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Mechanical Bank Ramblings
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - March, 1968

Over a period of the last few years, and particularly so with respect to recent times, the writer has been asked a rather pertinent question by numbers of mechanical bank collectors. Specifically this question has to do with the time period in which a mechanical bank is considered an old or antique item or of the modern type. At the present time the line of demarcation generally accepted is established at 1935.

In other words, mechanical banks manufactured prior to this time are looked upon as old desirable collector’s items belonging in a collection of so-called antique mechanical banks. Banks made after this period are rated as the modern type. The modern type, by the way, offers quite a field to the mechanical bank collector when one considers that from 1935 to 1968 there are over 100 different mechanical banks known to have been made. Many of these are very interesting and some, even though made since 1935, are rather difficult to find today.

We will not attempt at this time to go into great detail on the modern class of mechanical banks, however, it is interesting to note that Japan has produced some rather intriguing battery operated mechanical banks such as the Hole In One, Bowling Bank, Haunted House, and so on. They have also made a line of wind-up and battery operated spooky "hand" banks—even producing one for sale abroad which represents Uncle Sam’s Hat in which a hand comes out of the top of the hat and grabs the coin placed thereon.

The American made Chein line of tin banks is quite desirable today and the writer will go into detail on these in a future article. Two mechanicals, both World War II vintage, are of considerable interest at this time, The Hitler Squealing Pig and the Bomb ‘N’ Bank. The Bombardier model of the Bomb ‘N’ Bank, by the way, utilized coins as bombs. It’s an all metal bomber plane with a bombsight mechanism that releases coins into an enemy gas tank (bank).

A few old mechanical banks lap over the 1935 date, however, they were originally made prior to this time. The Hubley banks come to mind as the main ones in this category. There are the Trick Dog (Solid or One-Part Base), Elephant Howdah (Pull Tail), and the Monkey Bank. Production of the three banks was discontinued permanently during World War II in 1942.

In concluding for the present on the 1935 date, we must keep in mind that at some future not too distant time this date will be advanced. After all, mechanical banks were known to be collected in the 1920’s while Stevens was still in production on certain of their mechanical banks. Of course, knowledge of the banks in those early collecting days was sadly lacking, but as interest increased into the 1930’s, so did a certain degree of knowledge. Collecting then, in the main, settled on banks that were more or less known not to be in production at the time. For example, in the late 1930’s the three previously mentioned Hubley banks were properly considered modern mechanical banks and had no place in a collection of old mechanical banks. Today, of course, this is not the case with these three banks.


Of considerable interest is the fact that another heretofore unknown mechanical bank has come to light. This is the Robot Bank, a Starkie patented mechanical money box of very interesting design and appearance. Research is presently underway and detail on the bank will appear in a future article.

Along with this, we have just received an additional "find." Edwin Mosler, Jr., recently returned from Europe with a tin Clown Bank of similar appearance to the Minstrel and the Scotchman. This bank is of German manufacture, brightly colored and quite attractive. As a matter of fact, the bank was undoubtedly made by the same concern who made the Minstrel and the Scotchman as the marking of the double S in a circle appears on all three. More about this bank will appear at a future date.

Then our latest good news in the mechanical bank collecting field! The avid Aaron Schroeder has turned up what might prove to be an unusual item. It’s another tin bank, highly decorative, based on the polaroid colored photos sent to the writer. It represents a platform scale of the type that people would step on, insert a coin, and weigh themselves. In the case of the bank, however, as the writer understands it, a coin, according to size, moves the arrow on the dial to indicate what coin is deposited. On the face of the dial is the wording "Try Your Weight And Save Money." It would appear to be of German manufacture, but we will not attempt to pass along any further information until such time that the writer has examined the bank.

Mr. Schroeder has also recently acquired the Roup mechanical bank collection. The late Bill Roup was an active collector in his day and somewhat different than other collectors in that he, in the main, only wanted mechanical banks that appealed to him for one reason or the other. His collection, therefore, was not as extensive as some, however, he had certain of the rare, desirable banks. For example, he attended the Chrysler sale in 1955 and obtained the Chrysler Clown, Harlequin & Columbine; and later, through a trade, the Chrysler Mikado Bank. He had the only known example of the Presto Bank. He also had the Preacher In The Pulpit and several other fine banks among the 100 plus in his collection. Mr. Schroeder has made a forward step with the acquisition of the Roup collection.


In closing, it bears mention that the writer has reason, where possible, to refer to certain of the very rare desirable banks as the Chrysler Harlequin, the Jones Harlequin, the Corby Preacher In The Pulpit, the Corby Turtle, the Emerine Jonah & The Whale (Jonah Emerges), and so on. In most cases great banks of this nature were originally owned by (as a collector) the men referred to, and in this fashion it not only establishes a definite identity, but also a record as to which were perfect specimens to begin with—which were repaired—which have since been repaired or had anything done to them, and the like.


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