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John Bull’s Money Box
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - September, 1957

57-09.JPG (23702 bytes)

A mechanical bank of English origin is our choice as No. 57 in the numerical classification of the mechanical banks. This bank, John Bull’s Money Box, is an outstanding item and has the distinction of being the only mechanical bank known to date that bears the name "Money Box." This terminology is typically English and refers to any coin savings bank. It was also used in the United States as several patent papers covering some of the mechanical banks refer to them as money boxes. However, in both the United States and England the word ‘Bank’ was generally used when a particular specimen was named and so inscribed.

John Bull’s Money Box was made in England, but so far neither the designer nor the manufacturer is known. Also the exact period of the bank is unknown as no catalogs, patent papers, or other types of information have turned up that would help establish specific data. It is a likely possibility that the bank was made by either John Harper & Company or Chamberlain & Hill, Ltd., but so far neither company have found any record of their having manufactured the bank.

The bank shown is from the fine collection of Mr. Andrew Emerine, one of the pioneer collectors of mechanical banks. It is a prized item in his collection along with the Jonah & Whale (Jonah Emerges From Whale), Wimbledon Bank, and a number of others. Emerine obtained the John Bull’s Money Box in 1939 from E.R. Harvey, an antique dealer in Norwich, England. This bank was found at the same time as the Wimbledon Bank and several others. It had never been in active circulation and this accounts for the exceptional condition of the bank. The original owner, from whom Mr. Harvey obtained the bank, had originally purchased several mechanical banks from an old established toy warehouse in London. This was around 1903, however, it is not known just how long any of the banks had been in the warehouse. The owner kept them in his personal possession until Mr. Harvey obtained the banks from him.

The bank is very similar to and has the same operation as the American Trick Dog Bank and the English Hoop-la Bank. The main difference, of course, being in the center figure, the dog, and the lack of a hoop. To operate the bank a coin is placed in the dog’s mouth as shown, then the lever is pressed and the dog springs forward depositing the coin in the barrel. The dog when pulled back snaps into place and is again ready for action.

The paint on the bank is in excellent condition. The base is black with gray trim and the barrel is black with red trim. The dog is black and white with brown spots and the mouth is red. John Bull has a hat, vest, and boot tops in blue with gold buttons on the vest. His coat is red with gold buttons and he has a red tie and white trousers. His hair is also white. The name "John Bull’s Money Box" is inscribed along the front base of the bank.

Mechanical banks have rather contradictory angles as a collector’s item. Some of the earliest dated banks are the most common, while some of comparative recent vintage are the rarest. Logically John Bull’s Money Box with the figure of John Bull should have been a popular item in England in its time and thus not too difficult to find. This would be comparable to our Uncle Sam Bank which, while a good bank, is rather common and rather easy to add to a collection. John Bull’s Money Box does not follow this pattern, however, judging from its scarcity today. Apparently for some reason it must not have sold too well originally or it was made in limited quantity. It’s a very interesting bank and the effigy figure of John Bull adds to the desirability of having the bank in a collection.


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