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ANTIQUE TOY WORLD, Vol. 8, No. 9, October 1978 (see below for OCR text)
Banking Ways and Daze by Robert Bruce




Vol. 8, No. 9, October 1978
Banking Ways and Daze  
By Robert Bruce  
     There are many bank collectors and would-be bank collectors who have doubts about values, authenticity, etc. How does paint condition, rust, broken or missing parts affect values or prices of banks. I confess that I have these doubts as does every collector I know, including some of the well known collectors. These articles will try to give guidelines which I find helpful and useful in solving some of these problems, and illustrate some of the banks. Questions sent to the Editor of this magazine will be forwarded and answered through these articles wherever possible.  
     The first, and probably most important thing for you to do is study the subject! Buy whatever books and catalogs that you can, visit your library and read Mr. Griffith's articles on "Mechanical Banks," in the last 25 years of "Hobbies." Join the "Mechanical Bank Club of America" or the "Still Bank Collectors Club of America," go to museums, commercial banks that have display collections, flea markets, antique shows, and look and learn. Visit gift shops to feel and see what modern bank reproductions are like. Try to visit collectors to see their collections and, above all, keep an open mind about what you are told. Bank collectors and clubs generally share all the information they have, but sometimes you'll hear conflicting stories. Time will teach you which is correct and which one is mistaken. If possible, buy major purchases from reputable sellers who will guarantee the merchandise. You will develop a feeling for the old banks and the repros will seem wrong to you. Don't listen to Joe, your bowling buddy, or Frank, the beer can collector, you keep meeting at the Flea Markets, who tell you it must be really rare because they've never even seen one before. Don't listen to the dealer or auctioneer who says it must be old because it came out of the house of a little old lady who's had it for a long time! An old friend of mine was given a "Paddy & His Pig" mechanical bank by his grandsons twenty years ago, but they bought a "new" bank for grandpa, not an antique. If this is ever sold from his estate, it won't be an antique, even if he had it for many year. Look and handle old pieces and learn.  
     Most of the reproductions on the market were not made to deceive the unwary collector, but merely to be sold at a profit in a gift or novelty shop. It's after this that through stupidity or cupidity of the seller that the repros appear on the antique market as originals and here is where we must beware. There is nothing wrong with buying a modern or repro bank if we pay the modern or repro price for it. In mechanicals there are two or three sets of repros clearly marked that command higher prices than the usual repro, but far less than the originals they were copied from. Usually the newer repros are made from the older repros, not even from originals.  
     "PROFESSOR PUG FROG'S GREAT BICYCLE FEAT" Lots of action in this bank. The frog on the bicycle makes a complete revolution throwing the coin into the clown's basket and kicking mother goose's music as he comes around. The action is so violent that I have never let it go but have always held it back by hand. No wonder there are so many broken mechanicals. Mother Goose's tongue is gone on this one—a common break.  
     "TEDDY AND THE BEAR BANK" A rather common mechanical, patented in 1907 by Bailey and manufactured by J. & E. Stevens Co. This particular bank is an early one with "Patent applied for" on it.
     "MAIN STREET STREETCARS" With and without people. Both gilded finish. A pair of hard to find banks and a nice set.
     BUSTER BROWN AND HIS DOG TIGE. A nice bank but not as valuable as "Mary and Her Lamb." Buster made by the A. C. Williams Co. of Ravenna, Ohio, but we don't know who manufactured the Mary Bank.
     "MILKING COW BANK" Rare Mechanical with excellent action. Press the daisy and the cow kicks the boy over spilling the bucket of milk. Probably designed by Bailey and made by the J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn.
     "CAR BANK" Probably made by the A. C. Williams Co. I've seen these banks with a number of different kinds and sizes of wheels, Tin, C.I., and varying designs all apparently original.
     Banks are made from many materials. Wood, tin, glass, pottery, lead, aluminum, die cast, paper mache, and cast iron are a few of the materials we find in banks. A plastic or cast aluminum reproduction of an iron bank is obvious. However, most of the repros or recasts are in cast iron, as many of the valuable originals are, so a little discussion of foundry practices will help us. All molten metals shrink when changing from liquid to solid state. The shrinkage of these metals (Aluminum 3/ 16" per foot, cast iron 1/8" per foot) is uniform and predictable and original banks were made from patterns which had these shrinkage factors built in, so the finished parts would fit together and work properly. Bob McCumber of Glastonbury, Connecticut, puts out books with base tracings of original mechanical and still banks. To check for repros, put the bank on its tracing and if it doesn't match, it's probably not old. This isn't 100% sure, as the old banks were made at more than one foundry and with different patterns. Sometimes changes were made after the first few production runs showed problems, but in general this is a good starting place for a new collector.
