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

There has been some good action in recent months in mechanical bank circles insofar as "finds" are concerned. Outstanding above all else is the fact that a Seek Him Frisk Bank (Dog Trees Cat), after all the years that mechanical banks have been collector’s items, has finally turned up, and it’s a great bank with top action. This bank will be written up shortly—possibly in next month’s issue. Seek Him Frisk, by the way, was listed in the 1940 group of banks which was discussed in last month’s (August) issue. Even then it was a sought for bank, but no possessors among the nine collectors.

Another Giant In Tower has been found and this is noteworthy since it is a very scarce, difficult bank to find. It is English, of course, and of rather early manufacture as English banks go, having been made in the 1892 period. For details on the Giant In Tower see HOBBIES (March, 1961). It bears mention that the Giant In Tower makes a great companion bank to the American made Giant Bank (HOBBIES, July, 1952). The two banks make quite an attractive display when placed together.

Noteworthy, too, is the occasion whereby another Jonah & The Whale (Jonah Emerges From Whale’s Mouth) comes to light. The fortunate collector in this case is Hubert Whiting, and he located a fine original specimen through a party in Long Island, N.Y. It is a very tough mechanical bank to come by and less than the fingers on one hand can account for all examples known to exist. This, of course, is one of the great banks, and for further information on same see the HOBBIES, May 1953, article wherein the Emerine specimen is discussed.

George Bauer, collector and well known repairer of mechanical banks, recently obtained a Wimbledon Bank, and this is certainly worthy of mention as it is a fine specimen with the original flag, which is exceptional, as the flag is usually missing. The Wimbledon is one of the fine mechanicals and there are not too many around. It is also one of the early English banks and for detailed information see HOBBIES article, November, 1966.

Another Bureau Bank (Serrill Patent) has turned up through the good help of Mrs. Lillian W. Childs. Mrs. Childs is a doll collector and she had kept the Serrill Patent Bureau in with her doll collection as it was sold to her years ago as a salesman’s sample of a doll’s chest. This is a rather difficult item to come by and, of course, is important since it is the earliest known dated patented mechanical bank. See HOBBIES, May, 1967, for information on the Serrill Bank.

Of some interest to all mechanical bank collectors and particularly to those who like or specialize in the animal type, in particular elephants, a different type Elephant mechanical (at least to the writer) has come to the writer’s attention. Most all collectors of the mechanicals are familiar with the two Gray Elephants, Large and Small, which simply move their trunks when a coin is inserted in their backs. These are No. 66 and 67 in the writer’s mechanical bank booklet. In each case they have a Howdah on their back wherein the coin is inserted. Either bank is rather common and more or less easily obtainable. The Elephant in question is of similar appearance and action, however, there is no Howdah on his back, but rather a raised lip-like section where the coin is inserted. The trunk moves with more action than Nos. 66 and 67 as it is better constructed. "Pat. Appd. For" appears inside on one of the rear legs and the overall casting of this Elephant is different than the other two. So actually it is a different mechanical bank and adds another to the list of the known mechanicals. Please understand this is not an important item, but it is a bank that meets all requirements of being a mechanical, not a semi-mechanical. It is possible that the writer has overlooked this Elephant on some past occasion, taking for granted it was No. 66, the larger of the common type.

Some collectors of mechanical banks collect related items in cast iron toys. For example, the Donkey Cart as used on the Bad Accident Bank was made as a pull toy by Stevens. As well as the mechanical bank, they also made an I Always Did ’Spise A Mule toy. This toy has been a puzzle for years due to four lugs on the base that gave every appearance of being axles for some type of wheels. The writer could never justify the lugs being used as wheel axles due to their rather large diameter and the fact that each lug had a rounded capped end as part of the casting. Well at long last patent papers have come up with the answer. James H. Bowen, who also patented the mechanical bank, patented the toy April 22, 1879. In both the drawings and the text it is well defined as to the purpose of the lugs. Fixed pieces or bands of rubber were placed on the lugs and held in position by the capped ends of the lugs. These rubber rests prevented scratching or injury when the toy was played with on a table. In addition, it overcame the tendency of the toy to move when the rider struck the base. Last, they acted as a cushioning effect to ease the strain on the base. For those not familiar with this mechanical bank related toy, it should be explained that the writer has never seen the toy with the pieces or bands of rubber on the lugs. Various collectors over the years have asked if he knew what the lugs were for or what purpose they served. This being a rather early toy, it is most likely that the rubber pieces simply did not last for any great length of time.

* * *

It is with regret that we pass along the information that Andrew Emerine, a pioneer collector of mechanical banks, passed away July 3, 1967 at age 94. In the 1930’s and 40’s Mr. Emerine was very active in collecting mechanical banks and was one of the first to turn up such rare banks as the Jonah & Whale (Jonah Emerges From Whale’s Mouth), John Bull’s Money Box, Wimbledon, Red Riding Hood, Freedman’s Bank, and a number of others. He formulated quite a collection and enjoyed his hobbies which also included animated toy pistols, cigar cutters, animated toys, and a few cast iron toys. All of his collections, however, have been disposed of.


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