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The Robot Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - May, 1968

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Once again it is the writer’s pleasure to announce the discovery of a heretofore unknown mechanical bank. The bank, The Robot, is a very interesting item of English origin and a product of Robert Eastwood Starkie, well known for two of his other money boxes—Jolly Nigger (Moves Ears) and the Tank And Cannon. Starkie and his banks are rather intriguing. We still do not know too much about Starkie himself, and his banks have a certain crudeness or primitive way about them that has a degree of appeal. They have certain character and individuality as compared to most of the other mechanical banks.

The Robot has all the Starkie touches and would be readily recognizable as one of his banks, even if his name and the patent number did not appear on the back (Figure 2). The fact, however, that his name and the patent number do appear is of importance and add measurably to the stature of the bank. So far the exact date of the bank has not been pinned down. Research is still under way at this point and we do have some facts to pass along. If we don’t come up with any further information it is not earth shaking one way or the other.

The Patent Number 26432 of necessity is prior to 1916. The Patent Office in London prior to 1916 repeatedly used the numbers of five digits each year through 1915. Since 1916 accepted specifications have been given a six figure serial number starting with 100,000. Patents granted before 1916 retained their application number and then were consequently repeated each year. It is, therefore, possible prior to 1916 to have an application number that would become abandoned or void and no patent actually ever granted.

This yearly duplication of numbers in the English Patent Office, of course, makes it considerably more difficult to check patents prior to 1916 than in our United States Patent Office. If we had a patent number shown on an American made bank, which is practically never the case, there would be very little involved in getting the patent information from our Patent Office, unless the number was incorrect or something of this nature. In any event, at this time we know the Robot was made by Starkie prior to 1916, which would make it his earliest known mechanical money box.

The bank pictured was found in England and is in reasonably good condition. It is made of aluminum and colors are as follows: The postman wears a blue uniform and hat with black band, his carrying bag and hair are brown, his shoes are black. A short red strip is on each coat sleeve and his front buttons are red. His face and hands are pink and the letter held in his raised right hand is white. The door is red, door frame white, the section around the frame is green with red edging forming the peak outline. The base upon which the postman stands is green with red edging. The name, door knob, bell pull, and Number 10 are tan. Facial details such as eyes, eyebrows, moustache in tan complete the coloring of the bank.

To operate the bank a coin is placed in the provided slot in the letter. Then a lever located between the postman’s legs is pressed down. In so doing the left arm lowers as though pulling the bell cord. At the same time the right arm moves forward and down as though depositing the letter in the door slot. The coin, of course, slides into the slot and falls into the receptacle shown in Figure 2. As shown in Figure 1, all parts automatically return to their positions upon releasing the lever.

In closing, it bears mention there may be political or satirical reference in connection with the name Robot and possibly the Number 10 in reference to Downing Street. Nothing of factual nature is known in either case as yet and subsequent research may shed some light on these possibilities. The Robot, of necessity at this time since it should be higher in the list, is No. 162 in the numerical classification.


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