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Circus Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - October, 1952

52-10.JPG (6821 bytes)We have reached the point in our listing where the traditionally unlucky number thirteen comes up. Certainly any collector who has in his collection our choice to occupy the 13th position will be considered lucky in possessing the Circus Bank. It is not only quite rare but extremely desirable from an action and subject standpoint with its appealing inference to a circus.

The bank was patented September 18, 1889 by Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams and manufactured by the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, N.Y. This concern was one of the more active manufacturers of mechanical banks in the period of their popularity. They used colored advertising cards to help sell their banks and these cards are quite valuable today. The banks such as Trick Pony, Picture Gallery, Speaking Dog, Circus, and others were pictured on one side and the other side contained a description of the individual bank with its operation principle and the company name. The J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn., was also a prolific user of these advertising cards in both color and plain, along with their fine catalogs containing interesting pictures of many of the banks they manufactured.

The collecting of advertising material pertaining to mechanical banks is a hobby in itself and offers an interesting but scarce field. This consists, of course, along with the advertising cards and manufacturer’s catalogs, of catalogs issued by department stores, mail order houses, toy concerns, hardware companies, and even fireworks concerns. Also along with the advertising materials are the patent papers on various of the patented banks. These offer a wealth of information from a background standpoint.

The Circus Bank pictured is in practically mint condition as to paint and entirely original with no repairs. It has the original crank to operate the bank and this is often missing as it is loosely fastened to the operating shaft. The bank operates as follows: The cart is placed to the rear of the bank beside the box-like container by turning the crank, A coin is then set on the raised platform as shown and the crank is turned, the pony bucks up and down and the cart moves around the circle as the wheels on the cart revolve. Just as the clown reaches the point where the coin is on the platform he raises his left arm and pushes the coin off into the slot with his hand.

The bank is painted in bright colors, the base red and yellow with gold lettering, and the clown and pony are realistically colored with the clown wearing a bright yellow and red striped costume.

The specimen shown was obtained some years ago from Thomas W. Richardson of Washington, Pa. It has always been of interest to the writer that Mr. Richardson had this bank locked up in a chest of drawers in the front of his shop. The apprehensive anticipation waiting for him to get the chest unlocked to see if it was the real Circus Bank will never be forgotten. It might be well to point out that many dealers erroneously call the Clown on Globe the Circus Bank and the writer had numerous false alarms before finally obtaining the proper one.

It was through sheerest chance that the bank didn’t land on a dump heap and it was actually in with some rubbish to be thrown out. It seems that a wealthy family in Washington, Pa., were disposing of various possessions after the death of the owner. Mr. Richardson left a large basket at the home each day for things they were going to throw in the rubbish. The bank showed up among these things and if it hadn’t been for Mr. Richardson it would have wound up in the junk pile. It obviously had been stored away for years untouched with the exception of when it had originally been played with by some child for a limited length of time. This is apparent due to the excellent all around condition of the bank.

The writer is not certain of the exact number of Circus Banks that exist in collections but he is sure that the number is very limited. In any event it is one of the most attractive and desirable banks to have in a collection.


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