The Chimpanzee Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – September,
have been the subject of many a mechanical bank. However, only one
mechanical represents a member of the family of Great Apes– that bank
being the "Chimpanzee" (Other members of this family, but never depicted
in a mechanical bank, include the Gorilla and the Orangutan, with the
Gibbon sometimes included in the group.)
On September 21, 1880, Louis Kyser and Alfred C. Rex of Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, were granted Patent Number
232,511 for their design of the
Chimpanzee Bank. As evident by the patent drawings (Fig. 1), the bank, as
it was eventually manufactured, follows those drawings quite faithfully.
Of importance and interest is the fact that not only did Kyser and Rex
design and patent the Chimpanzee bank, but they also manufactured it.
The action of this mechanical is both amusing and quite realistic.
The Chimpanzee, representing an accountant with his ledger, sits behind a
desk pen poised and ready to enter the deposited coin into his record
book. In order to make a deposit, the slide in front of the ledger is
pushed back exposing the coin slot, thus allowing a coin to be placed into
the bank. Simultaneously, the Chimpanzees head tilts forward, his left arm
lowers, and the pen touches the ledger as if to record the deposit; a bell
chimes once from within the bank.
The deposited coins are removed by way of a small square locking coin
trap underneath the bank.
Close examination of the Chimpanzee bank will reveal that great care
and attention has been given to fine detail. This was the case with most
banks manufactured by Kyser and Rex. Examples of other mechanical banks
manufactured by these gentlemen are: Bowling Alley, Butting Buffalo,
Confectionery, Dog Tray, Hindu. Lion and Two Monkeys, Mammy and Baby,
Mikado, Motor Bank, Organ and Monkey, Organ and Monkey with Boy and Girl,
Organ and Monkey with Cat and Dog, Organ Grinder and Dancing Bear, Tiny
Organ and Monkey, Uncle Tom, and possibly, the Zig Zag Bank (see A. T. W.,
The Chimpanzee is not considered a rare bank; however, it is quite
difficult to acquire one that is complete and in fine condition. When a
Chimpanzee bank is found, it is very likely that either the roof will be
cracked, the finial missing, the head and/or the arm of the Chimpanzee
broken or missing, the base plate missing, and, most often, the paint will
be in extremely poor condition. Find one complete, working, and in fine
paint condition, and you have a true rarity . . . a mechanical well worth
the premium price you most likely will have to pay for it.
An interesting fact pertaining to the construction of this bank is
that no screws were used as fasteners. The entire bank is secured with
either rivets or bent-over iron lugs.
The Chimpanzee bank does come painted in several color variations.
The colors of the bank pictured in this article are: a red building, light
green finial, base, window frames and archway over the chimpanzee. The
chimpanzee's head and paws are brown; his mouth is red; his jacket is red
with yellow piping; his eyes, shirt and ledger book are white. The edges
of the ledger book, as well as the word "Chimpanzee," the tin window
inserts, and various other decorations are finished in gold. The desk is
bright blue and the inside of his cupola is lilac.
Other paint variations of this bank reverse the red and green color
combinations, and the Chimpanzee's jacket may be either red, green, blue,
or yellow. Also, still another basic color variation of this bank utilizes
predominantly red and blue, rather than red and green.
Because of Kyser and Rex's penchant for unusual color schemes, I
would caution against the hasty declaration that a Chimpanzee bank may be
a misrepresentation if it fails to conform to any of the aforementioned
color schemes. The possibility of still another color combination cannot
be ruled out. As I have emphasized in other articles, if you are uncertain
as to the authenticity of a bank, an expert in this field should be
The Chimpanzee bank has been reproduced, and, therefore, I am
including a base diagram showing its exact dimensions. A reproduced bank
will be approximately one-eighth inch smaller than indicated (Fig. 2).
The Chimpanzee has several design variations of which I am aware, but
these do not add or detract from its value. Two relate to the tin inserts
behind the lower arched windows: in one, the tin covers the windows fully,
and in the other, the tin provides only partial concealment, with the
arches exposed. Also, in one variation, the Chimpanzee's shoulders are
quite wide and give the appearance of a triangular shape, while the other
portrays the Chimpanzee with narrow shoulders.
In closing, I feel the "Chimpanzee" is an extremely well-designed
bank and makes an attractive addition to the Monkey and Great Ape group.
Also, the collector who possesses a fine example of one should consider
himself quite fortunate.