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Still Banks
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - July, 1969

69-07.JPG (23704 bytes)With thousands and thousands of still banks known to exist in cast iron, pottery, china, glass, wood, tin, paper, cardboard, leather, and you name it, where does one begin or end in writing an article on them. The writer has resisted many requests over many years to "do something on still banks" mainly for this very reason. Still banks are a vast subject unto themselves, not as complicated as the mechanicals, but we still have a long way to go on the mechanicals and that’s what this department is in the main set up to cover. Be that as it may, the timing is such that we feel it is important at this point, due to several factors, to go into some detail on at least a few of the better cast iron stills.

The factors referred to have to do with the fact that stills have advanced rapidly in recent times in two areas, as collector’s items and in price. This is largely due to Hubert B. Whiting and his fine booklet "Old Iron Still Banks." His booklet is something that has long been needed by the many still bank collectors. It covers, as he explains in his book, some 452 banks from his personal collection. They are well pictured in color and, with a few exceptions, are all cast iron.

As far as still banks go, those of cast iron are the most desirable to most collectors. They are naturally closely related to mechanical banks since both are children’s savings devices and they were made in the same time period, numbers of them by the same concern who made mechanical banks. There were, however, concerns who made still banks that did not produce mechanicals.

Mr. Whiting has chosen as his method of grading A through E — A being the more common, generally least expensive; and E the rarest, most desirable, and usually most expensive. In the writer’s opinion his system of grading works quite well and has accuracy about it.

As previously mentioned, we are going into some detail on a select few of the better cast iron still banks. Please note Figure 1, top of rack, a streetcar is on either side of the large size Statue of Liberty. The streetcar on the left is the rarest having different figures in all the windows. It is an all over gold paint and the name "Main Street" is on each side. This is an E bank. The streetcar on the right does not have the figures in the windows, but is otherwise the same as the other. It is a D bank. We mention the D and E classification here to point out that the one with the figures is more desirable and harder to come by.

The Statue of Liberty was made in at least two sizes. The one pictured is the largest size and most desirable. It is painted an all over silver with various parts in gold. The torch light is red. It is a nicely detailed bank and was made by the Kenton Hardware Company.

On the first shelf, left to right, is the Elephant On Wheels. It is an all over gold with some detail in red. The wheels are nickel plated and also cast iron. The building is an exceptionally nice one in colors of green, red, blue, white and brown. It is well detailed and made by the same concern that produced the mechanicals New Bank and U.S. Bank. It is quite similar in appearance to the New Bank, less policeman, but considerably smaller in size. The last bank on this shelf is known as the Horse With Fly Net. He is painted gold with black eyes and red mouth. This is probably the rarest of all the different horse type still banks.

On the second shelf is the very rare Two Kids Bank. This depicts two goats with their horns locked standing on their rear legs over a stump. The goats are black with red mouth and nostrils. The eyes and horns are silver, as is the tree stump. The base is green with the name in gold. The Bird On Stump is next and he is gold with bronze color legs and eyes. His beak is black and a green four-leaf clover type of foliage is on the front of the stump.

The bottom shelf has the very desirable Mary And Her Lamb. The lamb is cream color with red eyes. Mary wears a green dress under a cream colored jumper with lines at bottom and top in red. Her stockings are also red. Next and last completing the banks on the rack as shown in Figure 1 is the rather early type automobile. It has a coach-like body with short running boards and no fenders. Figures appear in each window. It is red with nickel plated wheels. This is the earliest type and probably most desirable of the automobile still banks.

Figure 2 pictures one of the greatest of all the still banks. This is an effigy of General Butler and depicts him as having a frog’s body. It was made by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn., famous for their fine mechanical banks. The bank pictured has been in the writer’s possession for years and it is the finest original condition specimen of this bank he has ever seen. The face is flesh color with black hair, moustache and eyes. The back part of his body is dark green with lighter green arms and legs. The front of the body is yellow and the base is brown. Down his right arm is the wording ‘Bonds and Yachts for Me’ and along his left arm ‘For the Masses’. In his left hand, significantly, he holds a bunch of greenbacks with ‘This is $1,000,000’ thereon. Coins are inserted in his mouth. The conventional type of round Stevens coin trap as used on many of their mechanicals is in the base of General Butler.

Last, but not least, in Figure 3 are three fine English banks. Left to right they are the Beehive, County Bank, and the Bears And Beehive. All three have the same overall finish in dark brownish lacquer. The beehive on the Beehive Bank is gold and there is one on the front and back. The County Bank is an excellent detailed casting really finely done and a most attractive building type bank. The Bears And Beehive has the name and beehive in gold. The bears are depicted as stealing honey from the hive.

In conclusion, still banks include in their subject matter many different kinds of people, heads, animals, objects, and buildings. Safes, as such, and registering banks are usually considered in a separate category, although most still bank collectors have some safes and registering banks in their collection. As with mechanicals, originals with no repairs and original paint is important. In still banks one has to watch for recasts and a number have been reproduced and are being sold as such, reproductions.

The 14 still banks pictured are completely original and to date the writer has never seen any of them in recasts.


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