|By Don Johnson
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Made in the United States in the late 19th century and discovered in an attic in Scotland in 2013, the only known example of a Coasting Bank sold for $266,500 (with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s on Nov. 13, 2013. Estimated at $30,000 to $50,000, the bank went to an American collector.
A woman cleaning out her mother-in-law’s home found the cast-iron mechanical bank. The piece was taken to the British version of the Antiques Roadshow, where it was deemed to have considerable value. The woman then approached Lyon & Turnbull, an auction house in Edinburgh, which passed the consignment to its American partner, Freeman’s.
“We knew that American collectors would be extremely interested in this mechanical bank, and Freeman’s was the better fit to sell it,” Douglas Girton, a specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, said in a statement released by Freeman’s.
The bank featured a black-painted lead figure of a baby with outstretched arms, sitting upright on a sled while the child’s legs straddled a coin slot. As the sled descended the slide, the coin dropped into a triangular metal box having gold floral scrollwork on a green ground. At the bottom of the slide, the sled flipped, landing the baby on its head. The name of the bank was embossed at the center of the red base, which had an openwork geometric design.
The design is attributed to Charles A. Bailey (1848-1926), who worked for J.&E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn., from the 1880s to about 1915, when he established himself as an independent designer and manufacturer. Two of Bailey’s other works, the Bismark Pig Bank and the Germania Exchange Bank, were featured with the Coasting Bank and nine other examples in an advertisement in the Ehrich’s Fashion Quarterly in 1884. The Coasting Bank was priced 95 cents.
Bailey often used lead or white metal in his designs. The Coasting Bank’s lead baby followed that practice. Other similarities between Bailey’s known designs and the Coasting Bank included the general action of the bank, the use of floral scrollwork, and the triangular coin receptacle. One comparable bank later designed by Bailey was Shoot the Chute, patented in 1906 and produced by J.&E. Stevens Co.
Collectors have hunted for an example of the Coasting Bank since 1955, when F.H. Griffith published an article regarding the piece in the April issue of Hobbies Magazine. The author chronicled William J. Stackhouse’s discovery of the ad in Ehrich’s Fashion Quarterly. Griffith noted, “This bank is not known to be in any collection and the catalog offers us our first information about it.”
Prior to Freeman’s auction, interest in the bank increased when the piece was shown at the annual convention of the Mechanical Bank Collectors of America in September.
“We were thrilled with the price the Coasting Bank achieved,” Lynda Cain, director of Freeman’s Americana Department, said in a statement. “It came to us in very good condition, and it caused quite a stir among collectors.”