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Banking on Morphy’s!

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One highlight of the recent Morphy’s March sale across the Pond had to be the incredible, one-owner-from-new lithographed tinplate Masudaya Machine Man robot. Big, boxy and brightly coloured, this late 1950s/early 1960s specimen stood 15 inches tall. It depicted Japanese production at its best and was one of only a few known examples of its type. Predictably, it proved a magnet for some bidders, who pushed it all the way to US$86,100, exceeding its pre-sale generous estimate. The battery-operated Machine Man robot was designed with a bump-and-go action, and when activated, its ears, eyes and mouth all lit up.

Savings banks were another feature of the sale and while these items might not drum up too much interest over here, in the US they go for, well, big bucks. The 1,588 lot auction, which grossed US$1.9m, featured no fewer than 77 exceptional cast iron mechanical banks, a line-up that brought strong prices across the board. For example, a near mint all-original Merry-Go-Round bank made by Kyser & Rex of Philadelphia came with provenance and sold within estimate for US$55,350.

Several antique mechanicals made by J & E Stevens finished among the top ten banks. A mint condition thin base variation of the Milking Cow bank, was la crème de la crème, and made US$49,200, as did a Magician bank in near mint condition. A Stevens Chief Big Moon bank with a Native American theme flew past its US$6,000-9,000 estimate to reach a staggering US$25,830, a result attributable in no small way to its flawless condition. Two other banks that ranked high with bidders were a Stevens Owl Turns Head in the white colour variation (US$22,140); and an all-original Shepard Hardware Uncle Sam bank, which fetched US$19,860. Finishing tops amongst the tin banks was a seldom seen German made production known as The Empire Cinema. Depicting a movie theatre, its screen displayed one of four different scenes each time a coin was deposited. It was bid to US$15,990.

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