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Conventions & Harper Stills
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - August, 1978

Two club conventions have been held recently, the Antique Toy Collectors of America and the Still Bank Collectors Club. The toy group held their affair in Williamsburg, Virginia, and there was some pretty good action in toys. Outstanding toys for sale included a New York Sightseeing Bus by Kenton with cartoon figures, Mama Katzenjammer, Happy Holligan, and the others. There was also a nice Swan Chariot by Stevens, unusually enough with an original box. This is a very graceful pull toy with a swan that flaps its wings and a girl reclining in a shell to the rear of the swan. During the auction time of the convention a rather unique toy showed up. This was a tin automobile with a figure of Santa with a pack on his back. A nice toy, however, and after going to a pretty fair figure, it was bid back in by the owner. There were a variety of other toys at this affair, including Lehmann, penny toys, tin toys, and you could say just about something for everybody.

The still bank group met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and this get-together brought forth a couple of surprises. For one thing, there were some nice mechanical banks there, and a small collection of mechanicals changed hands. The banks in this collection, all in fine original condition, included William Tell, Eagle & Eaglets, Punch & Judy, Home Bank, Frog Lattice, Trick Dog, and Owl Turns Head. The Trick Savings Bank, Type I, with original label, was sold to a leading collector. There was a nice picture Gallery and good Clown On Globe. One of the better mechanicals, the Calamity Bank, was in nice original condition. Others were a Monkey And Parrot in the original box, an Organ Bank, Type I (Cat & Dog), regular Organ Bank (Monkey), and Hall’s Liliput. That’s a nice bunch of mechanicals to show up at a still bank gathering.

We would have to say that the two outstanding still banks sold at the affair were the Harper Policeman and Harper Mother Hubbard. These two stills are quite rare and desirable. There is probably only one other Policeman known to exist in a collection, and the Mother Hubbard is the only one known to exist to the best of the writer’s knowledge. These two banks are the type that have the safe representation back and figures on the front. Technically the figures are, in each case, on the back of the safe; however, the figural part is always displayed to the front. As with other Harper figural safe type still banks, both the Policeman and the Mother Hubbard have in raised letters around the door representation ‘COPYRIGHT BY J. M. HARPER’, and underneath the door the date ‘1907’.

The figure of the Policeman is an early type of the period with the usual silver face and hands and blue uniform. The term ‘usual silver face’ is indicative of the Harper banks. The figure of the policeman extends well above the safe and is centered. The bank is in very nice condition.

The figure of Mother Hubbard is represented as a portly type woman, usual silver face, and she is to the right of the bank and also extends above the top of the safe. The dog is to her right and he is done in gold. The name ‘Mother Hubbard’ appears in raised letters across and under the figure. This bank too is in nice original condition.

In any case, these two banks exchanged hands at the convention, and within a few days they again exchanged hands. They were initially purchased (in the first exchange) from a collector by a dealer.

Of interest at this point are the other Harper safe type banks. Red Riding Hood is the most desirable of the group and is depicted with the red cape and the wolf. Then there is the Stork. The stork’s neck curves up extending over the safe, and in his bill he holds the baby in the accepted fashion. Another is the Bird’s Nest, and this is as the name implies. Still another is the Carpenter. Then we have the outstanding Santa Claus. Santa is on the right front side of the safe and just his head and pack extend up over the top. His pack is over his right shoulder and to the left front side of the safe. Santa has silver face, pack, and hands. His suit and cap are red. Washington, and then Lee round up the safe type Harper banks that, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, are known to exist. There may be others of the safe type that remain as yet undiscovered — time will tell.

We must point out at this time that Harper, who made some very interesting unusual still banks, did not just make the unique safe type figurals. They made other very exceptional stills, including what could be the most desirable and rarest of all stills, the Board Of Trade. This depicts a bull and bear on their hind legs with their forelegs on a bag of grain located between them. A wonderful still bank. Also, the great Billy Possum was made by Harper, and this is a really interesting representation of a possum with his ‘taters.

So much for now about Harper’s stills, and more possibly in the future, and we will picture a few for our readers in the near offing.


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