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The New Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 1996

     One of the largest categories of mechanical banks is that which utilizes an architectural style of design. Each member of the grouping incorporates a building into its theme. A few well-known examples include: "Novelty Bank," "Dog on Turntable," "Zoo," "Hall's Excelsior," "Panorama," "Magic Bank," etc. Architectural banks have generally been regarded as "late bloomers," with significantly increased appreciation and popularity being realized only within recent years.
     The "New Bank" (Figure I), a representative of this group, is of particular interest. What distinguishes it from other members is that much of its history has eluded detection. Knowledge pertaining to its designer or manufacturer had remained an enigma until the discovery of a somewhat obscure patent on a still, safe bank, namely Number D5,494 (Figure II), which shed some light upon the subject. The patent of a Mr. Anthony M. Smith, of Brooklyn, N.Y., reads: "the novelty and distinctive characters of my design is the application of the door to a toy safe in combination with the niche and figure of a watch man, as shown in the drawing forming part of this application." Although Mr. Smith made no reference to any mechanical bank, the similarity between the niche and watchman in his patent to that of the "New Bank" leaves little doubt as to the designer of that particular facet of the mechanical. However, the identities of the designer and manufacturer of the remainder of the mechanical remain unknown.
     Another aspect which distinguishes "New Bank" from other architectural-style mechanicals is the rarity of one of its casting variations, with only two examples known to exist. This variation pertains solely to the bank's operating lever, which is normally located in the lower right hand corner of the arched doorway. In the rare version, the lever is positioned directly beneath the center door step, thus the designation "New Bank, Center Lever" (Figure I). Worthy of mention is the fact that even the "common" variety, with its side lever is considered quite scarce and a challenge to locate in superb condition. Action of both the "New Bank" side-lever and the center-lever variants is identical. The lever is pushed to the left and held in place. Simultaneously, the watchman moves aside, exposing the coin slot. A coin is then inserted and is deposited into the bank. The lever is released, the watchman returns to his original position and, once again, the slot is concealed. Removal of deposits is accomplished by undoing the square nut underneath the base of the bank.
     Colors of both variations of "New Bank" are extremely attractive. The "common" example has the entire building painted dark green. The niche behind the watchman and the inside of the lower base are dark blue. The roof-dome, vertical corners, front windows, door frame, name plaques and lever are a bright red color. The words, "NEW BANK," and the sections of the door and window frames are highlighted in white. Finally, the watchman is painted gold. (Note: There is a scarce color variation in which the watchman is wearing a blue jacket, red pants and a blue hat.)
     The colors of the center-lever bank (Figure I) are as follows: the entire building is painted a light green. The windows, doorway, vertical corners of the building, name plaques and flat areas of the roof are bright red. The roof-dome and lower base and legs are dark blue. The inside section of the base and niche are painted brown, and the watchman is gold. Both red vertical corners of the building display a thin, wavy white line, combined with intermittently placed blue dots.
     Speculation attributes production of the "New Bank" to the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. This is based upon an ad appearing in the 1877 edition of Ehrichs' Fashion Quarterly (an early toy jobbers catalog) which offered "New Bank" for sale at 60 cents each, along with several other mechanical banks known to have been manufactured by J. and E. Stevens, but not so identified.  Since Ehrichs did not solely represent J. and E. Stevens' wares, and frequently offered banks produced by other 19th-century toy manufacturers, mere appearance in the company of Stevens' banks is not conclusive proof of the manufacturer's identity. In addition, I am of the opinion that several aspects of the "New Bank" suggest it may have been a product of the Kayser and Rex Company of Frankford, Pa. These include colors and casting nuances, types of fasteners used, method of coin removal and, most importantly, no evidence of the notorious Stevens' undercoat.
     I am not aware of the existence of reproductions of either version of the “New Bank.” Figure III is a base Diagram of an original example. If a recast were attempted, its base would appear approximately one-eighth inch smaller O.D. in width than indicated.
     Acknowledgement: The superb example of the rare "New Bank," Center Lever, shown in Figure I, is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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