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The Leap-Frog Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – September, 1990

      There are those penny banks which reflect a period of time in which life was far less complex a time when children could be delighted and amused with simpler pleasures. One such mechanical, the "Leap-Frog" bank (Figure I) portrayed chil­dren at play. Interestingly, this mechanical is one of only three manufactured antique banks* that utilized this particular subject matter. Considering its appeal to the young, it appears odd that designers of that period did not employ that theme more frequently.
     The "Leap-Frog" bank was invented by Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams, who were granted Design Patent Number 21,036 (Figure II) on September 15, 1891. Comparison of both the final production bank and the patent drawing with its description, Figures I and II, will reveal that its manufacturer, Shepard Hardware Company, of Buffalo, New York, adhered closely to the patent design. In addition, Shepard Hardware may be commended for craftsmanship and artistic skills, as exhibited in their designs and painted decorations. Examination of any of their banks through a magnifying glass indicates exquisitely executed facial details, enabling one to understand why, to date, Shepard remains unequalled in the art of mechanical bank decoration.
     Unfortunately, this fine paint work cannot always be appreciated. Unlike most other bank manufacturers of the time, Shepard omitted the process of undercoating prior to painting their banks. Inevitably, this resulted in a loss of much of the paint due to heat, moisture and excessive handling.
     The "Leap-Frog" bank has no casting or color variations. The colors of the bank, as pictured in Figure I, are as follows: both boys' hands and faces are a pink flesh color. The corneas of their eyes are white, with black irises, eyelashes and eyebrows. Their hair is also painted black. The figure which stoops over has a red cap, blue shirt with red trim, red pants, a yellow belt, blue socks and black shoes. The standing figure sports a blue cap, a bright yellow shirt with red trim, a red belt, blue trousers, red socks and black shoes. The rear wall of the bank, which suggests a fence, is painted yellow ochre, with white lines separating the boards. The entire base is bright green and the words, "LEAP-FROG BANK" are highlighted in gold. The tree stump is painted grey and dark brown. The areas representing newly-cut wood are yellow, with the age rings and grain finely delineated in brown. Finally, the entire back of the fence is painted red.
     Operation of the "Leap-Frog" bank is quite appropriate to the subject: a coin is placed into the slot atop the tree stump. The standing figure of the boy is first raised over the figure of the boy who stoops, and is then snapped into place behind him. The lever on the backside of the fence is released while, simultaneously, the standing figure leaps forward over his companion’s back. His right hand pushes a square lever that extends from the tree stump, and which, in turn, opens an internal baffle that allows the coin to fall into the bank. Deposits are removed via a square key-lock coin retainer underneath the base.
     The "Leap-Frog" bank is not considered rare. However, it is quite scarce, and particularly in superb paint condition. Such examples usually command a much higher price than those in average condition.
     To date, several reproductions of this fine bank have been manufactured. It is not difficult to discern the original from the recast, since reproductions are extremely crude and lack the Shepard square key-lock coin retainer.
     Figure III is a base diagram of an original "Leap‑Frog" bank. A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth-inch shorter along the base than indicated.
     * Girl Skipping Rope — manufactured by J. & E. Stevens, Co., Cromwell, Connecticut; Roller-Skating Bank — manufactured by Kyser & Rex Co., Frankford, Pennsylvania.

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