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Presto Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - September, 1956

56-09.JPG (15683 bytes)

A rare bank with unique utilization of the coin in its operation is our choice as No. 48 in the numerical classification of the mechanical banks. This bank, the Presto, is also distinct in that only one specimen has been found to date.

The bank was designed and patented by H.C. Hart and J.W. Cross of Detroit, Michigan, April 8, 1884. It was manufactured by the Henry C. Hart Manufacturing Company also of Detroit. There are certain indications that Mr. Cross had an interest in a hardware store that distributed and sold the Presto.

The bank pictured is from the fine collection of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Roup. It is in good original condition and the paint is practically mint. This bank, along with a Trick Pony, was sold to an antique dealer at an auction near Morgantown, Pennsylvania. Mr. Roup purchased both banks from the antique dealer.

The Presto is painted an all over red with all figures and lettering in gold. The viewing section, operating lever, lip on the coin slot, and the base plate are painted black. The paper label on the frosted glass section is dark blue with the operating instructions printed in gold.

The bank has very interesting decorations as can be seen in the pictures which show both sides. People and children are shown in various activities. The verse on the viewing section end is as follows: "We offer aid To all who strive To make one penny Twenty-five". The coin section end of the bank has the name ‘Presto!!’ thereon.

There are 26 parts that make up the Presto, and the inside working mechanism is cast iron and sheet iron. A flat piece of black sheet iron slides back and forth under the frosted glass section when the lever is pulled back and forth. This also releases the penny after insertion in the coin slot. There is a piece of plain glass inside the viewing section that reflects a twenty-five cent piece into the position occupied by the inserted penny. The twenty-five cent piece is permanently located inside the bank in the proper position for the illusion.

To operate the bank a penny is placed in the receptacle or coin slot holder located at the tapered end of the bank over the name ‘Presto’. This is shown in the picture. The penny stays in position inside the bank, the bank is then held so that light is reflected on the slanting frosted glass surface. The individual then looks into the viewing section as shown in the other picture. When the lever is pulled the penny automatically drops into the base section and in its place there appears to be a twenty-five cent piece. This gives the effect of the penny magically changing into a quarter. The illusion is caused by the reflecting glass surface, not a mirror. Pennies are removed by means of a rectangular coin trap in the base plate. The base plate is a clover leaf perforated pattern with the wording ‘Pat. Applied For’ inscribed thereon.

The Presto Bank is a very interesting rare item and completely different than the other mechanical banks with its illusion effect. The Smyth X-Ray and the semi-mechanical Multiplying Bank are somewhat similar, but each employ mirrors, the X-Ray in seeing through the coin and the Multiplying in showing one coin as several coins. The Presto is obviously a real challenge to the collector and so far, to repeat, only one is known to exist in a private collection.


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