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Mechanical Banks – Repairs & Ramblings
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - September, 1961

Mechanical banks that have parts missing or are broken in one way or another pose quite a problem to both dealer and collector. The writer receives numerous letters in regards to this problem, and in the majority of cases answers them. Some, however, are almost fantastic. For example, a recent inquiry concerned having a base plate and top plate of a certain bank and the party involved wanted to know if the missing parts could be obtained. Well that means that about one-third or less of the bank was on hand, and at best these could only be employed as repair parts, not to build a bank around them.

The writer has often wondered when someone was going to come up with a coin trap and ask if the rest of the bank was available! Generally speaking some degree of good judgment must be used on the part of both dealer and collector in ascertaining when a bank is complete enough to be repaired or actually represents a few useful parts.

In many cases, particularly with dealers, a broken bank is taken to some routine welder or handyman and is practically ruined by inexperienced hands, when it should have been repaired by a specialist in this very specialized field. Good sound advice is this — if the respective dealer with a broken or damaged bank does not intend to have the bank repaired properly, then leave it alone and sell it as it is. This is particularly true and becomes increasingly so with respect to the rarity of the respective bank. The rarer the bank, the greater the caution with regard to repairs. Collectors in the vast majority would prefer buying a bank as is, rather than repaired in some crude fashion. A few collectors prefer and are able to fix banks themselves, but generally most employ the services of a competent repairman.

The repair of mechanical banks is a very specialized field that is time consuming beyond the normal realization of most people. To properly repair a bank takes considerable skill, experience, time, patience, and care. Numerous letters to the writer ask about supplying missing parts and repairing a broken or damaged bank. In the writer’s opinion a very competent man in this type of work is George W. Bauer of Pottstown, Pa. Mr. Bauer is experienced, conscientious, and he understands cast iron, welding, and other necessary factors to do this type of work. In cast iron welding or brazing he is careful to burn as little of the original paint area as necessary. He supplies missing parts and these are original parts whenever possible. Mr. Bauer is also active in the repair of cast iron toys generally, and these include the various type of horse drawn toys, trains, bell ringers, and so on. His regular business is in the field of antique brass, copper, and silver in repairing, replating, and other factors connected with this type of work, including making many interesting lamps from old ship lights and the like.

The writer will not attempt to go into all the phases and angles of repairing mechanical banks and cast iron toys at this time. However, it is well to remember that a job can be done well, almost perfect, or it can be a crude mess. In any case it is best to have repairs on mechanical banks or cast iron toys done properly and pay to have it done right or don’t do it at all. This is particularly true with the dealer and he must decide himself if the expense of a certain repair is worth the additional investment.

Speaking of cast iron toys, over a period of time the writer has received many requests to write on cast iron toys. Of course mechanical banks are cast iron toy savings devices, but the terminology cast iron toys refers to the wide group of horse drawn toys including fire equipment, carriages, work type, circus wagons, and so on. Also in the category are trains, automobiles, bell ringing toys, toy pistols, and cannon. The writer intends to eventually cover some of the more important toys, and as a matter of fact has written on animated cap pistols (HOBBIES, July 1958), bell ringers (HOBBIES, February 1957), and cannon (HOBBIES, July 1957). The writer is very interested in the general line of cast iron toys but it is a complex field with many types made by a number of manufacturers. In any event, an effort will be made in the future to cover the cast iron toys in some group form similar to the aforementioned three articles.

Of general interest to mechanical bank collectors — The writer has obtained an original advertisement picturing the United States Bank (HOBBIES, August 1956). This details the action of the bank and so on and shows the manufacturer’s name as J. & E. Stevens Company, Cromwell, Conn. At the time of writing the article on the bank the writer could only logically attribute it to Stevens, but now definite proof exists to substantiate this opinion. Of further note is the fact that the picture and text bring out a previously unknown point of interest surrounding the bank. Quoting the text: "Each bank has lock and key, and is neatly finished. On depositing a coin of any size or weight, the cover springs up and a miniature bank-book appears into which the amount of the deposit may be entered." So the bank was originally sold with a deposit book which fit neatly in the space provided in the top of the bank.


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