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Ybarra Olive Oil Cottage Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine March, 2010

     ONE CANNOT DISPUTE THe fact that the most effective means of advertising new products, goods, and services is through creative and persuasive marketing concepts.
     Entrepreneurs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were no exception to this newly developed form of "introductory merchandising". No surface was ignored or rejected as a canvas for their messages. Included were posters, billboards, newspapers, magazines, articles of clothing, banners, sides of buildings, trade cards, as well as "giveaway" samples such as sad irons, string holders, match safes, toys, etc. The subject of this article, the "YBARRA Olive Oil Cottage Bank" is one such example of a toy utilized as a merchandising  tool.
     Seen in Figure 1, the "YBARRA Olive Oil Cottage Bank" is but one of a series of five known mechanical banks displaying similar materials and manufacture. Each utilizes a carved or turned wood, movable figure adjoining a colorfully lithographed cardboard edifice. Other members of the group include: "Easter Bunny Cottage Bank", "Santa Claus Cottage Bank", "Woman With Dog Cottage Bank" and "Woman Cottage Bank".
     "YBARRA Cottage Bank" as well as its brethren, was produced in Germany/Saxony during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its lineage was derived from the letters D.R.G.M. followed by the digits 989429 imprinted upon the facade of the bank. Such wordage is indicative of items patented in Germany/Saxony during the latter portion of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The letters "D.R.G.M." refer to a "German Patent of Non-Essential Items" such as toys. Patent papers for these items were, as per government-mandate, destroyed after fifteen years. Unfortunately, these papers were the only accurate and reliable sources containing significant and valuable historical data.
     The discovery, however, of an advertisement within an issue of the German newspaper "Der Globus" (Figure 2), circa 1928, was quite informative. The ad featured a mechanical bank remarkably similar in design and action to our subject. The manufacturer-distributor of that mechanical was indicated to have been Robert Kaden, thus possibly providing, unknown information regarding the creation of "YBARRA Olive Oil Cottage".
     The advertisement, as translated from German into English, reads: "New! A good sales article is my Savings Bank House, with moveable figure, which throws the coin automatically, made of strong, pressed cardboard with lock. Unbreakable. D.R.G.M. Nr 989429. For sample send 0.80 Mark in stamps. Exclusive manufacturer: Robert Kaden, village of Niedernenschonberg, Post Office, Olbernhau in Saxony."
     Of interest and worthy of mention are the circumstances that might possibly have led to the creation of the "Cottage" series of mechanicals. During that time a cottage-home-based industry was flourishing in the Erzgebirge mountain region of Germany Entire families were engaged in the carving, turning and hand painting of small, whimsical wooden figures. These charming, colorful toy characters were ultimately supplied to local toy manufacturers and distributors. Because of their simplistic construction, costs for figurines were extremely reasonable. Distributors and/or manufacturers were, thus, able to incorporate these into their own inexpensive seasonal and advertising novelty items. "YBARRA Olive Figure 3 Oil Cottage Bank", (Figure 1) is an example of one such composite. Represented is an Erzgebirge-carved and painted wooden woman's figure, together with a colorfully lithographed, cardboard cottage (presumably manufactured by Robert Kaden).
     Operation of "YBARRA Cottage Bank" is simplistic and effective. A coin is placed in the woman's tin tray. This additional weight causes the figure to rotate clockwise, resulting in deposition of the coin through the provided slot in front of the mechanical. Monies are recovered by opening a tin, trap door type key lock coin retainer at the rear of the bank. Since the wording upon the roof and base of the "YBARRA Cottage" (Figure 3) is entirely in Spanish, one must assume the mechanical was intended for sale to the Hispanic market. The following is a translation of the advertising wordage: "YBARRA PURE OLIVE OIL. GUARANTEED PURE. DEPOSIT A SILVER COIN ON THE DISH AND SAVE. USE IT WHEN YOU GO TO THE MARKET TO BUY OUR PRODUCT."
     "YBARRA Olive Oil Cottage" is extremely rare, with a mere two examples known to exist. Such mechanicals, i.e. those produced of lithographed cardboard and wood, when subjected to youthful mishandling, moisture and the ravages of time, were severely damaged or destroyed. It is only upon rare occasions today that fully intact examples composed of these type materials are discovered.
     Despite its simple, modest construction and miniscule size (Height: 4 inches; Width: 3-3/8 inches; Depth: 2-5/16 inches), "YBARRA Cottage" is an attractive and welcome addition to a mechanical bank collection.
Acknowledgement: Copies and translation of the Robert Kaden advertisement (Figure 2) were generously provided by fellow collectors and historians, Harald and Uli Merklein of Ntirtzbetg, Germany.


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