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Mechanical Bank Ramblings
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - August, 1967

A rather interesting, informative and noteworthy experience occurred recently on the occasion of the writer going over some of the Emerine papers with Edwin Mosler, Jr. Mr. Mosler came into possession of the papers when he purchased the Emerine collection of mechanical banks last year. This was one of the few remaining intact collections of the so-called pioneer mechanical bank collectors.

One of the more outstanding papers involved from an information and background standpoint consisted of an analysis dated 1940 of 127 of the rarer and more desirable mechanical banks considered to be such at the time. Nine of the early collectors of mechanical banks — Corby, Hull, Ferguson, Meyer, Jones, Emerine, Downes, Thayer, and Wieder — were listed in columns, and each bank of the 127 was checked under the individual’s name who possessed an example of the bank. Of considerable interest was the fact that out of 127 different banks only 8 were owned collectively by all nine collectors. These banks were the Bull Dog Savings Bank, Chimpanzee, Professor Pug Frog’s Great Bicycle Feat, Dentist, Calamity, New Bank, Horse Race, and, of all things, the Uncle Sam Bust, a fake bank then and now.

In the list are a number of fakes, a few patterns, a few semi-mechanicals, and several items that are not banks at all. The heading or title of the list is "Mechanical Banks Rarity List", "Summary of 127 Items, October 1940". The rating of the nine collectors at the time insofar as the 127 items are concerned is as follows: Corby – 108, Jones – 102, Emerine – 64, Wieder – 60, Meyer – 49, Ferguson – 43, Thayer – 38, Hull – 27, and Downes – 17. Downes and Hull, the two smallest possessors in the group, were among the earlier collections to be broken up or sold. Corby and Jones, the two leaders by far in the group, are also collections that have been sold and broken up. And then, of course, the third place leader, the Emerine collection, was sold last year.

The list, as prepared by the group of nine collectors, has very definite helpful information with respect to today’s collectors of mechanical banks. This in spite of the fact that a number of collectors at the time did not choose to join in. These include Marshall, the Evans collection, Chrysler, the writer, and a number of others. There may have been various reasons at the time why the group of nine prepared the list and also reasons on the part of those who did not participate.

Some of the individuals in preparing the list, in addition to wanting to know what other collectors of mechanical banks had in their collections plus a summary of how many of each bank was known to exist, perhaps had the idea of trying to control the market and prices of certain rare banks. Naturally this was completely unsuccessful from the price angle, as after all, there has never been, and most likely never will be, any set price on any mechanical bank, much less the rarer, more desirable ones. So all that would be accomplished by a price control effort would be to let some other collectors get some nice specimens for their collections. All one has to do if they want to question set prices on mechanical banks is to check old sales lists of Sherwood, then move to Miller and Ball, on into the Hollander-Chrysler sale list, and then to date, and the answer is clear—supply and demand and then what the individual collector is willing to pay. That’s the price situation.

Back to the list of 1940! Of considerable interest is the fact that a number of the rare, desirable mechanical banks have remained, with little change in numbers, as to the known specimens that existed then and are now known to exist today—some 27 years later. For example:

Ding Dong Bell — Corby and Wieder on the list (Chrysler not included); none since

Bow-ery Bank — Corby; and still the only known example

3 Freedman’s Banks in various stages — Ferguson, Emerine, and Meyer; and the only
known complete original specimen has turned up since

Frog on Arched Track — Corby; and only one other has turned up since

Old Woman In The Shoe — Corby on the list (and Griffith not included); no others since

Preacher In The Pulpit — Corby only; and one since

Snake And Frog In Pond — Meyer and Jones; and still the only two

Turtle Bank — Corby, Hull, and Jones; and none since

The Target Bank — Corby; and possibly one authentic specimen since

Clown On Bar — Corby; and only one since

There are others but this is sufficient to well illustrate the point. The Bowling Alley is listed showing no owners, however, the late F.W. Wieder did obtain an example of the bank and it is still the only one known to exist.

Some fake banks listed are Barrel With Arms, Bull and Bear (Chrysler example only known authentic specimen), Bull Charging Boy, Carnival, Cat Chasing Mouse, Lost Dog, Ferris Wheel, Feed the Kitty, Hannibal, Moody and Sanky, Presto (all metal), Uncle Sam Bust, Trick Donkey, and a few others. Of the nine collectors, all owned in varying numbers all the listed fakes. In other words, three had Barrel With Arms, all nine had the Uncle Sam Bust, and seven had the Bull and Bear, and so on. Of course, in 1940 most of the collectors did not then realize that the fake banks they had were actually fakes. Others would try to justify their fakes in spite of their own suspicions that they were not authentic banks. Of course, this was just fooling one’s self. It was an interesting period in mechanical bank collecting — there was good activity, competition really generated, and mechanical banks rapidly got off the ground as desirable collector’s items. A thirst for knowledge and background information on mechanical banks developed and grew, as little was known about mechanicals then by most who collected them.

Activity and competition has continued through the years to date. And since the 1940 list our knowledge of these fine mechanical toy savings devices has made great strides and continues to do so. Many fine rare discoveries have been made since the list was compiled and we will try to go into this at another time.


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