How to Appraise Cast Iron Banks

By Shelia Odak

Collectors of cast-iron banks are often attracted to the nostalgia of the item. However, these banks are also collectible because of their value. Antique banks sell well at auction, in antique stores and on the Internet. You can still find valuable banks at garage sales, flea markets, or even in a relative’s attic. Learning a few methods for appraising a bank lets you know when you have found one that will appreciate in value.

Verify you don’t have a reproduction. There are many reproduction cast-iron banks on the market. Your bank’s value depends on it being a vintage model. Look at how it is made. Pay attention to the screws. If the bank is held together by Phillips-head screws, it is a modern bank. Look at the condition of the iron. In a vintage piece, the cast iron will be dark, free from rust, and smooth. A newer bank will have a silvery cast, may have rust, and often will have sharp edges.

Look at the condition. A vintage bank is expected to have some wear to the paint. If the paint looks too perfect or bright, the bank may be a reproduction or has been repainted. Repainting a vintage bank hurts its value. Also, look for any signs that the piece has been restored, such as parts made out of thinner, cheaper metal than the original cast iron. This adversely affects value.

Refer to value guides. Visit your local library or a bookstore to check out price guides for cast-iron banks. If you cannot find your bank, look at the prices of banks with similar attributes, those from the same time period, or pieces from the same manufacturer. Studying these prices will help you appraise your bank. Some metal bank value guides include “The Official Price Guide to Mechanical Banks” by Dan Morphy, “Collectors Encyclopedia Toys-Banks: Cast Iron, Tin Wind-Up, Autos & More With Prices” by L-W Book Sales, and “The Penny Bank Book: Collecting Still Banks” by Andy and Susan Moore.

Investigate the resale market. Studying what cast iron banks are getting on the open market is a good way to assess the appraisal value of your own collection. If you have an antiques or collectibles store in your area that carries a selection of banks, start there. In addition, go to large online dealers and see how they are pricing their inventory. Check an Internet auction house such as eBay. There you will see an extensive and rapidly changing selection of banks. Read the descriptions carefully to get the most information about each piece. In order to see the final auction prices on eBay, you must set up a free account.

Consult a professional. If you need an appraisal value on your collection for insurance purposes, your best bet is to get a written appraisal from a professional. Contact the American Society of Appraisers or the International Society of Appraisers to find an appraiser who has expertise in assessing the value of antique cast-iron banks.

About the Author

Shelia Odak has over 10 years writing and editing experience for consumer and trade publications including "Radio/TV Interview Report." She has worked for over nine years in education and holds a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Odak writes on a range of topics including education, literature and frugal living.