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Snake and Frog in Pond
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine July, 1998

     Depictions of animals in their natural habitat are not uncommon in the world of mechanical banks. Several portray situations representing the proverbial struggle for survival. Familiar examples include "Lion and Monkeys," "Tabby Bank," "Springing Cat," and the subject of this month's article, "Snake and Frog in Pond" (Figure 1).
     The uniqueness of "Snake and Frog in Pond," however, is the fact that it is the only mechanical bank that features the animated image of a snake. In Figure 1 we see two denizens of the aquatic world involved in mortal combat. Will the cavernous mouth of the frog devour, in one gulp, its reptilian opponent? Or, will the wiley snake administer lethal venom in time to subdue its worthy adversary?
     "Snake and Frog in Pond" is manufactured entirely of tin plate and beautifully lithographed in natural colors. Close examination of its surface (see Figure 1) reveals an abundance of the flora and fauna native to a woodland pond. The wonders of nature abound... snails slithering along the shoreline, frolicking salamanders and tadpoles, bees gathering pollen from red, yellow and white-petaled flowers. Water lilies, pond grass, wild mushrooms, and tall cattails provide the finishing touches to this complex, yet simple, device for saving pennies.
     To date, no catalog or patent information has surfaced, and the bank's designer or manufacturer remains anonymous. Fortunately, however, the words "Made in Germany, D.R.G.M." are discreetly printed on one end of the base, thereby identifying the country of origin. It is these letters, D.R.G.M. (i.e. "Deutsches Reichs Gesuhutzes Muster"), which provide clues to the reason for the lack of patent information of "Snake and Frog" Bank, as well as most mechanicals manufactured in Germany during the years 1880-1935. D.R.G.M. was a German patent designation usually applied to nonessential objects of insignificant social or industrial importance. Since these toy banks and their like were considered relatively meaningless, they were designated "small patents" and mandated by the German government to be discarded within fifteen years of issuance.
     Destruction of the actual patents, combined with a lack of advertising and catalog data, are obstacles in the attempt to date or trace the heritage of "Snake and Frog in Pond". Nonetheless, it is the consensus of opinion amongst collectors and researchers that this mechanical was manufactured some time between 1900 and 1935. The assumption is based upon similarities of design and material to several well-documented European mechanical banks. Examples include "Cross Legged Minstrel," "Darkey Bust Bank," "Try Your Weight Scale," "Monkey with Tray," etc.
     Action of "Snake and Frog in Pond" is swift and effective. The bank pictured in Figure 1 is primed for activation. Initially, a coin is placed into the mouth of the snake. The lever at the end of the base is pressed sharply downward. This causes the snake to spring forward, releasing its loot. Simultaneously, the frog opens its mouth and the money is propelled forward through the frog's body and into the bank. Deposits are removed by opening the square, key lock coin retainer underneath the base.
     The only significant variation of "Snake and Frog" is the snake's head, which may or may not have subtly embossed eyes.
     There are few known examples of this mechanical, placing it into the "rare" category. I am not aware of the existence of reproductions of "Snake and Frog in Pond". However, Figure 2 is a base diagram which is intended to be helpful to the collector in determining size and scale.
     ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: The fine example of Snake and Frog in Pond" (Figure 1) resides in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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