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The Lion and Monkeys Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine March, 1987

     Few mechanical banks have, as their subject matter, animals engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Three which readily come to mind are "Snake and Frog in Pond," "Springing Cat," and the subject of this article "The Lion and Monkeys." Of the aforementioned, it is the Lion and Monkeys which portrays this dire situation in a most lighthearted and whimsical manner. The lively coloration and cartoon-like grin on the adult monkey's face lead us to believe, much to our relief, that these teasing, taunting simians appear to be in complete control of their circumstances.
     The Lion and Monkeys bank was designed by Louis Kyser and Alfred C. Rex, for which they were granted Patent number 281,177 (*see note below, corrected to 281,377) on July 17, 1883 (Figure 1). The bank was ultimately manufactured by the Kyser and Rex Company, located in Frankford, Pennsylvania. As evidenced by the photograph in Figure 2, the patent drawings were closely adhered to.
     The amusing action of the Lion and the Monkeys bank was graphically described in an ad which appeared in an 1880s Winter edition of Ehrichs' Fashion Quarterly (Figure 3) ". . . Place a coin in the monkey's hand, and touch the spring at the root of the tree. The monkey throws the coin at the lion, who opens his mouth, and dexterously catches it, while the young monkey jumps on his mother's shoulders to see the fun." The deposited coins are removed from the bank by way of a key-locking coin trap underneath the base.
     There are two casting variations of the Lion and Monkeys, neither of which detracts from, nor adds to, its value. These variations pertain to a small design on the side of the tree trunk, which represents a scar caused by a severed branch. Some banks portray this scar as a small oval design, while others depict it to be more elongated and peanut-shaped. Also, the tree trunk which bears the peanut-shaped design is taller than its counterpart.
     There are no color variations of the Lion and Monkeys. The bank denoted in Figure 2 is painted in the following manner: the lion is tan, with a mane highlighted in dark brown. His eyes, which are composed of glass, are reddish-brown with black pupils. His nostrils are red, as is his mouth, and he has white teeth. His eyebrows, whiskers, and claws are painted black. The monkeys are brown with pink faces; they both have white eyes with black pupils. Their mouths are red, and mama monkey has white teeth. The tree is blackish-brown, its bark highlighted in light green. The small oval or peanut-shaped design is painted tan. The base is bright green splotched with red and yellow, and the rim around the entire base is painted red.
     It is important to note that, with the exception of the baby monkey's arms, the Lion and Monkeys bank is made of cast iron. The baby's arms are always cast in brass, since it facilitated attachment to its shoulders during the manufacturing process. This is in view of the fact that brass, being an extremely soft metal, could easily be soldered and pressed closed. Unfortunately, its ease of attachment also accounted for its ease of detachment. Most often, when a Lion and Monkeys bank is found, the baby monkey is either missing or replaced with a recast. Since a missing or recast baby monkey most certainly lessens the value of the bank, the prospective purchaser should be well aware of this inherent weakness.
     The Lion and Monkeys is not considered rare, but finding an all-original example, in superb condition, can prove extremely challenging.
     This bank has been reproduced over the years. I am, therefore, including a base diagram (Figure 4) to assist the collector in determination of an original from a recast. The recast will appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter along the base than the size indicated in the diagram.
     Note: (from May, 1987) In the March 1987 issue of Antique Toy World, article entitled, "Lion and Monkeys Bank, " Patent number 281,177 was a typo error and should have read, "Patent number 281,377."

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