     Many of our newer manufacturing processes make superior, uniform, pieces when compared with older processes, but the foundry industry today no longer can make smooth, thin castings, as they were in the 1870-1910 period. Economic pressures have all but eliminated hand work and modern molding techniques and materials cannot compare to the old hand molding process with extremely fine facing sand in the quality of castings produced. The old banks with their carefully, exquisitely made patterns, hand-molded with extremely fine sand next to the cast surface and hand finished after casting, were almost works of art. In fact, many collectors today feel they are examples of folk art. The repro loses detail at every copying. Look at repros marked "Taiwan" and they are almost unrecognizable. Modern castings are pebbly and grainy—rough feeling and looking. Another indication is the fit of component parts. The old banks usually have uniform spaces between parts with no gaps or humps, while repros may have unsightly gaps or, in some place, be ground to fit. Originals have lots of details on the surface—hair on animals, feathers on birds, etc. Repros of the same bank show a lot less surface detail. Another important clue to a bank's age is the paint and color on it. Newer acrylics and synthetic lacquers don't age the same or have the same colors as the original oil paints used. Facial tints are a giveaway. I once drove almost two hundred miles on the trail of a "Magician" and when I walked into the shop I could see from twenty feet that the face color was wrong. It was a reproduction. Thank goodness there were some other nice pieces (not banks), so the trip was not a total loss, but the "Magician" stayed there. I still don't have it.
     Many original banks are cast iron, so the knowledgeable collector carries a magnet to test the component parts. The bank collecting clubs frequently report which parts of genuine banks are non-magnetic. Inclusion of some non-magnetic parts shouldn't stop consideration, but you know these could be some replacements or repairs which lessen the value.
     We'd all like to find rare original banks, mint in their wooden box, with instructions and advertising cards for other ones, but this practically never happens. Condition, rarity, and desirability determine value. 90% original paint is a more valuable condition than 50% on the same bank. A very rare bank in miserable condition may have more value than a common one in beautiful shape. Again I say look and learn. I believe that a bank in mint (or almost mint) condition is worth up to 1-1/2 times the average price, while one in poor condition can be worth down to less than half the average price. Repaints can knock values down to half or even one-third. Replaced parts drop the value in relation to which parts are replaced, how well the job was done, how much it shows, how the paint is blended in, etc. I am not too concerned if the coin trap is missing, but most collectors feel the bank should have all of its parts and operate. Now in addition to all this, one must consider rarity. A super-rare bank with no paint and parts missing or broken will command a high price from advanced collectors who will fix the piece up until they can find an "upgrade" and then they will trade or dispose of it to somebody who doesn't have it and the cycle repeats itself. Desirability is the third factor to affect value and price. Some still banks are rare yet they don't grab one, while others bring raised eyebrows from collector friends and make you feel you've really got something. Mechanicals have the action factor to increase or decrease this desirability. Some rare mechanical banks with little action take a back seat to more common ones with lots of action and appeal.
     All in all, bank collecting is an individualistic thing. One can collect still banks or mechanicals both, or one particular phase of either. I've known building bank specialists, safe collectors, animal figures, bull dog bank collectors, sports banks, caricature collectors, frog banks, circus theme banks, etc. Other specializations are by materials, country of origin, type of action, again etc. Most of us start collecting anything with a slot and then some time later, when all shelves and drawers are full of this heterogenous bunch, realize we'd really like to get this particular type and get rid of the rest. We trade, try to sell, or just store our rejects until someone says, "I collect such and such," and you tell him you have this and ask if he would like to trade.
     THE OWL. "Be Wise Save Money" is a desirable and wanted bank made by A. C. Williams of Ravenna, Ohio. Even perfect it is worth no more than 10-15% of the super-rare "Apple" by Kayser and Rex with the tip of the leaf broken.
     "LION AND TWO MONKEYS" Made by Kyser and Rex of Philadelphia about 1883. The large monkey feeds a penny to the lion while the small one peers over his head. The small monkey is usually missing or replaced and originally was made from brass although the rest of the bank is iron.
     TWO OWL STILL BANKS. The light colored one is cast iron and made by the Vindex Co. of Belvidere, Illinois, while the dark one is an aluminum casting from the original iron pattern. It is marked Belvidere, Ill. but the word "Vindex" has been removed. A nice authentic pair, but of different size due to the materials.


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