bob said.
When the Brady collection is auctioned on February 27, each bank will open at half of the low estimate, without reserve. Headliners include:
- Shoot the Chute bank – J. & E. Stevens. Features Buster Brown and his dog Tige in a boat, poised to ride down a chute and knock a coin into the bank. Near-mint-plus with original printed wood box. Provenance: Don Markey. Depicted in The Official Price Guide to Mechanical Banks by Dan Morphy. Estimate: $80,000-$120,000
- Roller Skating bank – Kyser & Rex. Skater figures glide to the rear of the rink as a deposited coin falls into the bank; man turns as if to present a wreath to a little girl. Near-mint. Estimate: $50,000-$80,000
- Mikado bank – Kyser & Rex. Illusionist makes coin appear under one hat then disappear, only to reappear under a second hat. Blue-base variation. Comes with English coins. Near-mint. Estimate: $80,000-$120,000
- Merry-Go-Round bank – Kyser & Rex. When handle is turned, bells chime, figures revolve and attendant raises stick and gathers in any coins deposited on the stand. Near mint with original printed wood box. Estimate: $50,000-$75,000
- Chimpanzee bank – Kyser & Rex. When slider is moved toward monkey figure’s logbook, coin slot opens, monkey lowers arm and head as though logging the deposit into the book, bell dings to signify receipt of deposit. Near-mint-plus. Morphy book example and one of the top examples known. Provenance: Stephen & Marilyn Steckbeck. Estimate: $40,000-$60,000
- Bread Winners bank – J. & E. Stevens. Action serves as political commentary: coin is placed in the end of a club, hammer is raised, button is pressed, and “Labor” strikes “Monopoly” as coin falls into a loaf of bread. Red-jacket variation. Near-mint. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
- Boy Robbing Bird’s Nest bank – J. & E. Stevens – Boy figure crawls outward on tree limb in attempt to rob a bird’s nest; coin is placed in slot, lever is pressed and boy falls as coin disappears into tree. Near-mint-plus and one of the top known examples. Provenance: Bill Norman. Estimate: $25,000-$40,000
- Dentist bank – J. & E. Stevens. Coin is placed in dentist’s pocket, lever is pressed, and while dentist extracts tooth and falls backward against gas bag, patient simultaneously falls back in his chair and throws up his arms. Rare blue-base variation. Near-mint-plus. Morphy book example. Estimate: $40,000-$60,000
- Mason bank – Shepard Hardware Co. Coin is inserted into hod. When lever is pressed, hod carrier leans forward and tosses coin into the brick wall. Bricklayer raises arms as if to receive the coin. Near-mint-plus with original printed wood box. Provenance: Don Markey. Estimate: $25,000-$40,000
- Horse Race bank – J. & E. Stevens. Cord is pulled to set the spring, and horses’ heads are positioned opposite a star. When coin is deposited, horses race around the track. Near-mint-plus with original printed wood box. Morphy book example, quite likely the best of all known examples. Provenance: L.C. (Covert) Hegarty. Estimate $40,000-$60,000
The list of extraordinary mechanical bank highlights continues with a near-mint J. & E. Stevens Germania Exchange (Provenance: Hegarty), $30,000-$50,000; near-mint Kenton Hardware Mama Katzenjammer, white-face variation (Provenance: Kenton showroom, Wally Tudor, Steckbeck; Morphy book example), $30,000-$50,000; near-mint Shepard Hardware Picture Gallery (Provenance: Bill Jones), $30,000-$45,000; J. & E. Stevens near-mint Cupola bank with rare blue base (Provenance: Don Markey), $30,000-$40,000; and a J. & E. Stevens near-mint Girl Skipping Rope (Provenance: Tudor, Steckbeck), $60,000-$90,000.
Among the other very special inclusions are an all-original Kyser & Rex Motor Bank, one of only four or five known to exist, $30,000-$50,000; and two examples of J. & E. Stevens’ baseball-themed Dark Town Battery bank. Both are extremely rare variations depicted in the Dan Morphy reference book. One has white baseball player figures, is in excellent-plus condition and is estimated at $12,000-$18,000. The other, which is near-mint, has the more-familiar African-American player figures, however they’re wearing white uniforms, making the bank especially rare. In order to acquire the latter bank, Bob had to buy an entire collection. “I had never seen the white-uniform variation before, but I knew it was ‘right’ because it matched a trade card Stevens used in promoting the bank to retailers,” he said. Estimate: $25,000-$40,000
Morphy’s Saturday, February 27, 2021 auction of the Bob and Judy Brady mechanical bank collection will be held live at Morphy’s gallery, 2000 N. Reading Rd., Denver, PA 17517, starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Preview Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All remote forms of bidding will be available, including absentee, by phone, and live via the Internet through Morphy Live.For additional information on any item in the sale, call 877-968-8880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid live online at www.morphyauctions.com.
2000 No. Reading Road
About Morphy Auctions
Morphy Auctions is a full-service auction company based in Denver, Pa.