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Bull and Bear Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine October, 1999

     Stocks soared! Record highs were established! the Bull market escalated the Dow well over the 10,000 mark! The year is 1999, wherein fortunes have been realized, and lost, as the struggle between the Bulls and Bears is waged. Financial decisions by investors have frequently mystified economists since the Stock Exchange opened its doors over two hundred years ago.
     Action of the "Bull and Bear Bank" (Figure 1) demonstrates the unpredictability of transactions occurring within the world of security exchanges. Place a coin into the delicately-balanced pendulum atop the tree trunk and press the lever at the base of the tree. The coin-laden pendulum will fall to either the bull or the bear, its choice of direction uncertain, surrendering the money into the chosen slot.
     Although it appears there are several "Bull and Bear" banks residing in various collections, to date only one example is considered to be original. This bank was discovered sometime in the 1930s by mechanical bank dealer, Mr. Norman E. Sherwood. He found it in the workroom of master bank designer, Charles A. Bailey, at the dismantled J. and E. Stevens Foundry in Cromwell, Connecticut. Mr. Sherwood subsequently placed the bank into the pioneer collection of Walter P. Chrysler. It was later purchased by David Hollander who, several years afterward, sold it to Leon Perelman, curator of the Perelman Toy Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Steve Steckbeck, its present owner, acquired the bank in 1988 when Mr. Perelman disbanded his prestigious facility, and sold his entire toy collection.
     When Mr. Sherwood located the "Bull and Bear Bank" it was fully operational but lacked the figure of the bear. However, he utilized a cast iron still bank (i.e. "Begging Bear"; Refer to Moore book, #715) to replace the absent original. When Mr. Steckbeck obtained the bank, he replaced the cast iron "Begging Bear" still bank with a skillfully-crafted lead alloy bear created in a style commensurate to Charles A. Bailey's original lead alloy bull figure.
     Interestingly, although the base, tree trunk, and pendulum are fashioned of cast iron, the figure of the bull and the bear are composed of a lead alloy. This marriage of metals occurred in two other mechanical banks designed by Mr. Bailey and manufactured by J. and E. Stevens, namely "Bismark Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World, March, 1995) and "Germania Exchange Bank".
     To caution readers, approximately sixty years ago several unauthorized copies of the "Bull and Bear Bank" were produced. Whether these examples were created to intentionally deceive collectors or merely to satisfy the desires of individuals who wished to obtain reasonably-priced facsimiles of a great rarity, has never been ascertained. Nevertheless, since their creation many of these spurious mechanicals have been misrepresented, and may now be in the collections of unsuspecting individuals. The detail, quality, and craftsmanship reflected in banks created by Charles Bailey and produced by J. and E. Stevens Company are sadly lacking in these reproductions. However, although there is no comparison between these and the original example seen in Figure 1, the most effective method of detection is the underside of the bank's base. The authentic "Bull and Bear Bank" is not only finely cast, but utilizes a spoke-type, "open" design underneath each of the animals. The bogus examples exhibit heavy, crudely cast, solid undersides.
     In an attempt to determine why only one authentic "Bull and Bear Bank" has surfaced, it is the contention of several bank historians and collectors that it may have been a specialty item designed for a specific event, ergo severely limiting production. Another interesting hypothesis is that it might have been an early Bailey creation, put aside to await an opportune time for future production. Perhaps the Stock Market crash of 1929 was responsible for cessation of the project by the J. and E. Stevens Company, based upon the assumption that it would have proven to be an unpopular reminder of the traumatic event.
     I am including a base diagram (Figure 2) of the original "Bull and Bear Bank" (Figure 1). Be suspicious of the originality of any example that does not adhere precisely to the appearance of the bank shown in Figure 1, and/or the dimensions specified in Figure 2.

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