Collecting Cast Iron Banks is Rewarding and Profitable, especially if you know how to spot OLD ORIGINALS and avoid Modern Reproductions coming out of China.
The OLDEST Cast Iron Banks were miniature versions of actual Bank Buildings and Safes that you could drop small change into and open from the bottom. Other versions included Animals such as Pigs, a variety of dogs, both sitting and standing, rabbits, Mutt and Jeff Characters and so many more.
Banks were either opened at the bottom with a simple metal key, or they came apart by removing a flat-head screw. The FIRST clue to spotting a Reproduction Cast Iron Bank is the TYPE of screw used to hold it together.
A FLAT-HEAD Screw could indicate Antique and Original, but a PHILLIPS-HEAD Screw indicates Modern Reproduction, or REPRO as the collectors call them. There's nothing wrong with owning a Repro, and they can be enjoyable display items, BUT they have NO antique or collectible value and the price you pay should reflect that. You won't live long enough to see a REPRO go up in value.
How do you buy GENUINE OLD ORIGINAL Cast Iron Banks at a reasonable price and watch them INCREASE in Value as you get older and enjoy the conversations these gems create? Ebay is a TERRIFIC Source of finding GREAT Old Banks at prices that are often times 20% below retail market value. If you attend public auctions or regional antique shows, you know how hard it is to find a good supply of Cast Iron Banks and Doorstops, but eBay allows the WORLD to come to your Computer Screen, opening up your options.
One tip I use for identifying OLD cast iron versus NEW cast iron is the SMELL of old cast iron. It should smell earthy and mushroom-like, especially when wet. Newer cast iron will not have that smell. Another tip is the darkness of the exposed cast iron. OLD cast iron is very dark, almost black and is very smooth to the touch. NEW cast iron is a much lighter silver color, rough edges and may have red rust. OLD cast iron will not have red rust, ever. Red rust indicates new cast iron.
Education is the KEY to buying OLD Cast Iron Banks. The fastest and least expensive tuition you can pay is to buy a good book on Cast Iron Banks for about $20, study the dozens of examples and their current values, look for qualities such as Smooth Metal Edges, old colors, a reasonable amount of wear and missing paint, and of course, a Flat-Head Screw or old key that allows you to access the money.
Many children used their cast iron banks extensively, both as a bank and as a toy, especially the animal banks like boston terriers, bulldogs, pigs and rabbits, so expect some paint loss, wear on the edges and minor damage. That simply adds character. Rust, on the other hand, is a big detractor. I'm not talking about simple surface rust. I'm more concerned about severe rust that has pitted the metal, probably from being stored in a damp area or after sitting in water for a period of time. Rust hurts the value A LOT, so buy accordingly.
Some of the banks that are most often reproduced are the Mechanical Banks that allowed you to place a coin on a hand or in a mouth and after hitting a button, the bank actually swallowed or consumed the coin, only to be later retrieved by the child. Uncle Sam banks, Frog Banks, and others were VERY popular, but due to their moving parts, many were damaged or parts were lost over the past 120 years.
There are MANY Reproduction Mechanical Banks so be cautious! Fresh Paint, bright colors and either shiny flat-head screws or phillips-head screws along with rough metal edges are clear indicators of REPRODUCTION mechanical banks or any other bank for that matter. Pay accordingly knowing the value will not go up in your lifetime if they are brand new!
BEFORE YOU BUY make sure you get a short education. Buy a Cast Iron Bank Book by a well-known collector, study the photos, descriptions and values. Watch several Cast Iron Banks on eBay before buying one. Learn to spot the fakes and you'll save money and frustration. Collecting is Fun and Rewarding, so buy carefully, take your time and become an arm-chair expert in no time. Have fun collecting Cast Iron Banks on eBay!
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