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Old Aunt Dina and the Fairy: A Pattern
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine September, 1999

          Clarity and thrift were amongst the desirable attributes encouraged in an earlier America. Attempts to teach youngsters values of kindness, compassion, and prudence may be seen in many of their playthings, including mechanical banks.
     A very unique group that incorporated these lessons during the "golden age" of mechanical bank production, i.e. 1878-1920, included such members as "Patronize the Blind Man and His Dog" (refer to Antique Toy World, December, 1988), "Peg Leg Beggar" (June, 1983), "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest" (June, 1991), and the subject of this article, the "Old Aunt Dina and the Fairy" bank pattern (Figure 1).
     The "Old Aunt Dina" is yet another example of the wry and unusual sense of humor exhibited by its creator, master bank designer Charles A. Bailey. As shown in Figure 1, "Old Aunt Dina" is kneeling before the Good Fairy. On her lap is a round disk, inscribed with the word "CHARITY". Place a penny on the disk and press the pink flower lever at the lower right hand corner of the base. In simultaneous action, the Good Fairy lowers her wand, the disk and penny flip over to deposit the coin into the bank, and "Old Aunt Dina" raises her arms in gratitude as the penny is magically transformed into a large gold coin imprinted with the words "THE NEW DOLLAR".
     Deposits are removed by undoing a round Stevens-type coin retainer underneath the base. Interestingly, it is doubtful that this was Mr. Bailey's intended method of coin removal. At the time the "Aunt Dina" bank pattern was created Bailey had no association with the J. and E. Stevens Company, the producer of the patented round coin retainer.
     "Old Aunt Dina" is another exemplification of Bailey's unique mechanical bank storytelling technique. Bold, imprinted words are cast into its components, as illustrated by the following: the base displays the words "OLD AUNT DINA AND THE FAIRY; on one side of the disk is the word "CHARITY", while the flipside reveals "THE NEW DOLLAR". This narrative style is similar to other mechanicals created and manufactured solely by Charles Bailey i.e. "Chinaman in the Boat" bank (refer to Antique Toy World, June, 1999), "Darkey Fisherman Bank" (May, 1999), and his "Baby Elephant Bank, Opens At X O'Clock" (March, 1999).
     The "Old Aunt Dina" bank pattern (Figure 1) was located, in a disassembled state, at Bailey's defunct foundry in Cobalt, Connecticut, approximately fifty years ago. Noted historian and collector, Mr. F. H. Griffith, discovered this, as well as another rare Bailey mechanical bank pattern, namely "The Wishbone". Mr. Griffith assembled the "Old Aunt Dina" and sold it to pioneer bank collector, Mr. Covert Hegerty of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Mr. Hegerty's wife, Gertrude, decorated the "Aunt Dina" pattern in colors which she felt would have been chosen by Charles Bailey. In later years "Old Aunt Dina" was acquired by the prominent bank collector, Mr. Edwin H. Mosler, who eventually sold it to Mr. Steve Steckbeck, its present owner.
     Of all the banks designed by Bailey at his Cobalt foundry, the "Old Aunt Dina and the Fairy" most expresses his fondness for, and usage of, floral motifs and nature forms. Many of these elements were incorporated into several of his later mechanical masterpieces while in the employ of the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. To illustrate: "Darkey Football Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World, December, 1998), "Kicking Cow" (August, 1987), "Bad Accident Bank" (June, 1986), "World's Fair Bank" (February, 1989), "Perfection Registering Bank" (April, 1986), "Hen and Chick" (June, 1995), "Lion Hunter Bank" (July, 1985), "Boy Scout Camp" (March, 1986) and the quintessential Bailey, "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest" bank (June, 1991).
     At the time of its discovery, one brass and several lead copies of the "Old Aunt Dina" pattern were created, each utilizing the original example. Although these replications were also assembled and painted, their crude castings leave little doubt as to their originality. However, wariness of spurious duplications of this, as well as any rare mechanical is advised. The authenticity of a rare mechanical bank is best confirmed by documented provenance and/or validation by an established authority on the subject. To aid the collector in determining size and scale of the original "Old Aunt Dina" pattern (Figure 1), I am including a base diagram as seen in Figure 2.
     On a final note: A mechanical bank pattern is not a bank, but rather a highly detailed, hand-finished model used by a manufacturer or foundry to generate mass-produced copies for sale to the public.
     All past and future articles in this series are the sole property of Sy and Linda Schreckinger, and may not be republished or reproduced at any time without their written consent.

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