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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 base.
     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 accordingly.
     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.

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