Antiques & Collecting: Mechanical banks function as a useful toy

By Terry and Kim Kovel

Mechanical banks function as both a toy and a useful, even educational, device. Deposit a coin and a figure dances or jumps into the air, an animal swallows the coin, a flag is raised or another action is performed. They entertain children and encourage them to save money.

Now, antique mechanical banks, particularly the cast-iron examples made in the 1800s, sell for impressive prices. Later mechanical banks can sell well, too.

This lithographed tin “Watch Me Grow” bank was made in the 1940s by General Metal in Canada and sold for $615 Canadian (about $459 U.S. currency) at a sale by Jon Dunford, Miller & Miller Auctions, LTD. It is shaped like a cylinder and decorated to look like a figure of a man in a colorful suit holding a sign saying, “Watch Me Grow TALL with Coins Large & Small.” The coin slot is on top of the man’s hat. The figure’s “legs” are hidden inside the cylinder. A spring inside the bank causes the cylinder to rise when coins are dropped in, appearing to lengthen the “legs” and make the figure grow taller.

* * *

Q: A pitcher and washbowl set with the name “Dresden” on the bottom has been in our family for many years. They are white with an embossed design and a few brown flowers and leaves. The pitcher has scalloped edges and a leafy handle. Can you tell me about the history and value of this set?

A: The word “Dresden” was used as a mark by companies in the United States as well as in Dresden, Germany. German porcelain exported to the United States was marked with the country of origin beginning in 1891. Without seeing the mark on your set, we can’t be sure who made it, but it was probably made by the Dresden Pottery Works in East Liverpool, Ohio. It was operated by Brunt, Bloor, Martin and Co. beginning in 1875 and was sold to the Potters Co-operative in 1882. The co-operative made ironstone toilet sets, dinnerware, tea sets, sanitary ware and hotel china. Dresden Pottery Co. bought the Dresden Pottery Works in 1925. It went out of business in 1927. Your pitcher and bowl were probably part of a larger “toilet set.” These were popular before indoor plumbing became common. A pitcher and washbowl might sell for as low as $25 to as much as $50 or $100, depending on the maker, design and condition.

* * *

Q: I inherited a huge amount of jewelry from a relative. I don’t know what to do next. Most seems costume (not sure), but I would like to hold a sale or auction. What do I do and how?

A: Look for marks on the back of the jewelry, then search Kovels.com and other online sites for information about the makers. Check “sold” prices on eBay and liveauctioneers.com, and “asking” prices on other sites, to see what similar jewelry sells for. If you think you have fine jewelry made with real gold or precious stones, take it to a jeweler for an opinion on authenticity and value, and perhaps a sale. Contact an auction house that sells jewelry. If they sell jewelry, they also buy it. Go to flea markets to see what costume jewelry sells for. If you plan to hold an online sale or auction, include a clear photo, size, material, maker, any interesting history and a good title that includes keywords to attract buyers’ attention. If you decide to sell the jewelry yourself, you must charge sales tax. It’s a lot of work but good jewelry sells for fair prices.

* * *

TIP: Set your sundial at noon, June 15. Place it so the shadow falls on the 12.

* * *

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers’ questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.

* * *


Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

Furniture, child’s potty chair, pine, old red paint, high back, shaped crest, curved sides, hole in seat for potty, New England, early 1800s, 26 3/4 inches, $90.

Royal Vienna plaque, painted porcelain, portrait of young woman, flowing red hair, red drape with low neckline, oval, in metal frame with raised flowers in corners, Austria, 1800s, framed, 10 x 8 inches, $185.

Kitchen, churn, butter, wooden stave construction, four horizontal bands, old yellow paint, round, tapered, 1800s, 21 inches, $225.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today