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Retired Tyrone Banker Shows
Collection of Old Coin Banks

By ADA C. SELL, ALTOONA TRIBUNE, February, 6, 1950

John D. Meyer, 1950 Altoona Tribune photo

John D. Meyer, Tyrone, who 12 years ago started his hobby of collecting Old Mechanical Penny Banks, now has a total of 1,500 of them, plus a large amount of old coins, 150 clocks, 600 pieces of antique rose glassware, and a group of Persian rugs.

Mr. Meyer owns 225 of the 245 known mechanical penny banks and points proudly to his first bank, received from his uncle when he was four years old. Under glass is the figure of a little fat man to represent Boss Tweed in his palmy days. A coin is placed in his right hand, drops in Boss’s coat pocket and he nods in appreciation.

The prince of hobbyists, a retired banker, who dedicated his Penny Bank book to the memory of his mother who "always tolerated my whims and enjoyed my hobbies," is so pleased to relate that his niece used the Tammany when she was a little girl. Her three girls used it in turn, and then it was given back to him.

"It became the inspiration of my becoming a collector of Old Penny Banks," Mr. Meyer said, "This is one of the common banks but to me it is the most prized one in my whole collection."

A most courteous host, the collector is untiring in pointing out banks of interest on the various shelves. Most of them were made at Cromwell, Conn., in the eighties and a few in the Gay Nineties. Recently he visited the factory at Cromwell and was royally entertained.

One of the first the visitor is shown is Elephant Baby, the only such bank in existence. A clown holds a cup in one hand and a tray in the other, is sitting on a chair at a table facing an elephant sitting on a chair opposite. The coin is placed on the tray, the lever is pressed, the coin drops into the receptacle under the table. The elephant with a pleased expression nods his thanks. Mr. Meyers says his experiences in obtaining it were most interesting.

"Don’t you collect any modern banks?" he was asked. "Oh, yes! These boxes are full of them. See these three of Charlie McCarthy? I got them three years ago, I doubt if you could get one today. Some day they will be rare."

Next to Tammany stands a very arrogant looking Freedman’s Bank. The black man appears to be sitting on top of the world, his foot up on the desk before him, his expression quite carefree. It is also preserved under glass.

Not far from these is Atlas holding the globe on his shoulders, press the lever, and presto! There is the world turning on its Axis!

"Does this hobby take the place of other interests in your life?" The collector replied, "I traveled a lot of miles to get these banks." He said his friends have helped him to locate some of them, and right now he has a new bank he finally landed after locating it in Louisiana.

"Can’t show you my coins today, they’re in the vault. Do you want to see the clocks?"

So the modest host who had a severe cold and worried for fear he might seem irritable as a consequence, but was not in the least, took his guests to his apartment in the First National Bank building, Tyrone, and spent another hour telling about the clocks and rose glassware.

What a ticking all around! But none too loud, all in harmony. The 365-day clock Mr. Meyer winds once a year on his birthday in August. (Last year it stopped in July, didn’t quite make it). There are nine cuckoo clocks, one of them gives a bobwhite a turn at singing. The Willard banjo is very rare, as is the wagon-spring clock. Wag O’ the Wall clocks are in the number and a clock that plays a tune for the alarm.

"It wakes you up then puts you to sleep again," Mr. Meyer remarked.

The music boxes are of different sizes. One very small one shows a bird with an inch wing spread on the center of a tiny stage singing a delectable tune. A large music box has a beautiful muted sound and 48 records.

Mr. Meyer permits his cousin, Mrs. Limbert tell most of the interesting things about the rose glassware. There are 73 different patterns in tumblers alone and the gracious lady keeps them and all the others clean. A few of the patterns are called Fan and Tulip, Sunk Honeycomb, thumb print, red hobnail, cable, block, and candy.

Mr. Meyer said his most prized rose glass is a spoon holder that has both rose and coin decorations. Another large dish is decorated with coin imprints. The collector said the manufacture of it was stopped since it was one form of counterfeiting.

"I’ll autograph one of my books for you," the host said, presenting "A Handbook of Old Mechanical Penny Banks." Banks parade the covers of the delightful book.

 

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