In every field of collecting there exists a general interest, with the majority of collectors, in the background history of each of the individual items comprising the collection. Where was it made, by whom, when, why, and so on are some of the questions that too often remain unanswered. With certain types of collectibles this information is practically impossible to obtain, while with other types complete information is passed down over the years or can be ascertained with little effort. Research in any particular collecting field is, however, usually a persistent, time consuming proposition and often a matter of chance or luck, but in any case persistence greatly increases the percentage in favor of the researcher. Mechanical banks as collectors items offer a very interesting, challenging problem to the collector who desires background information on his individual specimens. It is desirable to know as much as possible about each bank as it stimulates a persons interest above and beyond the mere level of just forming an accumulation of intriguing toy animated savings devices. In most cases each of the known mechanical banks is an interesting item unto itself, with its attractive action, clever mechanism, and subject matter. However, when complete background data can be established there is no question as to the added interest plus the fact that the intrinsic and actual value of the respective bank is increased.
Fortunately complete background information can be ascertained on many of the mechanical banks made in the United States. In numbers of cases this information even includes the original designer and patentee of the respective bank. Foreign mechanical banks have, however, posed a much greater problem in developing background history. Determination and persistence in research over a period of time has shed some light on a number of banks in this group and much more is known today than as recent as four or five years ago. A foreign bank, which until a few years ago fit into the unknown information category, is our choice as No. 95 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This bank is the Clown Bank and it is of English manufacture. The bank pictured was originally found by Bob and Mary Merritt of Merritts Antiques, Douglassville, Pa. They are well known, outstanding antique dealers and make frequent trips abroad to replenish their large representative stock. On one of these trips a few years ago they attended a street market sale in Brighton, England, and purchased the Clown Bank at this sale. The bank was shipped to their shop along with other antiques and subsequently sold to an individual who eventually passed it along to the present owner, L.C. Hegarty.
Chamberlin & Hill, Ltd. manufactured the Clown Bank and it was carried in their line of specialty items as late as 1930. They also made the Little Moe Bank (HOBBIES, August 1958), as well as the Jolly Nigger (With Fixed Eyes). The writer has an original catalog picture of the Clown Bank in color along with the complete description. It was originally sold as the Mechanical Clown Money Box and priced at 30 shilling per dozen. The catalog states that the bank was painted in brilliant colors and if preferred it could be supplied in pale blue where shown in red. This was merely a variation in the trim. However, it did offer prospective buyers a choice.
The bank shown is completely original with no repairs and in good paint condition. The overall bank is painted white. All the following parts are blue the top of the peaked hat and rim, the ruffled part of the collar, the cuff on the sleeve, and the buttons down the front. The circular collar part next to the neck is yellow. The eyebrows are black and the tongue and lips red. The combination of colors does give a very bright attractive appearance to the bank.
As to the operation, it is like most of the bust type of banks. A coin is placed in the extended right hand. When the lever located in the left rear shoulder is pressed the hand raises to the mouth and the coin slides therein. At the same time the tongue recedes and the eyes roll. Releasing the lever causes the respective parts to return to the position shown in the picture.
In closing it is well to mention that there are a number of different type clown banks, however, there are only three known of the bust type. One is the bank under discussion and another is the Humpty-Dumpty. In spite of the fact that these two banks do not look alike there still exists the possibility of confusion. They are both clowns, they both have peaked hats, and they both have the same action. However, the Humpty-Dumpty has the name on the back of the bank and it is also considerably larger than the Clown Bank. The third bust type clown bank is the Bill E. Grin, but this is quite different than the other two and the name Bill E. Grin is across the front of the bank. Humpty-Dumpty and Bill E. Grin were both made in the United States.