Christopher Columbus would be shocked to discover what a mechanical bank in his likeness recently sold for.

During an auction of mechanical banks held by The RSL Auction Company on June 4 at Timonium, Md., the final lot of the day was a cast-iron World’s Fair Bank that brought a record $43,325 (with the 22.5% buyer’s premium). The sale grossed more than $1 million for the 499 lots.

It has been speculated that Charles Bailey, a master designer for J. & E. Stevens Company, personally painted the five known polychrome World's Fair Banks.

The bank depicted Christopher Columbus sitting on a stump at one end, with an Indian popping up from beneath a fallen log on the other end. On the base, one side was embossed with an Indian on horseback chasing a buffalo, while the other side had an image of the Santa Maria.

“Mechanical bank buyers showed no fear. They jumped right in,” noted co-owner Ray Haradin in a press release. “Even in the middle stretch of the sale, the more-common banks were bringing terrific money.”

Condition remained one of the biggest factors. “Condition still leads the market,” said Haradin.

One boost during the million-dollar auction was the reappearance of investors.

“This sale saw the return of buyers who used to acquire banks for investment. We hadn’t seen them for the last three or four sales. They took a little break and were back and participating in this sale.”

FYI : For information on The RSL Auction Company, see the Web site here.

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