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The Coasting and the Shoot the Chute Bank
A mystery and a history, Part I

by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – November, 1994

      Perplexing and unique describe the correlation between two mechanical banks that has baffled both collectors and historians alike. The puzzlement pertains to the relationship between the elusive "Coasting Bank" as seen in Figure I, and the "Shoot the Chute" bank, Figure II. These mechanicals are strikingly similar to one another in design and action, but differ in one major respect: an original example of the "Coasting Bank" has yet to be discovered, while "Shoot the Chute" may be seen residing in several mechanical bank collections.
     Approximately 40 years ago, when there was only a handful of "Shoot the Chute" banks known to exist, interesting and historically significant information came to light. This was via an early, wholesale toy jobber's catalog, i.e., the 1884 Winter Edition of Ehrichs 'Fashion Quarterly (Figure III). In it was an illustration of the "Coasting Bank," Figure I. The advertisement, which offered the mechanical for sale at the price of "95 cents each," included a description of its action: "Upon plac­ing the sled at the top of the hill and pulling the string, the sled swiftly makes the descent until it meets an obstruction that lands the coaster on his head and deposits the coin in the bank. Size, 9-3/4 inches long, 2-3/4 inches wide, and 5-1/2 inches high."
     Figure IV is a page from a 1906 catalog of the J. and E. Stevens Company, one of the leading mechanical bank producers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The "Shoot the Chute" bank was offered for sale at $1.00 each, with the following description of its action: "Raise extension to position, press the hook down and lay a coin in the slot, place Buster Brown and his Boat at the top of the chute and start downward. Length, 9-7/8 inches. Height 6-5/8 inches. Width 2-5/8 inches."
     A comparison of the Ehrichs' and J. and E. Stevens' catalogs, Figures M and IV reveals the similarities of action, design and dimensions between the two banks. The outstanding difference is their subject matter. The "Coasting Bank" portrays a black boy seated upon an old-fashioned, wood-runner sled, whereas "Shoot the Chute" embodies the characterization of Buster Brown and his dog, Tige, descending the chute in their rectangular row boat.
     Speculation persists as to why a reputable toy wholesaler such as Ehrichs would advertise a mechanical bank that may not, based upon lack of proof of its existence, have ever been manufac­tured. One possible theory is that a toy manufacturer such as J. and E. Stevens, in attempting to comply with Christmas holiday deadlines, had prematurely presented a prototype of the "Coasting Bank" to Ehrichs for use in their Winter catalog prior to successful development of working bank patterns. Perhaps, subsequent to publication, the bank was discovered to have serious faulty design which would ultimately preclude its manufacture. Several other mechanical banks have suffered a similar fate, although not to the extent of the "Coasting Bank" (e.g., "Girl Skipping Rope" — Refer to Antique Toy World, "mechanical bank notes," December 1982 and April 1988).
     Other prevailing theories include: an unpopular toy with few sales; too complicated and fragile for children; the boy in the sled is easy to lose, rendering the bank useless; too expensive to manufacture and sell at an acceptable price; manufacturer dispute with the inventor or designer over patent rights.
     Twenty-two years later, on March 27, 1906, when the "Coasting Bank" was forgotten by most, lo and behold! the emergence of "Shoot the Chute" bank (Figure V), and the subject of next month's article (i.e., Part II).
     If anyone has information, documentation, knowledge of a complete, original "Coasting Bank," or a fragment thereof, wooden packaging boxes and ephemera which may be shared with other readers, please contact Sy Schreckinger, P.O. Box 104, East Rockaway, NY 11518.
     Note: The superb, all-original example of the "Shoot the Chute" bank (Figure II) is from the mechanical bank collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck of Ft. Wayne, Ind.

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