The Owl Bank, Slot in
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – April, 1989
In many parts of
the world, and throughout history, the owl has evoked man's curiosity and
fascination. This creature has been worshipped by some as a wise and lofty
oracle, and feared by others as an evil sorcerer with its ominous
screeching and hypnotic eyes. Likenesses have been discovered decorating
the walls of caves inhabited by prehistoric man in France. Artists,
sculptors, and storytellers have, over the centuries, contributed to the
popularity of these nocturnal birds with mystifying and fascinating
Within more recent times, the owl has occasionally been incorporated
into the design of children's playthings. Such an example is the "Owl
Bank" portrayed in Figure I. It is one of a series of four mechanicals
designed by Ms. M. Elizabeth Cook, and subsequently manufactured by the
Kilgore Manufacturing Company of Westerville, Ohio. Unfortunately, no
patent information has been located. Design, production and sales
presumably occurred sometime between 1920 and 1926 as determined by
original Kilgore packaging, toy catalogs, and advertisements.
The "Owl Bank" is one of a series of four which was referred to
collectively as both "The Thrifty Four" and "The Toytown Workers Group of
Animal Banks." The series included "Flop Ears" (the rabbit), "Jug-O-Rum"
(the frog), "Pokey" (the turtle), and "Blinky" (the owl), Figure I.
"Pokey" (the turtle) has the distinction of being not only the rarest of
the series, but one of the rarest mechanicals in the entire category of
Two versions of "Blinky" (the owl) were manufactured. These differ
only in the respect that one, the earlier version, has the coin slot atop
its head (Figure I), while the other, or later and improved version, has
the slot in the book under its right wing. Differences in the location of
the coin slot resulted from a mechanical malfunction which occurred upon
insertion of the coin into the earlier "Owl Slot in Head." This prompted
an immediate redesign by Kilgore to the more efficient slot-in-book
version. Because of its limited production period, the "Owl Slot in Head"
enjoys the status of rarity and, generally, dependent upon mechanical and
paint condition, will command a higher price than an "Owl Slot in Book" of
Movement, or action, of both "Owl" banks is initiated by pressing a
coin into the slot. The eyes then roll downward, and up, as the coin drops
into the bank. Deposits are removed via a small, nickel-plated, key-lock
coin retainer underneath the base. (On occasion I have seen original,
unplated examples of these locks.)
The colors of the "Owl Slot in Head" are an overall light tan with
dark brown highlights. Its beak is bright orange with a black mouth and
nostrils. Its eyes are also orange with large black pupils. Thus, despite
its small size and relatively simple design, this mechanical, as well as
the other banks in the series, are quite attractively decorated.
Although I am unaware of the existence of reproductions of "Owl Slot
in Head," Figure II is a base diagram to aid the collector in determining
size, scale, or originality. Reproductions would appear approximately
one-sixteenth of an inch smaller across the base than indicated.