Circa 1888 Dark Town Battery Mechanical Baseball Bank

Sold For: $5,700

Auction Year: 2016 fall

Lot: 1500

Item Year: 1888

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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This nineteenth-century painted cast-iron bank features a figural pitcher, batter, and catcher, set above the rectangular coin-vault base. Fine example of this important rarity that is universally recognized as a classic by both nineteenth-century baseball and mechanical-bank collectors. Each of the "players" has a moving head and arms. The pitcher's arm swings back and, when a button is pushed, pitches a coin into the trapdoor on the catcher's stomach while the batter swings and misses. Manufactured by the J & E Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, the Dark Town Battery bank is the only nineteenth-century bank designed with a baseball theme, and is also the only mechanical bank of the era to have three figures, each with moving parts, as elements in its mechanical action. "Pat Jan 17" stamped on the bottom. (Note: There are reproductions of this bank, issued in the 1950s and 1960s by The Book of Knowledge, featuring white players as opposed to African American players, and titled "Home Town Battery" as opposed to "Dark Town Battery." This example, of course, is a nineteenth-century original.) Extremely desirable bank highly regarded by baseball, Americana, and mechanical-bank collectors alike. It appears that all of the figural pieces retain much of their original paint. The bottom stopper, which normally displays the manufacturer's name, is no longer present. Except for the missing stopper, the bank remains in perfect working order and exhibits normal wear commensurate with its age and former use. In Excellent condition overall. 9.5 x 2.75 x 7 inches. Reserve $500. Estimate $2,000+.

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