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Gem Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine April, 2002

      Unpretentious and dignified is the miniscule "jewel" seen in Figure 1. Known as the "Gem" Bank, this mechanical is generally not granted priority status on most collectors' "want" list. It is only when a truly superb example is beheld that its desirability is elevated to a prominent position.
     The "Gem" Bank was one of twelve different mechanicals designed and manufactured by the Judd Manufacturing Company of Wallingford, Connecticut. Each bank produced by the firm exhibits characteristics of modest design, simplistic action, and highly detailed castings. It is likely that Judd's objective was to manufacture quality products at moderate prices. A page from the company's sales catalog, circa 1885, (Figure 2) appears to support this supposition. Pictured are three other mechanicals produced by Judd, namely "Snap" Bank, $3.15 per dozen, "Dog on Turntable" Bank, $6.70 per dozen, and "Bear and Tree Stump" Bank, $3.30 per dozen.
     Examination of the painted surfaces of most Judd banks further attests to the company's penchant for austerity. A typical pallet included the following: glossy black varnish; maroon lacquer; gold-flecked, brown japan varnish; gold and copper metallic paint; an occasional touch of white for an eye or red for a mouth. The "Gem" Bank seen in Figure 1 displays gold-flecked, brown varnish.
     In contrast to the aforementioned, multicolored original examples of Judd banks do exist. Although some of these may have been "factory-painted", it is likely that most were the result of creative expression on behalf of their former owners. Needless to say, potential purchasers should scrutinize paint and casting of multicolored Judd banks to ascertain authenticity.
     Information pertinent to design and patent of the "Gem" Bank is non-existent. It appears that the Judd Company never applied for patent protection for any of its banks. However, an approximation of date of production may be determined from advertisements and a catalog dated April 1, 1885 (refer to Figure 2).
     It is interesting that, despite Judd's negligence, or frugality, the word "Pat'd" is seen cast into the finial atop "Gem" Bank's roof. Perhaps such false "branding" was an attempt to deter the competition from pirating Judd's design. Operation of "Gem" is non-complex: The dog is pulled back and set into position, as seen in Figure 1. A coin is placed upon the tray held in its mouth. Upon lifting the tail end, the pup springs forward, thus depositing the coin into the building. Deposits are recovered by opening the screw underneath the base.
     Two other of Judd's mechanicals utilize this "single expansion spring" mechanism, namely "Bucking Mule" Bank and "Butting Goat" Bank. There are several color/finish variations of the "Gem" and a few casting variants. The latter pertain solely to a small medallion cast into the side of the building. That plaque may be inscribed with the word "GEM" (Figure 1), or it may display the date "1886", or it may reveal a blank area.
     Unfortunately, the simplicity of the operating mechanisms and castings encouraged the practice of reproduction of many Judd banks. This reduces all original examples to a false and unwarranted common status. The experienced eye, however, should be able to detect recasts since they lack the smoothness, sharpness and finely cast details of the originals.
     The "Gem" Bank is not considered scarce. Nevertheless, locating merely one complete, unbroken example with a great percentage of its finish intact could prove a challenge to even the most resourceful collector.
     Figure 3 is a base diagram of an original "Gem" Bank. A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter O.D. than indicated.
     On a final note, Judd utilized parts and design elements from three of its mechanical banks to create three still type penny banks. These mechanicals were "Dog on Turntable", "Snap-it", and "Gem" (Figure 2). This may, perhaps, be construed as yet another example of company cost effectiveness.

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