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WNY's Great Newspaper, Tonawanda, NY — Tuesday, August 17, 1954

Retired detective's Hobby
Is Saving Money for Him, Too

Collection of Mechanical Banks, Valued
at $15,000, Have Nearly $2000 in Deposits

An exhibit of late 19th and early 20th Century "Americana" exists in the living room of Vernon D. Howe of 395 West Utica St. The retired detective has about 300 mechanical banks valued by him at $15,000.
  
Such banks , all of which have internal or attached machinery triggered by the insertion of a coin, were thrift encouragers in almost every American home 50 years ago and their behavior was a source of amusement and interest to grownups and children. Now they are collectors' items occasionally turning up at auctions and eagerly sought by enthusiastic antique collectors.
  
Most of Mr. Howe's collection is kept in a showcase running the length of one side of his living room and reaching almost to the ceiling.
  
Bank Plays "Yankee Doodle"
There is a piano bank dating back to the Gay '90s. When a penny is inserted, a small music box inside chimes out a chorus of "Yankee Doodle." An antique collector once asked Mr. Howe to name his price for it, but he was unwilling to let it go.
  
"You won't find any other banks similar to most of those I have," said Mr. Howe, and I wouldn't sell most of them for anything."
  
One bank, made some time in the 19th Century, has a clock on its face which can be set to run for any period between one and 60 days. At the expiration of the period, the clock will stop and a small door in the bank's side will pop open.
  
A model locomotive, which Mr. Howe values at $300, raises its stack when a penny is inserted. Near it is a bank on which a mustachioed figure grinds a tiny organ while a bear shuffles when a coin is inserted.
  
Oldest Was Patented in '69
The oldest bank in the collection, patented in 1869 and called "Excelsior" has a monkey which pops out of a trapdoor and takes the coin inside with it. Another has a replica of Teddy Roosevelt aiming a rifle at a crouching lion. A cap detonates the rifle, which "shoots" the ;ion with a penny, knocking it back on its haunches.
  
The most treasured item in Mr. Howe's collection is the "Shoot That Hat," patented in 1882 and valued by him at $2500. When a coin is placed in it a figure vigorously slams a hat on another figure seated in front of it.
  
The collection captures the attention of all visitors to the Howe residence. He estimates that approximately $2000 worth of coins are in the banks now, placed there by himself and others to make them run.
  
"It's a good way to encourage saving." he says, "but my gosh, it's almost too much of a good thing."


 

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