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Frog on Round Base
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 1989

      "Amusing" and "innocuous" aptly describe particular members of the class of vertebrate referred to as amphibians. Since nature has endowed them with wide-mouthed, voracious appetites, it is not surprising that these creatures had been regarded by mechanical bank manufacturers as worthy subjects to enliven their penny "gobblers." Our amphibious bank friends in­clude: "Frog on Rock," "Toad on Stump," "Frog on Arched Track," "Toad in Den," "Chief Big Moon," "Professor Pug Frog's Great Bicycle Feat ... "Snake and Frog in Pond," "Goat Frog and Old Man," "Initiating Bank First Degree," "Flip the Frog," "Two Frogs," and the subject of this article, "Frog on round Base."
     This unassuming little bank was invented by Russel A. Frisbie, General Superintendent and partner of the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. Frisbie was granted Patent number 130,575 on August 20, 1872 (Figure I). An unfortunate set of circumstances surrounds the invention and patenting of "Frog on Round Base." During this same period of time, the J. and E. Stevens Company was producing banks designed by Mr. John Hall. These included such classics as "Tammany," "Liliput," "Race Course," and the first patented cast-iron mechanical bank ever manufactured, the "Hall's Excelsior." Then, for no apparent reason, Mr. Frisbie plagiarized the design from the base section of John Hall's "Race Course" bank (Figure II) and utilized it for the base of his "Frog on Round Base" bank. The similarities are most evident when examining the two mechanicals as they appear in an early J. and E. Stevens bank catalog (Figure II). This unauthorized usage of Hall's design resulted in an irreconcilable rift between Mr. Hall and Mr. Frisbie.
     The action of "Frog on Round Base" is simplistic, and is so described in the actual patent: "An artificial frog, whose mouth is opened for the reception of a coin, by pressing one of its feet, and which drops the coin in the box on releasing it .... also the eyes are caused to roll when the foot is pressed." These deposited coins are removed by unscrewing the entire base plate from the bank.
     Although I am not aware of casting variations, there are several color combinations. These pertain solely to the base, which may be any combination of red, green, white, yellow, brown and blue. In contrast, the coloration of the frog never varies. Its head and four legs are painted gold, and its back is green with gold highlighting. The top plate of the bank pictured in Figure III is painted red with a graceful white flourish between the frog's front paws. The round, latticed sides are yellow, with the doorway outlined in blue and the word "bank" painted red. The flanged base is red with a dark blue border circumscribing the entire lower rim. The words, "PAT D AUG 20, 1872" are inscribed across the top of the bank to the right of the frog, and facilitated location of its patent papers.
     I have seen several Taiwanese recasts of the "Frog on Round Base." However, since they are quite crude, it is not too difficult to discern these from an original smooth, sharp casting. Nevertheless, the base diagram in Figure IV should further aid the collector in the recognition of a reproduction. The recast will appear approximately one-eighth inch smaller across the circumference than the dimension indicated.

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