Cast Iron Aunt Jemima Mammy Bank

This example is a new fantasy cast iron bank. This particular piece has been 'distressed' so that it doesn't so much resemble the brand new item it really is. The intent is to make it look a bit shabby and second-hand, with wear similar to that which one would expect to see on a truly old painted, cast iron item.

Note, however, that while it sports a prominent paint chip on the nose and flaked paint on the cheek and kerchief (places where a buyer's eye would naturally rest at first glance) and some hints of rust, there is virtually no flaking or chipped paint on the back of the bank, where wear would actually be the most likely to have occurred. On an 'old' painted bank that had supposedly seen use, for instance, it wouldn't be logical to expect a pristine coin slot, exhibiting no wear whatsoever.

The brownish 'patina' (factory applied), is easiest to spot as fakery in the crevices of the light colored apron and the kerchief around the neck. Examine those areas closely in the pictures so you'll quickly be able to recognize fake 'patina' for what it is in the future. Train your eye to tell you, "It's paint, not patina."

Note, also, the Philip's head screw holding the halves together.

When considering the purchase of a cast iron item keep the tips below in mind (print them off so that you will have them as a handy reference). See how many of them might be applicable to this item.


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 misalignments 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 scrollwork 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: 2007RP000377

Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies

Ruby Lane, Comparisons, CA   

Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items

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