The mechanical marvel is a fabulously rare early piece of Disney memorabilia that was made for just a very brief period in the early 1930s by Saalheimer and Strauss of Nuremberg, one of the leading tinplate toy manufacturers in Europe.
It survived thanks to the fact that Victor Swain, a film-loving schoolboy, was not only thrilled to receive the present but treasured it until his death at the age of 97, two years ago. It then passed to his son, Matlock Bath architect and artist Richard Swain, and went up on top of the display cabinet… where it remain until a member of the family working in America saw news reports that one of these moneyboxes had sold at auction for $20,000!”
Graham Paddison, a toy specialist with Scarborough auctioneers David Duggleby, said: “It’s really early Disneyana. Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse in 1928, introducing him to the world in Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon film to have synchronised music and sound. It was a huge hit and Mickey became an international star.”
“Saalheimer and Strauss were making a range of tinplate moneyboxes at the time and they secured permission to use Mickey Mouse. They created four variants, with slight differences in the Mickey figure. None of them were produced in large numbers and they are all incredibly rare today. This is the first I’ve seen in my entire career.”
The version that is going under the hammer on Friday (December 3) is the Type 1, depicting Mickey with folded hands. A motto on the reverse of the moneybox explains how it works:
‘If you only pull my ear
You will see my tongue appear.
Place a coin upon my tongue
Save your money while you’re young.’
Graham added: “Just a handful of examples of this moneybox… or money bank as the collectors call them… have passed through auction rooms in the past few years, all of them in the United States, none in this country as far as we are aware. Results have ranged from $8,000 (£6,000) up to $35,670 (£26,771), a price that was achieved at an auction in Denver in March last year.”
“It is causing a phenomenal amount of interest.”
The catalogue for the Toys, Diecast Model Cars, Dolls and Vintage Teddy Bears Auction is available on the Internet (davidduggleby.com). The viewing sessions are at the Vine Street Saleroom in Scarborough on Wednesday and Thursday (December 1 and 2) plus on Friday morning from 9am until the start of the auction at 12.30pm. The auction is to be webcast with online bidding through DD Live and thesaleroom.com.