NEW YORK SUN – 1930sTHE SUN’S RAYS
Bankers Make a Hobby of Toy Banks
Two Men Who Have Been Collectors a Long Time Are Joined by Others.
Toy bank collecting seems to have caught
the fancy of an increasing number of persons who devote week ends, holidays
and vacations to rummaging around in antique shops in search of new
specimens to add to their growing accumulations. A few years ago only two
individuals were nationally known collectors. They were Elmer Rand Jacobs,
who is vice-president of the Seamen’s Bank for Savings in this city, and
Andrew Emerine, who is an officer of the First National Bank of Fostoria,
Ohio. Both these have added extensively to their collections, but they now
have competition rather than a monopoly.
No doubt children of all races during all the centuries in which money
has been a medium of exchange have had their coin banks. Probably the
collection of the future will display specimens of what were used, not in
one country during the last hundred years, but what have served children in
many nations at different periods.
One of Mr. Jacob’s possessions is a reproduction of a terra cotta
receptable which was used by some young Roman Antonius or Portia, more than
1,900 years ago, for the deposit of copper ases. (Rome once had gold ases,
but new deal came along and inflation drove them out of use). No doubt the
Roman parents of 1,900 years ago suggested that if each as were properly
cared for, the golden aurei would look out for themselves. This Roman kiddy
bank was a small oblong box, like a collar button chest, having on its top
side a pig outlined in intaglio. When full, the bank was opened by breaking
the terra cotta along the groove which outlined the pig. Unfortunately, when
found the bank had been rifled.
The reproduction of the Roman child’s bank was purchased in the absence
of Mr. Jacobs and it cost $20. It was overvalued, in the opinion of the
Seamen’s Bank officer. He rarely pays more than a dollar or two for his
specimens unless he knows them to be unusually rare, in which case he will
go as high as $5 or $6. He has added to his collection on trips through this
and other countries and through gifts from friends who know of his hobby. He
also receives offerings from dealers who search the country for antique
banks in the hope that Mr. Jacobs will buy them.
The Seamen’s Bank officer has found New England a fruitful field for
trophies. More recently he acquired some interesting types of Aztec design
in the course of a visit to Mexico, where toy banks were an article of
merchandise in places where money was too scarce to assure clothing.
Mr. Jacobs has in his Americana collection almost all kinds of
non-mechanical banks in the form of public buildings, various animals and
birds, bean pots, carrousels, baseball and football players, models of
Indians, Negroes and even historic personages such as Capt. Kid, Theodore
Roosevelt and Gen. Pershing. Unusual types are the “See, Hear and Speak No
Evil” bank, the “Pass Around the Hat” and “Liberty Proclaimed.” One of the
oldest rarities in the child’s bank line is a grinning clay face which is
not unlike the gargoyles seen occasionally on old New England tombstones.
Intriguing as are the toy banks which neither move nor perform, the
mechanical ones which do always draw the larger share of the attention
bestowed upon them by children and grownups alike who come into the Seamen’s
Bank to examine Mr. Jacobs’s treasures, which are permanently exhibited
there. For instance, there is an effigy of Boss Tweed. When a coin is placed
in the Boss’s hand it is quickly transferred to the proper pocket. There is
also a model showing Theodore Roosevelt shooting big game. The bullet is a
coin which, fired into a tree trunk, dislodges a grizzly bear which emerges
from a hole in the top. Another mechanical bank is known as “Professor
Pugfrog’s Great Bicycle Feat.” It consists of a bullfrog on a bonebreaker
bicycle. When a coin is placed over the small wheel the bullfrog makes two
complete turns, depositing the coin in a basket held by a clown.
Still another mechanical bank is in the form of a darky astride a mule.
When a coin is placed in the darky’s mouth the mule throws its rider and the
darky deposits the coin in the base of the bank. There are variants of this
bank, such as the “Bad Accident” kind, in which a small Negro darts from
behind a bush, scaring a mule which, rearing, upsets its wagon and driver.
The “Magician bank” displays a lifelike figure before a table on which
the coin is placed. Pressure upon a spring lowers a high hat over the coin;
the magician nods his head and the coin disappears. In the “Eagle and
Eaglets” bank the coin is deposited in a nest from the bill of the mother
bird, who flaps her wings as the eaglets chirp. The “Horse Race” bank is
operated by setting a spring which is released by deposit of a coin. Two
horses then speed around a circular track. This bank is dated 1871.
Relatively few items are dated, though some betray their periods by
depicting things connected with events, such as the Columbian Exposition and
the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. The golden age of manufacture of
mechanical banks, which are mostly contrivances of cast iron, seems to have
been from the ’70’s to the early ’90’s. Some are so complicated and
ingenious that grownups are fascinated by them. Mr. Jacobs takes great
enjoyment in showing visitors just how his exhibits work and the visitors
suspect that he must have spent hours playing with them in order to becomes
so adept in handling their springs and hidden triggers.