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The Circus Ticket Collector Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine July, 1983

     For the first sixty years of its existence, the Circus Ticket Collector bank was referred to as the "Money Barrel Bank." It was advertised as such in the 1870's edition of Ehrichs Fashion Quarterly (a New York City-based mail order firm). However, the name "Money Barrel Bank" became obsolete; why and when this happened still remains a mystery. The first recorded usage of the name "Circus Ticket Collector" appeared in Ina Hayward Bellows' book, Old Mechanical Banks published in 1940.
     Both Ina Bellows, and twelve years later, in 1952, pioneer collector John D. Meyers, in his book Mechanical Penny Banks, make reference to a variation specifically pertaining to the face of the Circus Ticket Collector. The variation was that the man was bearded. Other than these references, I have never seen nor heard of a bearded variety. (If readers of this article have seen a bank so described. I would appreciate your advising me of it.) My contention is that quite possibly the white paint flaking off the cheeks, chin, and upper lip of the face exposed the black underpaint, thus giving the illusion of the beard.
     The fragility of the facial paint was due to the fact that, instead of a primer, a hard glossy black paint was used as an undercoat, causing an adhesion problem with the white paint that was applied over it This problem resulted in extensive flaking of the face (Fig. 1). There are other mechanical banks which share in the same faulty use of glossy black underpaint. They are: "Hold the Fort," (Eight Sided Building), and "John Bull's Moneybox," (of English manufacture). These banks, including the Circus Ticket Collector, are extremely difficult to locate in fine paint condition, and, if found, do command a premium price.
     The Circus Ticket Collector was produced in two color variations that applied only to the body of the man and his money barrel. His face is consistent in its color scheme, in that the hair, eyebrows, and eyes are black; the face is an off-white, and the mouth is red (all painted over the glossy black undercoat).
     The color variations are: on one, the man's body and the barrel are painted a copper-bronze color. He sports a white shirt with a red V-shaped necktie. His coat buttons and shoes, as well as the barrel hoops, are black. The second variation has the man's body and the barrel painted with a brown japanning. He wears a yellow-ochre shirt with a white collar. His coat buttons and shoes are black. The barrel hoops on this variation are red.
     The bank is operated by placing a coin into the slot atop the barrel. This tips a balance lever connected to the Ticket Collector's head, which then nods in acknowledgement of your contribution.
     For many years, background information regarding the manufacture of the Circus Ticket Collector had been sadly lacking. Then, several years ago, correspondence surfaced that exposed a legal confrontation between the Judd Manufacturing Company of Wallingford, Connecticut, and the Stevens Foundry of Cromwell, Connecticut. The Stevens Foundry contended that the Peg Leg Beggar Bank along with the Money Barrel Bank, infringed upon the patent of their Tammany Bank (Fig. 2). The Judd Company acquiesced and ceased production of both their Beggar Bank and the Money Barrel Bank (the factor contributing to their rarity today).
     Unfortunately, the Circus Ticket Collectors simple design led to the creation of numerous unauthorized reproductions, This fact is all the more understandable when considering that the bank originally sold for fifty cents apiece, and today, a fine, original specimen may be purchased for a price that reflects over a three thousand percent increase.
     As I have cautioned in previous articles, one should be wary when purchasing any mechanical bank. A thorough understanding of the iron casting process, and a sensitive feeling for paint quality and patina are mandatory in discerning an original from a recast.
     A few things to look for when determining the authenticity of an original Circus Ticket Collector Bank include: (1) the smooth quality of the cast iron, both inside and out: (2) how well the two sections of the castings fit (there should be no wide gaps between halves); (3) the front coat buttons must be well-defined (Fig. 3); (4) the man's head should be a two-piece casting; and (5) the paint should have a smooth patina.
     Because of the numerous recasts in circulation today, I am including a base diagram (Fig. 4) to facilitate identification of an original Circus Ticket Collector. A recast will be approximately one-sixteenth of an inch smaller in length than the original.
     I must conclude with the paradoxical statement that the Circus Ticket Collectors charisma lies in its lack of historical significance, lack of intriguing subject matter, lack of color, its small size, and finally, its unimposing presence.

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