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The Magician Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 1985 

     The wonderment of magic has existed throughout all ages of history. Ancient times produced its demons and sorcerers which called forth the magical powers of man to protect himself against evil influences. Modern society is provided with its palmists, Tarot readers, crystal gazers, and stage magicians to entertain as they open the door to the world of magic and the supernatural.
      And so it was on January 22, 1901, that homage was paid to these magicians with the creation of the "Magician Mechanical Bank." On that date William C. Bull, of Philadelphia, PA, received Patent number 666,612 for his invention (Figure 1). Subsequently, on September 17, 1901, Charles A. Bailey, of Cromwell, CT, was granted Patent number 35,119 for his design of the Magician Mechanical Bank (Figure 2). Both Mr. Bull and Mr. Bailey assigned their patents to Abraham L. Kesner. Besides this "coincidence," other similarities include the same two witnesses and the same patent attorney.
     It is possible, if I may speculate, that William Bull approached the Stevens' Foundry to manufacture his Magician Bank. They, in turn, purchased the rights to his design and Charles A. Bailey (chief designer of the foundry) planned and executed a simpler and more "esthetically" pleasing bank. Bailey then patented his "improved" design. The final production Magician Bank was manufactured by the Stevens' Foundry of Cromwell, Connecticut.
     The William C. Bull design (Figure 1) displays a somewhat more complex action than the Charles A. Bailey design (Figure 2). The former has both arms moving independently, while the latter has both arms attached to the hat and moving as a single unit. Both patents utilized a similar trap door and chute design within the table top, for the disappearing coin illusion.
     The action of the Magician Bank is uncomplicated and impressive. A coin is placed within the circular design on the center of the table. The lever (Figure 3) is then pressed. Simultaneously, as the Magician lowers his hat to cover the coin, the small hinged trap door opens and the coin drops through the chute under the table into the base of the bank. As the lever is released, the Magician raises his hat, and, voila! the coin has mysteriously disappeared. These coins are retrieved by way of a round Stevens-type coin trap underneath the base of the bank.
     To the best of my knowledge, there are no casting variations of the Magician Bank, but there are several color variations. These include the magician's hands and face which maybe painted either white or a pink flesh color the steps leading up to the platform which may be painted with a textured flock paint in either chartreuse, fuchsia, or blue. (A word of caution: A Magician bank with steps that are not coated with the flocked paint most likely has been repainted.) The magician's hair, mustache, beard, eyes, and eyebrows are always painted black, as are his bow tie, hat, coat, trousers, and shoes. The wand in his right hand is painted gold. The table is red with gold-trimmed legs. The front and back of the base of the bank are painted turquoise-blue with black letters. The lever is yellow, as is the saw-tooth design on the top edges of the base.
     The Magician Mechanical Bank is extremely attractive and entertaining, which may help to explain why it is highly sought after by today's collector. Unfortunately, these attributes have contributed to the poor condition in which this bank is generally found, since it was handled and played with a great deal by those children for whom it had originally been purchased and who discovered it to be an intriguing plaything. A superb specimen will command a premium price. At a recent auction, a fine Magician Bank sold for more than a three thousand percent increase above its original selling price (95c in 1913), as shown in a copy of an advertisement by the Fair Company of Chicago, Illinois (Figure 4).
     There are several reproductions of the Magician Bank. Figure 5 indicates a base diagram of the original. A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch shorter in length than the original.

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