by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – August, 2002
Exciting! Charismatic! Attractive! — Certainly
not adjectives that describe the subject of this article! The image of the
"Snap-It Bank" (Figure 1) is portrayed as a small, colorless, hexagonal
Fifteen years prior to production of the "Snap-It Bank", i.e.
December 21, 1869, John Hall of Watertown, Massachusetts, invented the
first patented, commercially produced, cast iron mechanical bank. Hall's
creation, appropriately named "Hall's Excelsior", was designed to reflect
a small, stylized building of the era. Interestingly, years later, and
despite a growing multitude of mechanical bank subjects that included
circus themes, flora and fauna, sporting events, individuals at work and
play, Hall's initial concept depicting an architectural structure
continued to be a most popular subject.
The success of such a design resulted in a plethora of architectural
mechanicals available to the public. It was an unenviable task for the
inventor to create yet another that was distinctly different and more
attractive than its predecessor. Many triumphed; unfortunately, "Snap-It"
was not one of these.
The "Snap-It Bank" was one of twelve different mechanicals
manufactured by the esteemed Judd Manufacturing Company of Wallingford,
Connecticut. Each bank produced by Judd exhibits characteristics of modest
design, simplistic action and highly detailed castings. It is likely that
the firm's intent was to manufacture quality products at moderate prices.
A page from the company's sales catalog, circa 1885 (Figure 2), appears to
support that assumption. Pictured is the "Snap Bank", priced at $3.15 per
The aforementioned description and cost contrast sharply with other
manufacturers' more elaborate architectural mechanicals, priced at $18 per
dozen. Such examples included "Novelty Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World,
February 1987), "Home Bank" (A. T.
W. January 1991), "Panorama Bank" (A. T.W.,
July 1995), and "Cupola Bank" (A. T W.,
Examination of the painted surfaces of most Judd banks also attests
to the firm's penchant for modesty. A typical pallet included the
following: glossy black,
transparent maroon, gold-flecked brown japan, copper, silver and gold
metallic and an occasional touch of white for an eye or red for a mouth.
The "Snap-It Bank" seen in Figure 1 is garbed in a coat of gold-flecked
However, in contrast to the aforementioned, there do exist
multi-colored examples of "Snap-It". I have seen factory-painted
mechanicals in combinations of blue and silver, red, and white, and
yellow and maroon. These are highly coveted by advanced collectors and,
when located, usually command an "appropriate" selling price.
Unfortunately, information pertaining to design and patent of
"Snap-It" is non-existent. It seems likely 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 a catalog dated
April 1, 1885 (refer to Figure 2).
Operation of "Snap-It" is non-complex: Initially, the knob on the
front of the bank is pulled. This opens a pie-shaped drawer, under which
is a small lever. This lever is rotated, locking the drawer in the "open"
position. A coin is then placed within the drawer. The lever is nudged to
the side, thus releasing the drawer, which, simultaneously, "snaps"
closed, depositing the coin into the bank.
Coin removal is accomplished by employing one of the following two
methods, depending upon the particular casting variation. The mechanical
pictured in Figure 1 is opened by unscrewing a single screw that holds
both halves of the bank together. The other variant features no screw, but
rather a twist pin, which secures the two sections.
I am not aware of any reproductions of "Snap-It Bank". Figure 3 is a
base diagram of an original example, and is provided to aid the collector
in determining size and scale. If a reproduction were attempted, it would
appear approximately one-sixteenth inch shorter O.D. than indicated.
The "Snap-It Bank" is not considered scarce. Nevertheless, acquiring
a complete, unbroken example, with most of its finish intact could prove a
challenge to even the most resourceful collector.
On a final note: Judd utilized parts and design elements from its
"Snap-It" mechanical to create a non-mechanical still-type bank (Figure
4). This bank, unlike the mechanical, has no moveable front drawer to
accept coins, but rather a single coin slot. Curiously, the "Snap-It"
still bank, unlike its mechanical sibling, is quite scarce and highly
sought-after by both mechanical and still bank collectors.
Acknowledgement: The catalog page shown in Figure 2 was graciously
supplied by fellow collector, Mark Suozzi.