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The Spring Jaw Kitten Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – November, 1989

      “Rare,” “colorful and "animated" so aptly describe the series of seven known Spring Jaw banks. Each of the seven represents a member of the animal kingdom, i.e., an English bulldog, a parrot, a mule, a chimpanzee, an alligator (refer to Antique Toy World, October 1987), Bonzo the dog (Antique Toy World, October 1988) and the subject of this article, a kitten.
     The "Spring Jaw Kitten" (seen in Figure I) is one of the most common in the series. However, to emphasize the rarity of these banks, only five or six examples of the kitten are known to exist. The scarcity of the series may, perhaps, be attributed to several factors. For example, the material from which it was composed, a zinc-alloy, is subject to deterioration under adverse conditions, and the result is oxidation with its white, powdery residue. Conversely, under proper conditions and care, these banks will always maintain their beauty and structural soundness. Secondly, castings were eggshell thin and easily broken with even the slightest mishandling. Finally, the difficulty in retrieving deposits due to the bank's small, heart-shaped, brass "trick lock" may have resulted in breakage. The depositor, unaware of the "secret" means to open the lock, had no alter­native but to destroy the bank by breaking the bead from its body.
     Unfortunately, there is no documentation relating to the manufacture of these banks. However, thanks to the imprinting of the name "GERMANY" under the base of each in the series, the country of origin is, at least, no mystery. Interestingly, this information answers the question of why no patent papers exist. Under German law (nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), small, unimportant objects such as these toys banks would have only been issued a Reichsgebrachsmuster, which loosely translates to an unimportant patent, or registered design. These documents, or papers, were filed for a period of fifteen years, after which time they were routinely destroyed.
     Operation of the "Spring Jaw Kitten" is uncomplex: coin insertion into the kitten's mouth (i.e., coin slot) activates an internal steel leaf spring attached to its lower jaw. This results in wiggling of the jaw, creating the illusion of "chewing." The masticated coins are retrieved by unfastening the "trick lock" and lifting the kitten's hinged head. (All of the banks in the spring jaw series have hinged heads secured by a small, brass, heart-shaped "trick lock.")
     The "Spring Jaw Kitten" does not vary in its casting or color. The colors of the bank, as pictured in Figure I, are as follows: both head and body are painted a light cool grey, with white and dark grey highlights. Its eyes are green with black pupils, and it has a tiny pink nose with black whiskers. Its mouth is painted pink, and two small white teeth may be seen protruding from its upper lips. The ribbon and bow around its neck are teal blue.
     The superb casting and painted details of the kitten, as well as the others in the series, are a tribute to the manufacturer. A personal opinion is that they may be likened to the same fine quality of a miniature polychromed Viennese bronze.
     To the best of my knowledge, none in the Spring Jaw series has been reproduced. However, Figure II is an outline drawing of the "Spring Jaw Kitten" to aid in the determination of its size and scale. Readers interested in learning the secret of undoing the "trick lock," lest the series suffer another casualty, should send inquiries with a description of their bank to: Sy Schreckinger, P.O. Box 104, East Rockaway, New York.

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