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The Owl Slot in Book Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1990

     Nocturnal habits and ominous hooting sounds are the trademarks of the owl. It is no wonder that, throughout time, this creature became associated with mysticism and the occult.
     Believed by ancient cultures to be a presager of events, the owl mistakenly became a symbol of intelligence, a misconception recently disproved by ornithologists. Its enormous eyes, capable of gathering light in dimly lit or darkened environments, and the attribute of wisdom are most vividly illustrated upon activation of the mechanical bank which is the subject of this article: "Owl Slot In Book" (Figure I). When a coin is inserted into the slot at the front edge of the book, the owl's saucer-like eyes lower, and then raise as the money is deposited.
     The "Owl Slot In Book" bank was one of four mechanicals designed by M. Elizabeth Cook, and subsequently manufactured by the Kilgore Manufacturing Company, of Westerville, Ohio. The four were collectively referred to, in Kilgore catalogs (circa 1920s‑1930s) and original packaging, as "The Thrifty Four" and "The Toytown Workers Group," and were named: "Blinky," the owl; "Flop Ears," the rabbit; "Jug-O-Rum," the frog; and "Pokey," the turtle. Of these, "Pokey" has the distinction of being not only the rarest of the four, but one of the rarest banks in the entire cate­gory of mechanicals.
     Two versions of "Blinky" were manufactured. These differ only in the respect that one, the earlier version, has the coin slot atop its head (Figure II). The other, or later "improved" version, has the slot in its book. The difference in the location of the coin slot resulted from a mechanical malfunction which occurred during its initial manufacture. Upon insertion of the coin into the slot atop the owl's head, jamming of the coin and mechanism were experienced. This prompted an immediate redesign by Kilgore to the more efficient Slot In Book version. It is because of the short duration of its production that the Owl Bank, Slot In Head, is considered the rarer of the two and will generally command a higher price.
     Both Owl banks react identically upon activation: the eyes roll downward and then upward as the coin drops into the bank. All banks in the "Thrifty Four" series utilize a small, oblong key-lock coin retainer underneath their bases. These may be either bright nickel plated or bare iron.
     The colors of the bank pictured in Figure I are as follows: the entire bank is painted an overall light tan, highlighted with reddish-brown. The owl's eyes are bright orange with black pupils, and its beak is also orange with a black mouth and nostrils. There is a color variation which has the book under its right wing painted maroon. Despite their relatively small size and simplistic design, the series makes quite a charming and handsome display. To date, no known reproduction of "Owl Slot In Book" exists. Nevertheless, I am in­cluding a base diagram (Figure III), to aid the collector in determining size and scale.
     If, at a future date, the bank were to be recast from an original, it would appear approximately one-sixteenth of an inch smaller across the base than indicated.

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