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Mechanical Bank Ramblings
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - July, 1961

It has been some time since the writer has more or less informally gotten up to date with the various individuals who are interested in mechanical banks. The writer receives numerous letters from both collectors and dealers having to do with mechanical banks, and these letters cover a broad area of questions and problems. Some of these are of definite general interest to all mechanical bank collectors and dealers. Therefore, it is well occasionally to digress from the usual classification article and pass along some information concerning mechanical banks in general.

One factor that seems to still concern both collectors and dealers are the reproductions of mechanical banks that have come on the market in recent years. Various forms of publicity on these reproductions has stimulated and increased general interest in mechanical banks and added prestige to the old original specimens.

One must always bear in mind that the reproduced banks are being sold as such, not as original specimens. They are easily recognized as reproductions and not intended to mislead anyone. The writer knows of numerous new collectors of mechanical banks who have started in the past few years and their interest is in the original old banks, not reproductions.

After all, any collector of mechanical banks wants original authentic banks in his collection and nothing else will do. It’s the same with collectors of stamps, coins, Currier & Ives prints, paperweights, and so on.

The manufacturers of the reproduction banks, so far as the writer knows, have always sold them for what they are—reproductions. They have not intended to misrepresent. The unfortunate thing about it is that occasionally the banks get into trade channels and sometimes are sold to the unsuspecting as original, old banks.

It is to be admitted that various forms of misinformation now and then circulate around, and while this does no great harm, it certainly does no particular good and is misleading. For example, a recent article on mechanical banks was called to the attention of the writer by a number of people.

This article stated that a group of pictured mechanical banks were all recently made from the original molds found in an old foundry in New Jersey. This foundry, according to the article, years ago originally made the banks pictured. Well the majority of the mechanical banks pictured were originally made by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. Two were originally made by Kyser & Rex of Philadelphia, Pa. Two others were originally manufactured by Shepard Hardware Co. of Buffalo, N.Y., and finally another was made by Hubley Manufacturing Company of Lancaster, Pa. And, as a matter of fact, the writer knows of only one foundry in New Jersey that was ever active in the production of mechanical banks at any time, and this foundry produced only one type of mechanical bank.

As to original patterns of mechanical banks, a very limited number exist today. For the most part the only original patterns still in existence were in the Stevens Company prior to World War II, and the majority of these were melted up during the war period.

This information was given to the writer personally by an employee of the Stevens Company. As to the existence of patterns of other manufacturers of mechanical banks, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, there are none.

In several collections of mechanical banks there are some original designer patent models, as well as original patterns, but these are very limited. As example, there exists two each of designer models of the Aunt Dinah And The Fairy and the Wishbone Bank. There is also one each of the respective designers’ model of the Feed The Kitty and the Blacksmith.

There is absolutely no evidence or proof that any of these models ever reached the production stage, and this places them in a category of their own. Several experimental designer models of the Hall’s Yankee Notion Bank exist, but here again they come into the same category mentioned in the foregoing since an actual bank was never produced.

Now to sum up the commercially produced reproduction mechanical banks which are being advertised and marketed by several sources. These banks are made by using an old production bank as a pattern. This does not give the same result as that which one would obtain by using an original pattern.

Also some of these reproductions have been simplified in their mechanism to facilitate production. In this case the finished respective bank does not operate the same as an original or perform all the mechanical functions. To repeat, all the reproductions are easily identified as being the reproductions they are intended to be.

* * *

It is always of great interest when one can discover practical proof that a heretofore unknown mechanical bank must have been actually manufactured. Well the Japanese Ball Tosser, which has appeared in the writer’s ad for some time, has finally materialized into some form of definite proof of manufacture.

Two old catalogs recently obtained by the writer furnished this proof. One lists and describes the bank and the other has an excellent picture of the bank, as well as a complete description of the action.

This is indeed a gratifying discovery as the writer has always felt that the Weeden Manufacturing Company had actually produced the Japanese Ball Tosser and distributed it to dealers for sale to the public.

The bank operated with a windup mechanism and is also similar in general appearance to the Ding Dong Bell (HOBBIES, October 1954) and the Plantation Bank, both Weeden products. The figure of the Japanese is centered in the front recessed section of the bank and the realistic action of tossing the balls is well described in the text accompanying the picture of the bank.

So, like the Coasting Bank (HOBBIES, April 1955), we now have the Japanese Ball Tosser, and some place or other examples of either or both banks must exist and are just waiting to be discovered.


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