The Schoolmaster Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 2004
Prior to the advent of the child psychologist...Prior to the
emergence of behavioral science studies... Prior to the development of
profound child sensitivity training and techniques...was the simplistic
and universal adage "spare the rod and spoil the child". Such was the
belief and resultant implementation by parents and educators.
This popular philosophy of obedience is exemplified by a unique toy
mechanical bank. "The Schoolmaster Bank", subject of this article, is seen
in Figure 1.
The mechanical depicts a classroom chastisement in progress. An
appropriately garbed European schoolmaster, switch in hand, is poised to
inflict punishment upon an assumedly unruly student. In this instance, the
lesson in morality is quite clear: punishment will be dealt swiftly and
harshly to the child that ignores or defies the edict for proper
"The Schoolmaster Bank" (Figure 1) is but one of a series of
extremely rare mechanicals believed to have been manufactured during the
years 1900-1910 by the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of Nurnberg, Germany. Bing
was renowned in the European community as a leading producer of items such
as tinplate household specialties and toys that included trains, boats,
automobiles and steam engines. Unfortunately, the company did not leave a
paper trail for future historians of early German tinplate toys and
mechanical banks. The lack of patent information pertaining to the
"Schoolmaster Bank", as well as others in the group, is attributed to
early twentieth century German government patent laws. It was mandated
that "insignificant patents" (i.e. toys) were to be discarded after
fifteen years of issuance.
The discovery of a Gebruder Bing Wholesale Catalog (Figure 2)
revealed the bank's country of origin as well as its manufacturer.
Mechanical banks similar in design, construction and action to "The
Schoolmaster Bank" were portrayed in the catalog. Although this mechanical
was not pictured, its relationship to other members of its assumed family
The description and prices of the Bing series of mechanical banks, as
indicated in the catalog (Figure 2), are as follows: "Banks — Made of tin,
nicely decorated. With lock and moving figures. Supplied in 24 assorted
subjects. Price per piece: Mark -.57.".
"The Schoolmaster Bank" was constructed almost entirely of tinplate,
as was all others in the series. The articulated figure of the
schoolmaster and the figure of his student are composed of a zinc-lead
alloy. Both figures were artfully painted. The entire executed upon a thin
sheet of polychrome, "photolithographic" paper, affixed to the banks
"The Schoolmaster Bank" operates by first inserting a coin through
the slot in back of the bank. Simultaneously, the schoolmaster's poised
right arm, switch in hand, raises and descends as if to admonish the
"disobedient" child (Figure 3). Deposits are recovered by opening the key
lock, trap door type, coin retainer located underneath the base of the
Mere survival of this and a scant few others in the Bing series
accounts for their rarity. With fragile tinplate construction, delicate
paper clad and painted surfaces, decades of subjection to moisture,
temperature changes and youthful ownership, it is surprising that any
complete examples have survived.
I am not aware of the existence of reproduced mechanicals in the Bing
series. However, there is the possibility of reproduction parts. As with
any fine, rare, and delicate antique, limited professional restoration may
be considered acceptable without significantly devaluing the object.
"The Schoolmaster Bank" is small in size: Height: 4 inches; Width:
3-3/8 inches; Depth: 2-5/16 inches. However, this does not diminish its
desirability. It is an extremely attractive and welcome addition to a
mechanical bank collection.
Acknowledgements: This fine example of "The Schoolmaster Bank",
Figure 1, is from the collection of the Kidd Toy Museum, Frank and Joyce
Copies of the Bing catalog pages, Figure 2, were provided by fellow
collectors and historians, Harold and Uli Merklein of Nurnberg, Germany.