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"Starkie’s Pat. No. 152,588" (Moves Ears)
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - May, 1964

64-05.JPG (15452 bytes)

A mechanical bank which is surrounded with confusion, more so than any other known to the writer, is our choice as No. 119 in the numerical classification. This is the "Jolly Nigger (Moves Ears)," and the writer continually receives letters which practically all contain the same questions regarding what is thought to be this bank. Unfortunately in all cases the questions have not been about this bank, but are in fact about another somewhat recent type with similar appearance and action. It is hoped that information herewith will once and for all clarify this situation.

To begin with, the bank pictured is an original Jolly Nigger (Moves Ears) made in England in the period of the 1920’s. On the back between the shoulders in a semi-circular fashion is inscribed "Starkie’s Pat. No. 152,588." This patent was issued to Robert Eastwood Starkie of Burnley, England, October 21, 1920. It contains a detailed descriptive text and five diagrams which accurately cover the bank as produced. It is made of aluminum and apparently Starkie never had any of these banks made of cast iron or other metal. The very few originals of this bank that the writer has ever seen over the years have all been aluminum and somewhat crude in their castings as compared to other mechanical banks. This being a little crude in its construction goes along with Starkie’s Tank & Cannon Bank (HOBBIES, April, 1959).

The bank pictured is in good condition, particularly so when one considers that the paint was inclined to readily chip from the aluminum surface. Colors are as follows: The jacket is red with a white collar and blue bow tie. There is a white cuff on the sleeve of the right arm and a white band down the front of the jacket with blue buttons thereon. His entire face is black with red lips, red tongue, white teeth and red lines between the teeth. His eyes are white with brown iris and black pupils. The top hat is white with a black band. The entire back half of the bust, excluding the hat, is black (note profile picture). The back of the head has round perforations in the casting arranged in a symmetrical fashion and the base plate has the same type holes or perforations.

To operate the bank a coin is placed in the extended hand as shown. The lever at the rear left shoulder is then pressed. This raises the right hand to the mouth and the coin slides therein, and at the same time the tongue recedes into the mouth, the eyes roll downward, and the ears move back and forward. Releasing the lever returns all parts to their normal position.

Now for the movement to the modern or more recent type of this bank which seems to always be confused with the old original one. On August 27, 1945 in the Register of Designs Division of the Patent Office in England, No. 844,290 was issued to a Robert Patterson Starkie covering a bank of similar design, operation and appearance to the bank pictured. This copyright expired August 27, 1950. In addition to the copyright a patent was applied for by Starkie December 1, 1945. No. 32,537, and accepted May 4, 1948 under Patent No. 601,362. This bank was also made of aluminum, but considerably lighter in weight than the original type. It was put on the market as the Sonny Boy Bank and in another version as a clown with a peaked hat and called the Clown Money Bank. Thomas Ashworth & Company — trademark "TACO" — of Burnley, England took over the Starkie business and production of these banks in 1952. Prior to this, from 1947 to 1952, Thomas Ashworth supplied the castings for the banks to Starkie.

There are many differences between the old original bank, named "Jolly Nigger" (Moves Ears) and the modern Sonny Boy version. First check the profile photo and note that the ear is located forward near the eye. A V-shaped section in the back half of the casting fits into a v-groove in the front half and holds the ear in this position. In the Sonny Boy type the ear is located in the center where the front and back castings join together. Secondly there is no inscription of any kind on the back of the Sonny Boy. Third, the base plate on the modern bank is of a waffle type (cross bars) with the following inscriptions: "Reg. No. 844,290," "Starkie’s Pat. No. 32,537," "Patented In Foreign Countries." In addition the TACO trademark appears thereon. Fourth, the right arm on the Sonny Boy is not raised up from the elbow as on the Jolly Nigger (Moves Ears), (note full view picture). Fifth, the thumb on Sonny Boy’s right hand is a separate casting and not an integral part of the entire arm and hand casting as on the original bank. Sixth, the bow tie is considerably larger on the old type and this also applies to the ears. Seventh, the modern type can be operated by moving the ears by hand. This causes the arm to raise and so on. This cannot be done with the old original — moving the ears by hand causes the eyes to move and tongue to recede but the arm will not rise. Eighth, there are no perforations or holes in the back of the head of the modern type. There are various other differences in the castings, but to sum this all up, when the two banks, old and new, are examined together it is very easy to tell them apart. Certainly the information given above will enable collectors as well as dealers to identify an old, original Jolly Nigger (Moves Ears) should they ever run across one.

The bank shown was found some years ago in Eastern Pennsylvania. As previously mentioned it is in very good condition for this particular bank and it is very difficult to find an original old specimen. As a matter of fact in all the years of collecting the writer has seen less than five of these banks. To further bear out their scarcity every few weeks a letter is received from someone thinking they have an original Jolly Nigger (Moves Ears). In all cases to date, and this covers a considerable number of letters, none of them have had an old original, all have been the recent Sonny Boy.


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