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Tiger Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine July, 2007

     A most commanding denizen of the jungle is the formidable tiger. Belying its ferocity, however, is its docile image, depicted in the mechanical bank chosen as the subject of this article.
     "Tiger Bank", seen in Figure 1, is acknowledged to be one of a series of eight different tinplate mechanical banks. Others in the group are: "Bear", "English Bulldog", "British Lion", "Harold Lloyd", "African Native", "Clown", and "Golliwog".
     All of these are alleged to have been manufactured by the Saalheimer and Strauss Tin Works of Nurenberg, Germany. This company was, indisputably, the foremost designer and producer of tinplate mechanical banks during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The skill and artistry demonstrated by its colorful, embossed tinplate creations remain unrivaled to this day.
     To date, neither patent papers nor manufacturers' catalogs specifically illustrating "Tiger Bank" have been located. However, many of its overall features, construction, and action are similar to other lithographed tinplate mechanicals created by Saalheimer and Strauss.
     Figure 2 represents two pages from a Saalheimer and Strauss catalog, circa 1900-1935, in which several mechanicals are offered for sale. The similarities between "Tiger Bank" and "British Lion", "Harold Lloyd", "English Bulldog" and "African Native" appear undeniable. In addition, the catalog pages identify the aforementioned as "part of a series of six different subjects, produced with or without movement" (i.e. mechanical and still bank versions). This contradicts my earlier statement, however, that eight different subjects from the group have been identified in collections. Perhaps two additional mechanical banks were produced by Saalheimer and Strauss subsequent to the printing of the catalog pages seen in Figure 2.
     Operation of "Tiger Bank" is initiated by depressing the wire lever located behind the left I side of the tiger's head. Simultaneously, the jaw lowers and the tongue protrudes. A coin is then placed upon the extended tongue, followed by the release of the lever. The tongue, now carrying the coin, snaps back into the bank and the jaw returns to its original position, as seen in Figure 1. Deposits are retrieved by opening a sliding coin retainer that covers the top of the bank's rectangular coin box.
     Interestingly, several of the aforementioned mechanicals were not marketed solely as coin banks, but were also intended to be candy containers. These banks were originally supplied with coin boxes containing "Lyons' Toffee". Such examples were identifiable by Lyons' Toffee advertising on their obverse (refer to Figure 3). In addition, the candy containers/ mechanical banks did not utilize the key lock coin retainers. Removal of deposited coins or toffee would simply require sliding off the top cover. However the mechanicals intended solely as coin savings devices (those without Lyons' Toffee advertising) were provided with key lock, sliding coin retainers that require an actual key in order to open the bank.
     To my knowledge, there are no reproductions of any Saalheimer and Strauss mechanical banks. However, this does not preclude the possibility of reproduced replacement parts. Needless to say, in such an instance the value of the bank would be compromised.
     Although all members of the aforementioned series are rare, "Tiger Bank" boasts of being one of the rarest. Despite its tinplate construction and diminutive size, i.e. Height: 5-1/4 inches, Width: 3 inches, "Tiger Bank" is an extremely attractive and highly desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgement: The superb example of "Tiger Bank" (Figure 1) is in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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