Village Blacksmith Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – October, 2009
Imagine life as it was a century
ago! Commonplace was individuals engaged in once necessary but now
uncommon, or obsolete, occupations, such as chimney sweep, wainwright,
and, of course, blacksmith. We can only imagine an audience of enthralled
youngsters gazing upon the local village blacksmith as he hand forged his
molten wares. Eloquently capturing this scenario is the poem scripted by
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled "The Village Blacksmith" (paraphrased
in Figure 1).
The Village Blacksmith
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
Timely occupational themes were amongst the categories
utilized by nineteenth and twentieth century mechanical bank
manufacturers, both in this country and abroad. One of these, and the
subject of this article, is the "Village Blacksmith Bank" (Figure 2).
The "Village Blacksmith Bank" is but one of a series of
extremely rare and desirable mechanicals believed to have been produced
sometime during the years 1900-1920 by the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of
Nurnberg, Germany. Bing was also renowned for its line of tinplate kitchen
utensils, toys, and model steam engines.
Although the "Village Blacksmith Bank" bears no wordage
to identify its manufacturer and country of origin, discovery of the Bing
catalog (Figure 3) may possibly reveal significant information. Despite
the fact that the "Village Blacksmith" was not pictured, it is assumed to
have been one of the company's series of mechanicals. Visually,
structurally, and mechanically, it is quite similar to other mechanical
banks represented in the aforementioned catalog.
Description and prices of the Bing series of the Bing
series of banks (as indicated in Figure 3) 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 "Village Blacksmith Bank" is constructed almost
entirely of painted tinplate. The exception is the articulated figure of
the blacksmith and the anvil and pedestal. These are composed of finely
cast, hand painted, zinc-lead alloy.
Operation of the mechanical is initiated by inserting a
coin through a slot in the back of the bank. The blacksmith then raises
its right arm and hammer. Upon deposition of the coin the arm descends and
the hammer strikes the anvil (Figure 4). Coins are removed by opening the
key lock, trap door-type coin retainer located underneath the base of the
The "Blacksmith Bank" is extremely rare, with only two
examples known to exist. The mechanical pictured in Figure 2 is presently
on display at the Kidd Toy Museum, Frank and Joyce Kidd Proprietors. The
photograph of the "Blacksmith Bank" seen in Figure 5 was provided to me by
fellow collector Van Dexter, the now retired proprietor of the former
Manhattan establishment "Second Childhood' Antique Toys". The owner of the
mechanical pictured in the photograph supplied by Van Dexter remains
Of interest is the fact that each of the known examples
"Blacksmith Bank" lacks an integral, but different component of the
subject. Fortuitously, each missing part supplements the figure of the
other bank, thereby allowing visualization of a totally original, complete
example. (Note: the bank seen in Figure 2 is missing the anvil and
pedestal, while Figure 5 reveals a blacksmith in want of a hammer.)
I am not aware of the existence of reproduced examples
of "Village Blacksmith". However, in view of its fragile and delicate
nature there is the possibility of restored and/or replaced parts. If this
has occurred, limited professional conservation may be considered
acceptable without significantly affecting, the bank's monetary value.
Although diminutive in size, i.e. Height: 4-5/8 inches.
Width: 3-1/4 inches. Depth: 2-1/4 inches, the "Village Blacksmith Bank" is
an extremely attractive and desirable addition to a collection of
In conclusion, and worthy of mention, is that many
similar mechanicals featured in the Bing catalog (Figure 3) may also be
seen illustrated in a Maienthau & Wolff catalog (Figure 6). This firm is
believed to have been a leading tinplate toy and bank distributor, also
located in Nurnberg, Germany. It may be assumed that the Gebruder Bing Tin
Works could possibly have been one of their major suppliers.
Acknowledgments: Copies of the Bing catalog pages
(Figure 3) and the Maienthou & Wolff catalog page (Figure 6) were provided
by collectors and historians, Harold and Uli Merklein of Nurnberg,