Black Americana Girl with Watermelon Cast Still Bank

This example is yet another Black Americana-themed item in the shape of a small cast iron still bank, sometimes called a 'dime' bank. Paint is in excellent condition with a few judiciously placed chips here and there in the painted surface to help suggest age. But notice how bright white is the paint around the inside edges of many of the chips. Were this an authentically old piece and the damage genuine (not done on purpose) the white color showing in the chipped areas would have mellowed to a less than white color, by now. The modern, shiny nature of the paint is wrong for this type of item, too.

This piece has a slotted screw holding it together, rather than a Phillip's-head screw, which can allow it to seem to be original and old. But it is obvious the bank's screw has never had a tool, or a dime, as children may have used in place of a screwdriver, to loosen it since manufacture. This would be a completely illogical characteristic to find on an old bank with 'original' paint. At some point in its life someone would have put money in that they later wanted to take out again.

This example measures approximately 4 1/2 inches tall by 2 1/2 inches wide, but other sizes may be available of this design.

When considering the purchase of a cast iron item keep the tips below in mind. For practice, see how many other tips offered in the list might also be applicable to this item.

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1. New reproductions of vintage cast iron toys/banks will be heavier and less detailed than an original counterpart.

2. The individual pieces often don't fit well together. Look for misalignment's and gaps at seams where the pieces meet.

3. Very fine sand was used in the creation of old cast iron pieces, so expect them to be extremely smooth, with fine detail. Surfaces of old cast iron will feel almost silky to the touch.

4. The makers of newer cast iron pieces use a rougher, less expensive sand for casting that results in a surface that is rough and/or grainy, sometimes pebbled. Detail is usually poor, as well, often bordering on crudeness. If it doesn't look as if a skilled craftsman made it, it’s almost certainly a contemporary piece.

5. Look for flash (excess metal) at seams or on design elements - inside the spokes of a wheel, for instance, or inside edges on the coin slot of a bank. Even inside the crevices of intricate details like scroll work can be expected to be well finished in antique pieces. Very little to no flash will be present on an authentically old piece.

6. Visible rough grinding marks are the hallmark of the modern power tool. Finishing marks should be virtually invisible on an old piece.

7. Expect an old piece to have a better level of detail to the paintwork. On figural pieces, look carefully at faces as they should not look crudely (quickly) painted. Newer pieces are usually mechanically spray painted with a thin layer of paint, although not always.

8. Patina can be faked, so look for evidence it has been wiped on with a brush or rag at the factory. Other ways to quickly give the appearance of age to new cast iron is to bake newly applied paint in an oven or bury an item briefly to achieve some authentic appearing rusted areas.

9. Sandpapering or abusing an item in some other way after new paint has been applied is done in an effort to mimic the appearance of play wear or use. New items may have 'wear,' but it often won't be in areas of the piece where it would logically be found. Wear in inappropriate areas and pristine surfaces where wear should logically be expected, invariably equals fakery.

10. Authentically old pieces won't be held together with modern Phillip's head screws. However, seeing a slotted screw under 'original' paint doesn't automatically mean a piece must be all right. Since collectors got wise to this fact, many newer cast iron fakes and reproductions are now produced with slotted screws that closely resemble those that would be found in authentic pieces.

11. Reproductions and fantasy items currently in production today are rarely marked. They might originally sport a paper label but, generally, soon after delivery to the first wholesale buyer a paper label tends to ‘fall’ off.

Quite a few 19th and early 20th century foundries incorporated a mark, name or patent number into their molds. However, since some reproductions are produced from molds made from an original piece, as with many other types of collectibles, a maker's name isn't always proof the item is authentic.

Item ID: 2007RP000198

Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies


Ruby Lane, Comparisons, CA   

Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items

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