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Presto Trick Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – April, 1992

      The focus of attention and discussion for this month's article centers upon an obscure, under­rated, and seemingly insignificant cast-iron mechanical bank, namely the "Presto Trick Bank." It is only upon close inspection that one can forgive its diminutive size and modest action. For, it is then that its attributes will be revealed: i.e., an architectural grace, enhanced by well-proportioned, finely detailed castings. It is a structure whose facade ap­pears to reflect the strength of a medieval castle, capped by a graceful, twelfth-century Byzantine, cupola-shaped roof.
     The "Presto" bank, Figure 1, was advertised in an 1892 issue of Marshall Fields and Company catalog. It was referred to as the "Presto Trick Bank," Figure II, presumably because of its action: place a coin into the drawer; close the drawer shut; open the drawer once again and, PRESTO, the coin has disappeared!
     To date, the bank's designer and manufacturer remain anonymous. However, similarities in casting, form, key lock coin retainer shape, and painted decoration have led collectors and historians to the belief that the "Presto" bank may have been a product of the Kyser and Rex Company of Frankford, Pennsylvania.
     Interestingly, the "Presto" can be placed into two distinct categories of mechanical banks. One classification is "Building Banks," which comprise the largest number of mechanicals in any one category, and the other, the "Trick Drawer Banks." Examples of the latter variety include the "Chandler Bank," "Ideal Bureau," the "Model Savings-Cash Register Bank," the "Trick Savings Bank," "Serrill's Bureau," and the "Freedman's Bureau."
     The advertisement shown in Figure II states, "the bank contains the novel feature of a trick drawer." Also indicated is a description of the bank's operation: "Press down the button over the front door and the drawer will fly open. Put the coin in and close it. When the button is again pressed, the drawer will fly open, but the coin will have mysteriously disappeared. The money can be removed from the bottom of the bank by means of a lock and key."
     There are no casting or color variations of the "Presto" bank. The colors of the mechanical pic­tured in Figure I are as follows: the entire facades is painted a light brown japanning. The front door and cupola are bright red. The ball atop the cupola, the name "PRESTO," the trim around the bottom of the roof, trick drawer, and the base of the bank are bright gold. Finally, the doors and windows are outlined in silver.
     The "Presto" key lock coin retainer is quite unique in that it is semicircular with a single flat edge. It is similar in appearance to the coin retainer utilized in Kyser and Rex's "Confectionery Bank." In addition, the number "485" is cast into the bank's coin retainer. Referring to Figure II, this number seems to reflect a numerical catalog designation given to "Presto" by its manufacturer.
     Of note, several other manufacturers of cast-iron still banks had blatantly copied the "Presto" bank's design for their own use. This sort of plagiarism can only be explained by the fact that, although the words "PAT APD" are cast into the back of the "Presto" mechanical, assumedly no patent was ever issued. Figures III, IV, and V, respectively, are ads featuring still bank designs similar to the "Presto" mechanical bank. These are the "CASTLE" bank by the Arcade Manufacturing Company, Freeport, Illinois; the "JEWEL" bank by the Kenton Hardware Company, Kenton, Ohio, and the "TOWER TOY" bank by the A. C. Williams Company, Ravenna, Ohio.
     The "Presto" mechanical bank is not considered rare, but acquiring one that is complete and unbroken with superb paint can prove a difficult task. However, its acquisition may be well worth the pur­suit since it is an attractive and fine addition to a bank collection.
     "Presto" has been reproduced. Figure VI is a diagram indicating the base size of an original. A recast will appear approximately one-sixteenth of an inch smaller than indicated.

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