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