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Silent Night, Musical Church Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 1997

     Attractive, albeit deceptively innocuous, may be an apt description of "Silent Night, Musical Church Bank" (Figure 1). Categorized as a music box, this mechanical belies its modest appearance, for upon activation it can reawaken the spirit and joy of Christmas and the holiday season all year through. The sounds of the traditional carol, "Silent Night, Holy Night" greet listeners' ears subsequent to operation of the movement within this mechanical. Initially, the mechanism is wound by utilizing the knob underneath the base, followed by placement of a coin into the slot on the roof. As the deposit descends into the bank, an internal lever is "triggered," resulting in the sound of the Christmas carol so familiar to most of us. Deposits are recovered by opening the key-lock, trap door, coin retainer underneath the base.
     Unfortunately, there is no patent information which would unrefutably indicate the designer of the "Musical Church Bank." The country of origin, however, is known by the German words "Ges Gesch," meaning patented, which are printed on the side of the bank. My special thanks to toy dealer and collector, Tom Sage, whose astute research revealed the likely identity of the manufacturer. As per Mr. Sage, the logo (Figure II) printed on the side of the bank distinguishes it as a product of the Karl Rohrseitz Toy Company of Zirndorf, Germany. The company was engaged in the manufacture of tin money boxes, lunch pails and toy sand buckets from 1881 until approximately 1935. It is fortunate that Karl Rohrseitz signed his product (Figure II), enabling identification many years later. German patent law at that time stipulated that patents which contributed little to industry or society be designated as "Reichsgebrachsmuster," or "small insignificant patent." These were filed for a period of 15 years, and then routinely discarded, thus depriving those patented objects of a heritage. Countless other German toys were treated in this manner, thereby relegating the designer, inventor or manufacturer of unsigned products to the realm of obscurity.
     My thanks also to Mr. Sal Provenzano, expert on antique clockwork devices and music boxes. He further confirms the date of manufacture of the "Musical Church" music box movement to be early 20th-century (ca 1900-1930).
     The "Musical Church Bank" is composed, almost entirely, of lithographed tinplate, the exception being the internal music box. The colors of the example shown in Figure I are as follows: the sides of the bank and the steeple are an ivory color. The arched windows are lithographed in shades of light blue and green. The front arched doors are light tan. The bell and clock designs on the bell tower are printed in shades of blue. The roof's shingles are red and maroon, and the base is dark green. The small trees and shrubs are yellow, light green and pink.
     Worthy of mention is the fact that "Silent Night, Musical Church Bank," as well as other music box mechanical banks, should not be confused with the numerous coin-operated music boxes produced from the mid 19th-century through the early 20th-century. These were created solely as coin-activated entertainment devices and not coin-saving receptacles. The distinction between the two is wording, or rather the lack of it, printed upon them, and the confinement of the monies deposited. The music box banks have either the word "BANK" printed upon their facade, or require a key-type device in order to open the coin closure. Conversely, the coin-operated music boxes have neither the word "BANK" printed anywhere, nor do they have a locked coin chamber, but rather an open coin compartment for easy reuse of deposits.
     Other banks which are placed into the music box category include: "Cupid at the Piano," "Regina Musical Savings Bank," "Wooden Musician Church," "Symphonian Musical Savings Bank," "Piano Bank," "Treasure Chest Bank," etc.
     The value of the "Musical Church Bank" is greatly enhanced by its ability to appeal to collectors on various levels. As a "cross-collectible," it may be placed into the category of Christmas items, architectural toys and banks, mechanical banks and music boxes.
     To my knowledge, the "Silent Night, Musical Church Bank" has not been reproduced. Nonetheless, there is a possibility that similar church banks, playing dissimilar tunes, may surface. Figure III is a base diagram of an original example which should aid the collector in determining size and scale.

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