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HOBBIES - The Magazine for Collectors, March, 1938

You May Bank On This

TOY mechanical banks have long been favorites of the adult collector. There is another phase of the bank hobby, however, that is proving popular and that is the small toy pottery bank for the younger collector. In fact, so popular is the toy type of bank that now several adults have succumbed to this hobby.
     Recently I met a lad who has become interested in this hobby after watching his antique minded parents on their collecting jaunts. The fact that his parents encourage this type of hobby pleases me greatly. It creates, it seems to me, another bond of real interest between parents and children, and trains the young people to respect and admire the fine old pieces that their parents are accumulating and that will some day be passed down to the sons and daughters.
     Toy penny banks are not very hard to find. Almost every family can dig one out of the attic. One we found was a little green building made of filagreed iron. The sides and roof fitted into a base and were secured by a long screw that was bolted in the chimney. When filled with pennies, this bank held about five dollars. One similar to this figured in an attempt at robbery not long ago. While the family was away burglars broke into a house in Detroit. They discovered a child's bank and opened it. What they found was too ill an omen for their liking. They left without taking a thing, and when the family returned, they saw, on the kitchen table the broken bank and beside it, laid out in a neat row, exactly thirteen pennies.
     The earliest of the really mechanical banks that I have seen is dated 1873. It is called the Magic Bank. When a coin is inserted, the door swings around disclosing a cashier's window with a tiny figure peering out. In the Novelty Bank the clerk meets you at the door. You give him your money and he disappears into the depths of the building. A panicky feeling always seizes me as I watch his retreating back. Who knows what nefarious plans he may have for my money.
     A young woman I know has a charming collection of banks many of which have fascinating histories. One little red pottery jug she bought from a farmer's wife in Indiana whose mother had had it as a little girl. When the family was about to trek over the Kentucky mountains' into Indiana, the child's mother proposed that the jug be thrown away. It was one of the few toys the little girl possessed. She hid it under her apron and finally smuggled it into a bag with two kittens. It made the journey safely on horseback to the new cabin and was treasured for her children. What imaginative child coming upon a piece like this could fail to be thrilled again at the picture it brings of early days in our country.
     Although American children may read about Punnh and Judy shows in Paris, they seldom see them on Main Street, but there is a delightful Punch and Judy bank still to be found at an occasional auction, now and then in antique shops, and sometimes in an attic. Just as her unkind spouse is about to hit her over the head with his big stick, Judy gets even with him by throwing the dough out of the window. The dough is your penny deposited in the frying pan. For those dreary people who believe that all toys for children should be educational, here is one to satisfy even the jaundiced eyes of the most modern. It teaches a fact of life. So much money has flown out of the window lately.
     Just as many modern toys are made to sell to parents, so many toy banks were designed for a parental sense of humor. I can see many a father chuckling over the Tammany Man. Portly and resplendent in a yellow vest he sits in a seat of authority. Into his outstretched palm the money is dropped. He smiles" blandly, nods his head, "Yes, yes," and drops the coin into his own pocket. Among collectors of banks this one is a favorite and many a restored farm house has a pair of Tammany men for book-ends.
     What fun a family could have over the acquisition of these quaint old political humors. And how, through the finding of a pink china pig or a tiny glass hen could mother and father recall their own childhood with stories of other days. How small this little frog bank was, mute testimony that the pennies in those days were few and far between. And what a world of homely philosophy lies behind the presence here today of those china banks. We more honest souls broke our crockery banks to empty them, but those which remain testify to their owner's adeptness at pilfering from himself with knife blade or hairpin.
     Some collectors of banks include in their collections new designs as well as the old ones and the youngster who is not fortunate enough to find many of these interesting old pieces can easily assemble a credit- able aggregate of modern banks with a few old ones for curiosities. Among the modern banks, Liberty Bells, Independence Hall, and the Statue of Liberty are distinctly patriotic. From the World War we inherited miniature tanks and torpedoes. "Save and Have a Barrel of Money" is the encouraging legend on a little metal barrel. Leather bound books whose titles suggest thrift are fairly recent. A small bronze bust of Lindbergh was issued by one bank not long ago. And from Mexico we now have beautiful pottery pigs and gourds painted in exotic colors to choose from.
     If anyone should wonder where to go to pick up old banks, here are a few suggestions. A house to house canvas of all your older friends and relatives would yield up several for a starter. Then visit the local Salvation Army or Goodwill shop. They often have surprising material for sale, and I know an antique dealer in a large city who visits these stores regularly. Church bazaars have white-elephant tables where china banks are likely to turn up for a song. The antique dealers have the rarer varieties.
     Winter time auctions in country towns, while not so showy as summer time auctions, offer the same opportunities to the young collector as to the old. There you often find, among the household effects of an old lady who has died, a rare old bank, and because no one else wants it, you may have it at your own price. Tell people what you are collecting. The world is full of kind hearted men and women who will tell you when they see banks for sale, or even buy them to give to you.


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