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Church Bank, Woman with Bible
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 centuries-old philosophy.
     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 collection.
     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.

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