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Mechanical Bank Ramblings
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - June, 1955

For sometime the writer has wanted personally to express his appreciation for the many nice letters received in the past few years with their complimentary remarks in reference to the articles on mechanical banks. Sincere effort has been made to answer all letters personally but, of course, there is always the possibility of a slip-up. Also effort has been made to have all information and opinions as accurate as possible on the mechanical banks and so far with one or two exceptions this apparently has been the case.

One unintentional error was observed by our alert collector friend Leon Cameto. This was omitting the Trick Pony Bank from our complete list of the mechanical banks. The listing will be published again in the near future with a few corrections, including the Trick Pony. The Chinaman In Boat With Rat On Tray should be among the authentic American-made banks and possible evidence has come to light that the Cross-Legged Minstrel is a German-made item and, therefore, should be among the foreign-made banks.

Another item, picked up by collector friend C.R. Howell, had to do with a recent article on recast banks wherein the writer stated that recast parts, using an original bank as a pattern, did not fit together too well as they were larger. Mr. Howell points out that cast iron shrinks and, therefore, parts would be too small, not too large. Technically this is true. However, the writer, in the article, was referring to parts as they are generally turned out today by those who are recasting banks. These parts are larger than the originals since a good deal of filing or grinding is necessary to make them fit even poorly. This is due to a number of reasons. Carelessness in casting for one, a difference in the cast iron for another, and also the sand used in the molds varies. These things more than account for the minute shrinkage of the cast iron and the parts wind up actually larger. It might be well to point out that when casting a small part it is necessary to rap or tap this part to remove it from the mold. This rapping makes the mold imprint of the casting larger. On a piece 1" square it can be 1/32" larger, so the part made from this mold is actually larger even though it shrinks minutely. Shrinkage of cast iron is about 1/10" to the foot.

In line with recast banks and mechanical banks in general the writer has had some interesting correspondence recently with Henry W. Miller who has years of background in the mechanical bank field from collecting and dealing in them. As a matter of fact, Mr. Miller purchased his first bank in 1935 in Williamsport, Pa. It was a Teddy And The Bear. He then purchased several others, the Bad Accident, Stump Speaker, and so on until he had around 25 in his collection. At this point it was decided that they took up too much room at the time so Mr. Miller placed an ad in HOBBIES and the response was such that he decided it was an opportunity for a spare time business. After retirement from his position with the Department of Agriculture he made mechanical banks a full-time hobby business and still carries on with more enthusiasm than ever.

One occasion in his experience is quite interesting in connection with the Presto Bank where the mouse appears on the roof. When he received the bank in a cardboard carton a live mouse actually jumped from the package itself.

Mr. Miller brings up several questions such as why do people recast, have any of those so doing announced it as a hobby, and do they do it openly. Then he answers these by saying "No, they do not" and feels that the reason they do it is a devious hopeful way of obtaining material gain. He also poses the question as to what a collectible specimen of a mechanical bank should be. Is it one that was sold to the trade commercially as a child’s toy? His answer to that is yes, and in cases other than being sold as a commercial child’s toy the bank should be considered on the merit of historical value or other relevant historical information. He further states that some collectors will buy anything with a "hole" in it and call it a bank, but that it certainly doesn’t have any significance in the evolution of toy banks. Of course there is no harm in this if a collector just wants to add banks to his collection regardless of background. Recasts, in Mr. Miller’s opinion, have no place in a collection, no value, and certainly no historical merit. He feels that recasts simply spoil the beauty and value of a collection of genuine old toy mechanical banks.

Mr. Miller has also posed the question if it would be wise or meritorious to organize a collectors and or dealers association and each individual pledge not to buy, trade, make or sell a recast mechanical bank. Perhaps, in his opinion, such an association supported by membership dues could pick up recast banks and destroy them and perhaps point a strong finger in the direction of those who are recasting the toy banks.

Mr. Miller’s opinions have been passed along to the reader by the writer as he feels they are of definite interest.

A word of caution is in order with regard to various booklets appearing on the market for pricing, buying and evaluating mechanical banks. It is very difficult to actually set up a percentage evaluation that covers all the banks as to paint, missing parts, and the like. The percentage differential between a common bank and a rare bank are entirely different. A repainted bank can, percentage-wise, be much less valuable than one with broken or missing parts.

Also some false statements are being made. As example, the remark that most of the early collectors got their banks from people who did not know their value. This is completely untrue. The early collectors are the very basis and foundation of the market that exists today for mechanical banks. Further we can’t go back 20 years or more ago and assume that banks were worth then what they are now. The antique dealers sold banks to early collectors and received the going prices at the time.

In any event, the intent of the writer’s comment on the various booklets on mechanical banks is to be construed in a constructive, not destructive way. Any good reliable information based on knowledge of the subject is constructive. However, misinformation can be more destructive than no information at all. The writer is very much in favor of booklets, articles, and the like on mechanical banks that are accurately and generally helpful to the collector and dealer.


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