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Transvaal Money Box
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - February, 1968

68-02.JPG (25598 bytes)We’re changing our pace somewhat this month with respect to diverting into information on a semi-mechanical bank, rather than the usual mechanical. This is the first semi-mechanical to be treated in this fashion, at least as far as the writer is directly concerned, and we have picked the best and most desirable in this category. The bank is the Transvaal Money Box, a most interesting, finely detailed bank of English manufacture. At this point it is pertinent to mention that the Transvaal just gets under the wire in being classed out of the still bank category. The movement of the pipe and the fact it swings loose in the mouth of the figure is the basis of its classification as a semi-mechanical.

While we are on this subject, it is well to explain further that years ago the semi-mechanical class of banks was more or less created for the purpose of adding prestige to certain banks that were somewhat beyond just being still banks, but did not quite come up to being a full fledged mechanical. In some cases this has created a problem here and there with respect to the category of a specific bank, however, it is not anything earth-shaking one way or the other unless we choose to make it so. For example, to take the next step, the American Bank (Sewing Machine) is unquestionably a semi-mechanical bank, and nothing else. And as long as the semi-mechanical division exists, that’s where it properly belongs. The writer recognizing tradition and established precedents has never done anything with respect to rectifying this situation. Only two other banks share the same position with the American Bank, and they are the Camera and the Safety Locomotive. In any event, it has been considered best to let well enough alone until such time that pressures may be brought to bear necessitating the change to proper and accurate classification of these three banks. This now brings us back to the top semi-mechanical, the Transvaal Money Box, which would not be the top semi if the three mentioned mechanicals were regrouped in the semi class.

The Transvaal Money Box was made by John Harper & Company, Ltd. in the period 1885 to early 1900. It is pictured in one of their old catalogs and under this picture the following statement is made: "After F.C. Gould, Esq. By permission of the Proprietors of the Westminster Gazette." Following this statement is the unusual and pertinent information that the bank was made in three different figures—"Maroon Bronzed, Venetian Bronzed (Highly finished)," and "In various Colors."

W.G. Thompson, present officer of Harper, has kindly advised the writer that the Transvaal Money Box was never produced as a full mechanical bank and never considered such by them. This is pointed out due to the fact that a few Transvaals have been converted into mechanical banks by means of an added lever inside the bank operating in such fashion that a coin dropped into the top hat slot causes the pipe to move up and down. In addition, a cigar has been devised to operate in the same way. In either case, pipe or cigar, they are replacement or converted items when motivated by a coin and not authentic. The bank, by the way, was never manufactured with a cigar in the figure’s mouth.

Condensed background information on the bank is of historical interest. The figure represents Paul Kruger (actual name Stephanus Johannes Paules Kruger), born October 10, 1825, died July 14, 1904. In the Transvaal he was known as "Oom Paul," which means Uncle Paul. The Transvaal consisted of a province in Northeast Union of South Africa where Paul Kruger was born. As a youth he was strong and active and killed his first lion at the age of 14. At a later period in his life he is said to have actually wrestled a buffalo, pinning it by the horns. Kruger as a man was large and thick set and of great vitality and strength. He spent years protecting the Transvaal from aggression and tyranny and from British encroachment specifically. He was of Dutch descent and spoke Afrikaans, a mixture of several languages. He was strongly anti-British, was President of the Transvaal from 1883 to 1900, and served during the Boer War of 1899. His representation as a bank (see photo) is an actual copy of a national cartoon figure in England, circulated in the period by the Westminster Gazette.

The bank shown is in fine complete original condition and in colors. The colored variety is the most desirable of the three finishes. Colors are as follows: He has a black-bronze hat, brown jacket, yellow vest with black buttons, blue-green trousers, and black shoes. His hair, beard, face and hands are a cream white. His lips are red. A pipe with black stem and yellow bowl completes the coloring.

The name "Transvaal Money Box" is well defined on the front of the top hat. Across the back of the figure is inscribed: "By permission of The Proprietors of the Westminster Gazette."

In closing, it is very difficult to find an example of this bank with the original pipe intact. The pictured specimen of the bank is possibly the only one known to exist in this fashion — although there may be one or two others.


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