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The Magie Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine June, 2003

     Sorcery and divination have fascinated and bedazzled audiences over the centuries. Modern society offers such form of entertainment with its fortunetellers, psychics, stage illusionists and the like. These "performers" offer intrigue and mystery as they attempt to open hidden doors to the occult.
     The subject of this article represents one of a group of ancient sorcerers known as Magi, or Magie. This priestly sect of wise men practiced their form of magic throughout the Persian Empire during the First Century A.D. The creation of the "Magi" mechanical bank (Figure 1) was one twentieth century designer's tribute to these magicians.
     Unfortunately, no information is available that would acknowledge either the mechanical's creator or distributor. However, wordage printed around its base does indicate the bank's country of origin. The letters "D.R.G.M." and the name "GERMANY" not only identify the bank as a product of Germany, but also establish the date of manufacture as circa 1900-1935. During this time period, manufactured goods considered by the German Patent Office to be "unimportant" were imprinted with the letters "D.R.G.M." ("Deutsches Reichs Gebrach Musters"). Such documents were government mandated to be routinely destroyed after fifteen years, thus relegating these "frivolous" goods, particularly toys, to an obscure heritage. As with so many other survivors of that era, it is hoped that a catalog or advertising flyer might surface which would provide much needed historical data.
     The "Magie" is one of a group of mechanicals produced both here and abroad that specifically features the illusion of the "disappearing coin". Other notables comprising this provocative family include: "Magician Bank" (Antique Toy World, February 1985), "Presto Trick Drawer Bank" (A.T.W., April 1992), "Freedman's Bureau" (A.T.W., June 1997), "Chandler's Bank", Clark's "Child's Bank", "Serrill's Bureau", several "Trick Drawer" money boxes, etc.
     It is interesting that the designer/manufacturer of the "Magie Bank" attempted to incorporate an element of historical and regional authenticity into their creation. Note the Middle Eastern/Persian motif decorating the front and side panels of the Magie's table. Such subtle yet attractive touches, so reminiscent of most early German tin mechanicals, add greatly to the bank's desirability.
     The "Magie Bank" is considered quite scarce. Fortunate is the collector able to add a fine, all original example to his/her collection.
     Action of the "Magie Bank" is interesting and appropriate to the subject. A coin is placed within the circular depression on the top of the table (Figure 2). The lever behind the "Magie" is pressed downward. This causes the arms and hands holding the square cover to lower, thus hiding the coin from sight (Figure 1). When the lever is released, the arms rise upward, lifting the cover and, presto, the coin has disappeared! Deposits are recovered by opening the key lock, trap door type coin retainer located underneath the base.
     In Figure 3 is seen the front, back, and both sides of an original cardboard box which housed a "Magie Bank" when it was initially offered for sale. It, too, can offer no information since it lacks identifying marks that might have furnished evidence of the bank's manufacture, etc.
     Dimensions of the "Magie Bank" are as follows: Height from base to top of hat: 6-7/8 inches; Width of base: 3-1/16 inches. To my knowledge this mechanical has not been reproduced. These measurements are provided solely to aid the collector in determining size and scale.
     Acknowledgement: The mint example "Magic Bank" seen in Figure 1 and its cardboard box, Figure 3, are in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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