The Magazine for Collectors, June 1945
By INA HAYWARD BELLOWS
writing "Old Mechanical Banks," numerous inquiries have come to me
regarding banks not pictured or possibly not listed in the book.
There are many banks not pictured for various reasons — the book itself being
a dealers' and collectors' guide, contains the necessary information, from which
deductions are to be made.
From time to time duplicate banks will appear and prices of old models will vary
— however, it may be said that all banks listed have increased in price since
the book was published, along with the increase in price of all commodities, and
the banks may be pushed ahead into the next higher class. Some of the more
common types such as "Jolly Nigger," Class A, has not increased, as
has the "Always Did 'Spise a Mule," of the same class.
The banks depicting a great deal of action, such as the last mentioned, are much
more popular, and therefore have become more valuable than those of more simple
action. No attempt has been made to list all variants as it has been presumed
that the collector would be able to deduct from the printed list at the back of
the book the approximate value of his bank.
Banks are individual pieces of mechanism which required skill and time to
perfect, and with the fast-moving world of today there is scarcely time to study
the workings of these fascinating devices, which motivated the saving of coins.
It will be remembered that these so-called Penny Banks really did more toward
instilling the idea of thrift in the mind of the youngster than any other one
idea of the time, and many financiers can look back and attribute part of their
first ideas of thrift and economy to the Mechanical Bank of their childhood
days. If a parent said to a child, "Now save this money," it meant
little or nothing, but if the same parent said, "Let us see how the bulldog
swallows the coin," the same child, buy this sugar-coated device, saved all
his coins to see the bulldog work!
Bankers realize the idea back of the banks and for this reason, if for none
other, bankers are in the majority as bank collectors.
The world over — the Yankee is noted for his ingenuity and thrift, and the
penny bank portrays this thrift perhaps more than any other created device of
the time. The surprising thing is how quickly the banks fill up, and how soon
the money which is saved really counts. However, the idea back of it is that
most parents wish to instill in their children's minds a sense of thrift and
economy. Most teachers have little sugar-coated devices to teach the children
facts, — and from my own experience I have found that a child will always
remember these, whereas a certain printed page in a book means little.
I have had banks offered me for sale all over the country, some at ridiculously
high prices for the most common banks. On one occasion I stopped at a
second-hand shop in one of our larger cities, and there reposing on the shelf
was a "Jolly Nigger," Class A (Old Mechanical Banks), with the paint
somewhat worn, but the action perfect. I asked the price, and the second-hand
store man fairly shouted "$25, and cheap at that! Why, there is a woman who
will pay me anything for one of these banks." I said "Oh!" and
made no further comment so he went on to tell me of the woman having written a
book about banks from which he had obtained his information. He said he really
did not care to sell it at all as every night he placed it in a night club and
every night it was filled with coins which patrons had gladly deposited there,
to see the bank work! The proprietor had split profits with him, until now the
bank had earned many times what he was asking for it. This rather amused me, but
I said nothing because people rather hate to have their "build up"
torn to pieces.
On other occasions I have known eating places to have a few of these more common
types (that stand rough usage) standing on their counters, and with the money
obtained have furthered relief funds. When a patron pays his bill, he almost
always receives some small change, and will stop to work these amusing devices.