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Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – August, 1993

      The oft-spoken phrase, "as much fun as a barrel of monkeys," sums up our perceptions of these creatures. Their antics amuse and delight, as evidenced by the gleeful faces of children being entertained at circuses and zoos.
     The allure of these playful primates was recognized by several nineteenth-century toy manufacturers, and their likeness was captured in no less than eighteen different mechanical banks. Examples include: the Hubley "Monkey Bank"; Kyser and Rex's "Chimpanzee"; "Organ Medium"; "Organ, Boy & Girl"; "Organ, Cat and Dog"; "Organ, Tiny"; "Lion and Monkeys"; "Zoo Bank"; J. and E. Stevens' "Hall's Excelsior"; "Rival"; "Monkey and Coconut"; and the subject of this article, the "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach" (Figure I).
     To date, no advertisements, catalogs, packing crates, and/or other items have surfaced which might accurately reveal the identity of the manufacturer of "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach." Despite the lack of pertinent data, several characteristics of the mechanical (e.g., design, casting, paint) link its origin to, possibly, one of the following producers: Judd Manufacturing Company of Wallingford, Connecticut; Ives, Blakeslee and Williams Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut; or Mechanical Novelty Works of New Britain, Connecticut.
     Presently, the lone source of factual information relating to this bank was derived from Figure II, a patent issued to C. F. Ritchel of Bridgeport, Connecticut, assignor to S. S. and G. D. Tallman of New York City. Of interest is that C. F. Ritchel was granted two consecutive Design Patent Numbers, 13,400 and 13,401, on November 7, 1882. These protected both his "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach" and "Shoot That Hat Bank." Both banks are quite rare, with merely a handful of each known to exist, and these in the collections of a few very fortunate individuals.
     Assignees S. S. and S. D. Tallman were toy jobbers with offices in New York City. They purchased toy patents and designs, and sub­sequently contracted them out to various toy manufacturers and foundries. They, in turn, distributed the finished product through diverse retail outlets.
     The "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach" operates by first placing a coin upon the tray which the monkey holds in its paws. The lever in its back is then pressed downward. This causes the tray to tilt upward, resulting in the coin sliding through the slot in the monkey's stomach and into the bank. Deposits are retrieved by undoing the single screw which secures the two halves together.
     There are no casting variants of "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach." However, there are several color dissimilarities. It may be painted an overall dark brown japan; or dark brown japan with a pink face, white eyes, black pupils, red eyelids, nostrils, and mouth; or, as shown in Figure I, overall gray with a pink face, white eyes, black pupils, red eyelids, nostrils, and mouth.
     Its unassuming appearance and diminutive stature may result in one's underestimating the appeal of this rare and desirable mechanical. The example seen in Figure I reveals a modest, yet stately charm, and a definite asset to even the most complete and sophisticated mechanical bank collection.
     To my knowledge, the "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach" has not been reproduced. But, considering the simplicity of its castings and the value placed upon an original example, the possibility of its duplication does exist. Figure III is a base diagram of an original example. If a recast were attempted, it would appear approximately one-sixteenth of an inch shorter along the base than indicated.
     Acknowledgment: The outstanding example of "Monkey Bank, Coin in Stomach" (Figure I) resides in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Stechbeck of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  

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