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Railroad Postage Stamp Vending Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – October, 2010

     IMAGINE A PERIOD IN history when the haunting whistle of an oncoming steam locomotive generated great excitement! This was a time of worldwide infatuation with these huge and powerful transporters. Our subject, seen in Figure 1, is an example of the ingenuity and creativeness utilized to exploit such public enthusiasm.
     Cognizant of the popularity of railroading, particularly amongst children, were United States and European manufacturers of toys and mechanical banks. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such playthings produced within this country were composed, almost entirely, of painted cast iron while those created abroad were of painted or lithographed tinplate.
     German tinplate toy manufacturers dominated the European marketplace. Companies such as Saalheimer and Strauss, Marklin, Gebrtider Bing, and Doll and Cie. produced not only sundry tinplate toys and mechanical banks, but also model railroad train sets. Recognizing the public's attraction to mechanical banks and the popularity of railroad train sets, several German manufacturers redesigned components of their model railroad accessories, such as platform ticket dispensers, platform postage stamp dispensers and platform beverage dispensers, to also function as mechanical banks. In most instances the conversion was accomplished by simply adding a key lock coin retaining door. "Briefmarken" Postage Stamp Vending Bank (Figure 1) is an example of one such factory conversion.
     "Briefmarken" was created by Doll and Cie., a firm that specialized in the production of toy steam engines, steam powered accessories and model railroad sets. Founded in 1898 by Peter Doll and J. Sondheim, the factory was located in Nurnberg, Germany, then the world center for manufacture of fine tinplate toys and household items.
     It is fortunate that "Briefrnarken" Postage Stamp Vending Bank was illustrated and described in an early twentieth century Doll and Company wholesalers catalog. The advertisement, seen in Figure 2, was entitled "Fine Metal Playthings". Such accessible documentation aids both the collector and historian to trace the toy's heritage and era of manufacture.
     Contents of the Doll and Cie. advertisement revealed not only our featured "Briefmarken" Bank but also a beverage dispensing bank labeled "Getranke-Automat" (Figure 3). The following is a partial excerpt from the aforementioned catalog offering. It serves to describe the intended conversions from model railroad accessories to mechanical banks. Translated from German, it reads: "No. 861 Briefmarken-Automat *(D.R.G.M.) Postage Stamp Dispenser. Place a coin in the slot, pull the knob and get one postage stamp. Dispenser is supplied with 23 stamps. It is a postage stamp machine and also a coin savings bank...". "No. 867 Getranke-Automat, Drink Dispenser *(D.R.G.M.) Place a coin in the slot press the lever and liquid comes out of the spout, into the glass. This item has a lock and key—so it is not only a drink dispenser but a coin savings bank...".
     "Briefmarken-Automat" is appreciated by, and appeals to, the model train enthusiast as well as the mechanical bank collector. Its operation commences with the insertion of a coin into the provided slot. This is followed by pulling the knob beneath the words "Griff Ziehen" (i.e. "Pull Knob"), after which a postage stamp is dispensed through the slot indicated as "Ihre Marke" (i.e. "Your Postage"). Stamp restocking and coin removal is accomplished by opening the key-lock side door of the bank (Figure 1).
     "Briefmarken" Bank is extremely rare. Fewer than a handful is known to exist, and these in the collections of a few fortunate individuals. Despite its simplistic design and diminutive size (Height approximately 5-3/4 inches. Width: 2 inches. Depth: 1-1/2 inches), "Briefmarken" Bank is a highly desirable and attractive addition to a mechanical bank collection
Note: The letters "D.R.G.M." indicate the words “Deutsches Reichs Gebrauchs Muster", translated as "German Registered Design of Little Importance".

Acknowledgment: The superb example of "Briefmarken" Bank (Figure 1) was photographed when in the former collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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