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Halls Excelsior
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 1984

     December 21, 1869 may possibly be the most significant date in the history of the mechanical penny bank. It was on that date that John Hall, of Watertown, Massachusetts, was granted Patent number 98,055 for his invention of the "Halls Excelsior Bank" the earliest patented, commercially manufactured, cast iron mechanical bank known.
     The patent papers (Fig. 1) bear evidence to the fact that the final production bank follows those drawings quite faithfully. The only deviations are: 1) the head of the mustached man became the head of a monkey, and, 2) the pull wire was attached to the monkey and cupola internally rather than externally.
     During his lifetime John Hall patented many mechanical penny banks, but only four are known to have been manufactured. They are: the Halls Excelsior Bank, the Race Course Bank, the Tammany Bank, and the Liliput Bank. These were all produced by the J. and E. Stevens Foundry of Cromwell, Connecticut.
     Each and every mechanical bank designed by John Hall has one unmistakable characteristic ... a series of weights and counterbalances that perform their action only upon the utilization and weight of a coin. In order to activate the Halls Excelsior Bank, the small glass knob on the front of the bank is pulled. This is connected to an internal wire which lifts the cupola, the wooden monkey, and the desk to the position shown in the photograph (Fig. 2). As the monkey is brought into position, his head swings left to right several times. A coin is then placed upon the desk, the weight of which causes the cupola to close and the coin, desk and monkey drop out of sight. To remove the coins, the bank must first be disassembled by unscrewing a long screw that connects the roof of the bank to its base.
     The Halls Excelsior Bank comes in several color combinations. The one portrayed in this article has white walls, green front steps, a green cupola, a red roof, red lettering, and a red brick base. The windows are outlined in blue, as is the spiral design on the sides. The two x's on each side of the word "HALLS" are also blue. The wooden monkey has a pink face with black hair, eyes, eyebrows and nose. He sports a dark blue jacket and a white shirt with tiny blue buttons. His wooden desk is red. There is a small paper label affixed behind his head that reads, "CASHIER."
     Some other color variations of the Halls Excelsior Bank include tan walls with a blue roof, yellow walls with a maroon roof, maroon walls with a tan roof, etc. The window trim and decorations also vary accordingly, and the monkey may, at times, be attired in a red jacket.
     As discussed in previous articles, patina and paint crazing should help the buyer of this or any antique mechanical bank discern an original from a repaint.
Aside from any paint color variations, there are only two casting variations of which I am aware. One has the patent date, Dec. 21, 1869, stenciled on the roof, and the other has this date actually cast into the roof.
     Some years ago, rumor had it that several original metal heads were found for the figure behind the desk, but these proved to be of modem manufacture. Until proven otherwise, the only authentic figures should be carved totally out of wood.
     I am not aware of any reproductions of the Halls Excelsior Bank: nevertheless, I am including a base diagram (Fig. 3) to indicate size and scale.
     The Halls Excelsior Bank is not considered rare because so many were produced over such a long period of time. But when one discovers how few exist in superb paint condition, with a completely original monkey, desk and cashier's label only then does this historical bank's true rarity and value become evident.

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