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Yesterday's Thrifty Toy Is Collector's Item Today

          Many years ago when grandpa was a boy a bright copper penny was a gift to be prized for then, so we are told, most little boys and girls were paragons of thrift. Be that as it may, the youngsters of that day had extravagantly painted and ingeniously contrived banks to encourage the habit of saving. Foundries vied with each other to produce cast iron mechanical banks that would offer the child a clever or amusing stunt in compensation for the disappearance of the coveted penny into the bank's iron depths. It became a worn but productive ruse in those days for the canny youngster to ask a guest if he would like to see the bank perform. The guest, of course, furnished the coin.
          It is generally conceded that the first of these mechanical banks was invented in the year 1869 by John Hall, a New England Yankee. He designed the Hall Excelsior Bank (see photo) which was a miniature house, the chimney of which lifted up, revealing a little man seated at his desk. A penny placed on the desk provided just enough weight to counterbalance the chimney,, and the little man disappeared with the coin, bowing his thanks as he descended into the bowels of the bank. Meeting with almost instant success, this first bank was followed by scores of others and for the next twenty-five or thirty years mechanical toy banks were all the rage. Today these banks are collectors' items, either as works of art or as samples of mechanical ingenuity.
          For the past ten years, John R. Martin, General Foreman of Service Stock, Plant Two, and his son Jack, Dept. 250, Plant Two, have been collecting both mechanical and "still" banks and have found it a fascinating and rewarding hobby. Their collection includes some 200 "still," or "character," banks and 65 of the mechanical models. "Stills" are remarkably realistic iron miniatures of animals, houses, churches, safes, comic strip characters, soldiers, sailors, sailors, and the like. Among their mechanical banks some of the most interesting are the "William Tell," "The Hunter and the Bear," "The Eagle Feeding Her Young," "The Football, or Calamity, Bank" and "Always Did 'Spise a Mule," to mention just a few.
          In the William Tell bank, for instance, a penny place on Tell's crossbow shoots an apple from his son's head; apple and penny disappear into a slot in the castle. In the Hunter model, the fearless man with the gun fires at a target on a tree and, as the coin shoots home, a bear pops out of the tree stump. These banks and almost a hundred others from the Martin collection were on display in the window of a local men's clothing store during the Sixth War Loan Drive.
          Many of the Martin family vacation trips have developed into veritable treasure hunts, for while the men track down banks to add to their collection, Mrs. Martin who is also an enthusiastic collector is on the lookout for her specialty, individual salt, and individual butter, dishes of old glass or china.
          Bank collecting has led to varied and pleasant contacts with other enthusiasts.
          Out pheasant hunting one fall in the neighborhood of Fostoria, Ohio, Martin and his son dropped into the First National Bank to examine the famous Emerine collection and stayed to chat, and exchange many a valuable hint about mechanical banks, with Andrew Emerine, the institution's president. Mr. Emerine, who is a pioneer in the field and an expert's expert, estimates that the total number of different American-made banks possible to assemble in the neighborhood of 270. So the Martins, with 65 fine examples, are well on the way toward owning a most complete collection.
          With the war over, bank hunters will take to the road again and it is fairly safe to assume that the Martin family will be Among the hunters. In fact, with a bank or two to trade (the Martins own several duplicate models) this summer's trek should yield a prize and the Martins then will have a new act to add to their miniature penny-cadging hippodrome.

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