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Tin, Darky Bust Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine November, 2005

     Prejudice and bigotry have been bedfellows throughout recorded history. More recently, hatred and distrust can be credited as the catalyst for the creation of a profusion of degrading artifacts.
     During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries anti-black sentiment was rampant, both in this country and abroad. Attitudes were reflected in such items as artwork, literature, children's toys, etc. Mechanical bank designers, mindful of marketable themes, created wares that included humiliating images. Catalogs and magazines were inundated with illustrations and advertisements for toys dehumanizing the Negro (Figures 1, 2, 3, 4).
     One such toy was the "Darky Bust Bank", seen in Figure 5. This mechanical capitalized not only on anti-black sentiments, but also curiosity and attention focused on the newly immigrated Arabic populace. The bank is a caricature featuring a black man attired in a garishly decorated jacket and sporting a red fez.
     Unfortunately, neither patent papers nor manufacturer's documents for "Darky Bust" have surfaced that may impart historical information. However, the discovery of several toy wholesalers' catalogs (Figures 6, 7, 8) possibly revealed this bank's country of origin and the years in which it was distributed. The lack of patent information is attributed to early German patent laws. It was government mandated that unimportant patents, including toys, were to be routinely discarded after fifteen years of issuance, thus depriving the item of its heritage.
     The "Darky Bust Bank" (Figure 5) is one of two rare mechanicals believed to have been manufactured and/or distributed by Maienthau and Wolff of Nurnberg, Germany. Interestingly, the Maienthau and Wolff catalog (Figure 6) does not picture the subject of this article, but rather another mechanical entitled "Mandarin Bank". This mechanical is similar in construction, materials, action and size to "Darky Bust", differing only in subject matter. These striking similarities have led many collectors and historians to assume a relationship between both mechanical banks and also to Maienthau and Wolff.
     Figure 7 depicts a Butler Brothers, U.S.A., toy wholesaler's catalog, circa 1905. In it is an advertisement for the "Greedy Negro" Bank (a.k.a. "Darky Bust"), with a selling price of 33 cents per dozen. Figure 8 is a Nerlich and Company, U.S.A. trade catalog, circa 1907, offering the "Tin Negro" Bank for 70 cents per dozen.
     The "Darky Bust" is constructed entirely of brightly lithographed tinplate. Operation is accomplished by inserting a coin through the slot atop the fez. As the coin descends, the Darky's eyes tilt upward and its tongue protrudes. Deposits are removed by literally cutting out the tinplate bottom of the bank with a can opener (there is no simple means of coin removal built in by the manufacturer).
     "Darky Bust Bank" is extremely rare. Its radical method of coin extraction, delicate mechanism and extremely fragile tinplate construction explain its scarcity.
     There are no variations of "Darky Bust" other than its attire. Our subject may be clothed as pictured in Figure 5, or wearing a yellow-checkered jacket and vest and a yellow fez.
     I am not aware of the existence of reproduced examples of "Darky Bust". However, in view of its fragile nature there is the possibility of restored or replaced parts. As with any rare, delicate antique, limited professional conservation may be considered acceptable without significantly devaluing the object.
     "Darky Bust" is miniscule in size: Height: 3-11/16 inches; Width: 2-3/16 inches. This does not diminish its desirability. In addition to its aforementioned rarity, "Darky Bust" is most attractive and an enhancement to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgement: The mint example "Darky Bust Bank", Figure 5, is from the collection of Robert Weiss.

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