An extremely rare toy bank, thought to be the only one in existence, sold for $266,500 at Freeman's
American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction on November 13. The "Coasting Bank," which soared past its original $30,000 estimate, was unveiled with much fanfare to Mechanical Bank Collectors of America earlier this year.
"We were thrilled with the price the Coasting Bank achieved. It came to us in very good condition, and it caused quite a stir among collectors," said Freeman's Americana Department Head Lynda Cain.
The only known example, and attributed to the famous toy designer Charles A. Bailey, the bank was found in an attic in Peebles, Scotland. Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull were called to assist in determining the unusual bank's worth. It was there that specialist Douglas Girton discovered that the bank was American. He then suggested to the owner that it be sold at Freeman's, their sister auction house in Philadelphia.
"This is a prime example of how the marketing alliance between Lyon & Turnbull and Freeman's is able to offer our clients reach into other markets and demonstrates how two separate companies are able to seamlessly work together in the best interest of our clients," said Freeman's President Paul Roberts. "Most importantly, the owner of the bank was delighted with the outcome and said the price achieved 'exceeded expectations.'"
The Coasting Bank depicts a painted lead figure of a baby with outstretched arms on a sled, his legs straddling a coin slot. The sled rests atop a gold-painted cast steel slide, or track, which is held up by two poles stemming from the red painted base. As the sled descends, the coin is deposited in a triangular cast lead bank, painted green with gold floral scrollwork. The rectangular base features an open-work, geometric design, which flanks the cast iron title "Coasting.Bank."
F.H. Griffith, in his article "Coasting Bank" published in the April 1955 issue of Hobbies Magazine, chronicles William J. Stackhouse's discovery of an advertisement for the Coasting Bank in Ehrich's Fashion Quarterly from 1884. According to Griffith, "this bank is not known to be in any collection and the catalog offers us our first information about it."
Although there is no patent information available for the Coasting Bank, certain strikingly conspicuous features warrant an attribution to the illustrious bank designer Charles A. Bailey. Bailey worked for J. & E. Stevens Company from the 1880s to about 1915 when he established himself as an independent designer and manufacturer. He is responsible for many great mechanical banks, including the rare Bismark Pig Bank and the Germania Exchange Bank, both featured alongside the Coasting Bank in the Ehrich's Fashion Quarterly advertisement. Bailey had a known penchant for utilizing lead or white metal; the Coasting Bank's cast lead figure, therefore, serves to reaffirm the attribution. Given their similarities in general action and overall design-especially with regards to the cast floral scroll work present on both triangular coin receptacles- this bank might have served as the predecessor to the "Shoot the Chute" mechanical bank designed by Charles A. Bailey for J. & E. Stevens Co. in 1906.