Church Bank, Woman with
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – February, 2004
The virtues of saving money have been proclaimed in numerous
Books, Letters, Chapters and Verses of both the New and Old Testaments.
The abundance of ancient coin savings boxes pay testimony to this
Interestingly, few of the antique mechanical banks manufactured
during the late nineteenth century reflected biblical ideology. The sparse
list of notables includes: "Jonah and the Whale Bank" (Shepard Hardware
Company); "Jonah Emerges" Bank (J. & E. Stevens Company); "Musical Church
Bank", Plays Silent Night (Karl Rohrseitz); "Musical Church Bank", Wood
(Manufacturer Unknown); "Bird on Roof" (J. & E. Stevens); "Mosque Bank"
(Judd Manufacturing Company); and the subject of this article, "Church
Bank", Woman With Bible (Figure 1). Of these, the latter (Figure 1) is a
most apt representation of ancient biblical sentiments.
The "Church Bank", Woman With Bible is one of an extremely rare
series of mechanicals thought to have been manufactured by the Gebruder
Bing Company of Nurnberg, Germany some time between 1900 and 1935. Bing
was one of the foremost producers of tinplate railroad, transportation and
steam toys in Europe during this period.
Unfortunately, to date, no patent information relating to any banks
in the Bing line has been located. Had it not been for the discovery of a
Bing wholesale catalog (Figure 2) portraying mechanicals similar in
design, construction, and action to "Church Bank", its country of origin
and manufacturer would have remained an enigma. Although the "Church
Bank", Woman With Bible is not pictured in the catalog its relationship to
other members of its assumed family appears undeniable.
The catalog describes and prices the Bing series of mechanical banks
as follows: "Banks — Made of tin, nicely painted. With lock and articulated
figures. Supplied in 24 assorted subjects. Price per piece: Mark -.57".
"Church Bank", as well as other mechanicals in this group, was
constructed solely of tinplate. The articulated figure of the woman is
hand painted and the church is almost entirely enrobed in a thin sheet of
polychrome, stenciled paper.
Operation of "Church Bank", Woman With Bible is uncomplicated and
effective. A monetary offering is inserted through the slot in the
church's roof. Simultaneously, the woman's left arm swings upward, bible
in hand, (Figure 3). Donations to the church are recovered by opening the
key lock, coin retainer underneath the base of the bank.
The rarity of this, and other Bing mechanicals, may perhaps be
attributed to fragile construction combined with delicate paper clad and
painted surfaces. Years of subjection to moisture, temperature changes,
and the hands of children have contributed to the decimation of "Church
Bank" and its kin, reducing their numbers to a meager few.
To my knowledge, none of the Bing mechanicals has been reproduced.
However, this does not preclude the possibility of a reproduced
replacement part. In such instances, due to the bank's rarity and
fragility, limited expert professional restoration may be considered
acceptable without significantly compromising its value.
Despite its diminutive size (Height: 5-1/2 inches, Width: 2-15/16
inches, Depth: 3-11/16 inches), "Church Bank", Woman With Bible is an
attractive, interesting and highly desirable addition to a mechanical bank
Acknowledgements: The fine example "Church Bank", Woman With Bible
(Figure 1) is from the collection of Frank and Joyce Kidd.
My thanks to fellow collectors, Harold and Uli Merklein of Nurnberg,
Germany, for so graciously supplying copies of the Bing catalog, Figure 2,
accompanied with English translation.