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The Trick Pony Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine November, 1996

     Our featured subject this month is, indeed, a notable member of the cast-iron mechanical bank community. The "Trick Pony," seen in Figure I, has the distinction of being the sole mechanical to utilize the image of a horse, or more specifically, a pony, as its subject. Other banks have either portrayed mules, donkeys and horses as mere accompaniments to a theme, i.e., Hall's Horse Race Bank (refer to Antique Toy World, April 1987).
     On June 3, 1885, Mr. Julius Mueller, of Wilmington, N.C., was granted Patent Number 16,121 (Figure II) for the design of "Trick Pony" bank. Mr. Mueller subsequently assigned manufacture rights of his invention to Charles and Walter Shepard, principals and co-owners of the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, N.Y. Approximately one month later, on July 7, 1885, both Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams, Jr. (designer/inventor employed at Shepard Hardware) brought Mr. Mueller's vision to fruition. They were provided with Patent Number 321,650 (Figure III) for the mechanization of the "Trick Pony" design. The words, "PATd JUNE 2D AND JULY 7th 1885" were cast into the underside of the base. It is interesting that the "Trick Pony" bank is the only mechanical in the Shepard Hardware line to have been designed by someone other than Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams, Jr. In addition, securitization of the final production bank (Figure I) reveals precise adherence by Shepard Hardware to Mr. Mueller's initial concept.
     Shepard Hardware enjoyed a lengthy and very profitable period of manufacture for this particular mechanical. Factors contributing to the popularity of "Trick Pony" were its attractive coloration, graceful design and appealing subject matter. Many of today's collectors express puzzlement over the fact that other 19th-century mechanical bank manufacturers did not incorporate this subject into more of their wares.
     In Figure IV we see the forefront and obverse image of a full-color, 3-by-5-inch advertising trade card, circa 1885, which offered the "Trick Pony" bank for the price of $1.00 each. These cards were distributed by Selchow and Righter, a wholesale toy jobber located at 41 John Street, New York City.
     Action of the bank is incomplex and aptly described in the trade card (Figure IV): "The Pony receives the coin in his mouth and deposits it in the manger a trap door at the bottom of the latter opens at the same time and then closes over the coin." However, the card fails to mention that, after the coin is placed in the pony's mouth, the lever located at the tail end of the bank must be pulled. Coin removal is accomplished by removing the rectangular, key-lock coin retainer underneath the base.
     Neither color nor casting variations of "Trick Pony" are known to exist. The colors of the bank (Figure I) are as follows: the pony is an overall reddish brown. It has red nostrils, white eyes with black pupils and yellow bridle straps. Its mane, tail and hooves are painted black. The saddle is dark blue with a yellow border and a bright red belly band. The blue scalloped ribbon around its neck is decorated with yellow tassels. The fluted pedestal under its body is gray and tan. The top section of the base is gray. The side panels are sienna brown and the words "TRICK PONY" and "BANK" are highlighted in gold. The diamond-shaped design on the front panel and the frame around both side panels are also accentuated in gold. The lever is dark brown with gold striping, and the entire base is outlined in black.
     The colors and painted details of "Trick Pony" had been meticulously executed and is depictive of all Shepard Hardware mechanicals. The result is an extremely colorful and attractive appearance. Unfortunately, the company never primed its banks prior to painting. Consequently, the ranges of time and moisture have taken their toll, as evidenced by either the considerable amount or total paint loss on most Shepard banks. However, on rare occasion, an exceptional example is found, such as the one shown in Figure I.
     The base diagram (Figure V) of an original example may prove helpful, especially in view of the fact that "Trick Pony" has been reproduced. A recast is approximately one quarter of an inch smaller along the base O.D. than indicated.
     Addenda: (1) The superb example of the "Trick Pony" Bank (Figure I) is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck. (2) The mint "Trick Pony" trade card (Figure IV) is from the collection of Dr. Greg A. Zemenick (a.k.a., "Dr. Z").
     Correction: (from January, 1997) Please note: Due to editorial errors in the "Omissions" section which followed the "Trick Pony Bank" article, Antique Toy World, November 1996, the paragraphs which NOW follow replace that section.
     Omissions: (1) Operating instructions for the "Mason Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World, August 1984) were erroneously omitted: A coin is placed into the hod and the lever is then pressed. Simultaneously, the hod tilts forward, the money falls through an opened trap door section behind the brick wall, and the mason raised his trowel and brick. Deposits are retrieved by removing the rectangular, key-lock coin retainer underneath the base.

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