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The Owl Bank, Slot in Head
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine April, 1989

      In many parts of the world, and throughout history, the owl has evoked man's curiosity and fascination. This creature has been worshipped by some as a wise and lofty oracle, and feared by others as an evil sorcerer with its ominous screeching and hypnotic eyes. Likenesses have been discovered decorating the walls of caves inhabited by prehistoric man in France. Artists, sculptors, and storytellers have, over the centuries, contributed to the popularity of these nocturnal birds with mystifying and fascinating depictions.
     Within more recent times, the owl has occasionally been incorporated into the design of children's playthings. Such an example is the "Owl Bank" portrayed in Figure I. It is one of a series of four mechanicals designed by Ms. M. Elizabeth Cook, and subsequently manufactured by the Kilgore Manufacturing Company of Westerville, Ohio. Unfortunately, no patent information has been located. Design, production and sales presumably occurred sometime between 1920 and 1926 as determined by original Kilgore packaging, toy catalogs, and advertisements.
     The "Owl Bank" is one of a series of four which was referred to collectively as both "The Thrifty Four" and "The Toytown Workers Group of Animal Banks." The series included "Flop Ears" (the rabbit), "Jug-O-Rum" (the frog), "Pokey" (the turtle), and "Blinky" (the owl), Figure I. "Pokey" (the turtle) has the distinction of being not only the rarest of the series, but one of the rarest mechanicals in the entire category of mechanical banks.
     Two versions of "Blinky" (the owl) were manufactured. These differ only in the respect that one, the earlier version, has the coin slot atop its head (Figure I), while the other, or later and improved version, has the slot in the book under its right wing. Differences in the location of the coin slot resulted from a mechanical malfunction which occurred upon insertion of the coin into the earlier "Owl Slot in Head." This prompted an immediate redesign by Kilgore to the more efficient slot-in-book version. Because of its limited production period, the "Owl Slot in Head" enjoys the status of rarity and, generally, dependent upon mechanical and paint condition, will command a higher price than an "Owl Slot in Book" of equal condition.
     Movement, or action, of both "Owl" banks is initiated by pressing a coin into the slot. The eyes then roll downward, and up, as the coin drops into the bank. Deposits are removed via a small, nickel-plated, key-lock coin retainer underneath the base. (On occasion I have seen original, unplated examples of these locks.)
     The colors of the "Owl Slot in Head" are an overall light tan with dark brown highlights. Its beak is bright orange with a black mouth and nostrils. Its eyes are also orange with large black pupils. Thus, despite its small size and relatively simple design, this mechanical, as well as the other banks in the series, are quite attractively decorated.
     Although I am unaware of the existence of reproductions of "Owl Slot in Head," Figure II is a base diagram to aid the collector in determining size, scale, or originality. Reproductions would appear approximately one-sixteenth of an inch smaller across the base than indicated.

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