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The Bad Accident Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine June, 1986

     One of my earliest recollections concerning the subject matter of this article centers around a conversation between two gentlemen at a toy show twenty years ago. Although the eavesdropping was unintentional, my ears perked up, and my curiosity became aroused when one of these persons (an avid collector unbeknownst to me at that time) remarked that he "was desperately seeking a bad accident and felt confident that this was to be his lucky day. That collector was successful in obtaining his Bad Accident and this collector received his Bad Accident shortly thereafter from a prominent New York City dealer, the late Chic Darrow.
     Despite unappealing racist connotations so popular with 19th century toy manufacturers the Bad Accident mechanical bank is, in my humble opinion, one of the most ingenious and intriguing of all mechanicals.
     Unfortunately, to date, no patent information has been located. Therefore, there is no documentation, merely speculation, as to who designed this bank. The Bad Accident bears that unmistakable trademark of one of the great bank designers of all time Charles A. Bailey. Its base abounds with graceful floral and leaf patterns. This, coupled with the fact that the Bad Accident was advertised for sale in the 1891 toy catalog of the J. and E. Stevens Company (Figure 1), which employed Bailey as their chief mechanical bank designer, leads me to believe that he did, in fact, design the Bad Accident.
     It is also of interest to note that, in this catalog, a Donkey Wheel toy is pictured (Figure 2) which, with one exception, has the same casting as the donkey in the Bad Accident bank. That exception: a small wheel placed between the donkey's front legs.
     The action of the Bad Accident is illustrated and described in Figure 3, a copy of an ad which appeared in the 1890 Marshall Field toy catalog. It graphically depicts the tale from which the bank derives its name: "Place a coin under the feet of the driver, and press the lever. The boy jumps into the road, frightening the donkey, and as he rears, the cart and driver are thrown backward, when the coin falls into the body of the cart and disappears. Price per doz., net, $8.50."
     The coins were removed by way of a round Stevens'-type coin trap underneath the cart.
     There are no color variations of the Bad Accident, but, as shown in Figures 4 and 5, there are two casting variations. The differences pertain solely to the words, "BAD ACCIDENT" cast into the base of each bank. One variation, the more common of the two, is that the letters read upside down (Figure 4). The rarer version, with the letters right side up, is seen in Figure 5.
     To determine the monetary value of the rare variation, twenty percent may be added to the value of the common variety, when the condition of both are equivalent. Thus, it may be said that condition is a most important factor in determining the desirability of this, as well as any mechanical bank.
     The colors of the banks shown in Figures 4 and 5 are as follows: the driver's face, hands and shoes are black. His eyes are white with black pupils and he has pink lips with white teeth. His hat is tan with a blue band. He sports a light blue jacket with a dark blue collar. His shirt is white with a yellow and red bow tie and he is wearing red pants with tan spats. The watermelon wedge he so intently munches is green, white and pink with black pits. The little boy's face is black, as are his hands and feet. His eyes are white with black pupils and he has a red mouth. He sports a red shirt and his pants are light blue. The donkey is light brown with white eyes and a red mouth. Its hooves and harness are black and its collar is red. The cart is yellow with red striping and the seat and top of the cart are dark blue with tan boards. The wheels are red with black decorations. The base depicts a tan dirt road, bordered on both sides by green leaves, with yellow and white flowers. The words, "BAD ACCIDENT" are highlighted in gold. Finally, the underside of the base is coated with a creamy white protective varnish, as are all banks manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company.
     The Bad Accident is not considered rare. Nevertheless, its desirability is enhanced by several factors: black subject matter, multi-figural, exciting action, and an extremely colorful appearance. Because of the bank's design, it has proven extremely fragile. Few have survived, completely intact, the ravages of time and children. When a fine specimen is for sale, it generally commands quite a high price.
     In view of the fact that the Bad Accident has been reproduced, I am including a base diagram (Figure 6) to aid in the determination of an original versus a recast. The recast will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch shorter along the base.
     CORRECTION: In the article entitled, "The Perfection Registering Bank, " Antique Toy World April, 1986, it was erroneously stated that the photo of the bank in Figure 1 was "actual size. " The actual bank, in fact, is smaller than indicated by the photo. Please refer to the base diagram for the correct size. The editor of this publication apologizes for the error.

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