Clever Dick Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 2007
Performing canines, as well as clowns, have
always proven to be popular, and profitable subjects for children's
playthings. Toy and mechanical bank designers of the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries incorporated these delightful images into many
of their wares.
Several banks produced both here and abroad, depicted circus acts
featuring clowns and their performing pups. Examples include "Tin Clown
and Dog" manufactured by Saalheimer and Strauss Tin Works, Nurnberg,
Germany; "Trick Dog Bank", Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York;
"Hoop-La Bank", John Harper and Company, Ltd., Willenhall, England; "Trick
Dog Bank", Hubley Manufacturing Company, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and our
featured mechanical, "Clever Dick". Figure 1 represents its image in the
form of a comical canine garbed in clown's attire.
"Clever Dick" is one of a series of three extremely rare tin plate
mechanicals created by Saalheimer and Strauss Tin Works during the early
twentieth Century. Located in Nurnberg, Germany, the manufacturing center
of early tin plate merchandise, this company was considered one of the
foremost producers of tin plate household goods, novelty items and
mechanical banks of the era.
Figure 2 represents a page from a Saalheimer and Strauss wholesale
toy bank catalog, circa 1920-1930. The discovery of this catalog provided
information pertaining to the manufacture of "Clever Dick" as well as
other tin plate mechanicals in the company's line. In addition, the word
"GERMANY", imprinted upon the bank's rectangular rear money retainer (not
pictured) further attests to country of origin.
As previously mentioned, our subject was one of a series of three
lithographed, tin plate mechanicals (Figure 2). These are "Clever Dick",
"Clown and Dog" and "Saluting Sailor" banks. All three incorporate a
"round top" configuration and comparable internal mechanics.
Figure 3 illustrates a color variant of "Clever Dick". Such color
deviations in tin plate banks featuring chromatic lithography are
extremely rare since they are mechanically mass-produced and snot subject
to man's creative whims. In part, they may be likened to a rare stamp or
coin manufacturing error, and valued accordingly.
"Clever Dick" is amusing in its action. A large coin is placed in the
shallow recess behind the dog's nose. The lever to the right of Dick's
tail is then slowly depressed. Simultaneously, the pup's head tilts upward
and its mouth opens. The coin rolls up towards its nose, and then descends
through the slot in the dog's mouth and into the bank. (It should be noted
that this bank operates most efficiently with large English pennies, and
was most likely manufactured for the British market.) Deposits are
recovered by opening the square key coin retainer located underneath the
To my knowledge no mechanical bank manufactured by Saalheimer and
Strauss has been reproduced. However, this does not preclude the
possibility of restoration in the form of a reproduced segment of the
bank. Needless to say, in such instances its monetary value is compromised
Despite its tin plate construction and diminutive size (Height: 6-7/8
inches, Width: 4-7/8 inches), it is a most colorful, attractive and
desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
Acknowledgements: Both of the superb examples of "Clever Dick" Bank
(Figure 1 and 3) are in the collection of Bob Weiss.