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Time Is Money Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – April, 1994

      The oft-quoted adage "time is money" is aptly portrayed by our "bank of the month," pictured in Figure I. Here we see a round, silver-colored medallion, upon which is an effigy of a bearded and winged Father Time. He appears to be cranking the obverse side of an Indian Head Penny. Below the coin, a "Shield of Liberty" emerges from the top of an hourglass.
     Unfortunately, there is little, if any, background information relating to the "TIME IS MONEY BANK." Puzzling is the fact that its design, configuration, and even its enigmatic past are strikingly similar to another mechanical, namely the "BOW-ERY BANK" (refer to Antique Toy World, February 1994).
     A third bank, and one that is identical in appearance to "TIME IS MONEY" is the "CHRO­NOMETER BANK." Shown in Figure II, it dif­fers only in the respect that it is a coin-registering bank and not a mechanical. Ehrich's Fashion Quarterly, a former wholesale-retail toy jobber's catalog, offered the "CHRONOMETER BANK" for sale to the general public, circa 1876, "Price, 75 cents. By mail, 15 cents extra." Other than this advertisement, no pertinent information relating to its designer and/or manufacturer has, thus far, been uncovered.
     However, the cryptic graphics molded into the circular face of the "TIME IS MONEY BANK" (Figure I) offer the opportunity to elicit a plethora of interpretations. Allow me to express my thoughts, albeit conjecture.
     The year in which "CHRONOMETER BANK" (and possibly "TIME IS MONEY") was offered for sale was the period in which the United States was involved in the "great economic depression" (i.e., 1873-1878). Expansion of industry during this time was accompanied by increased tension between business and labor. By the 1870s, labor unions began to emerge in an attempt to alleviate hardships suffered due to pitiful wages. The plea "a fair wage for time spent on the job" was echoed by workers across the land. Perhaps these difficult times inspired the creation of a mechanical bank whose message "time is money" reflected the thoughts of downtrodden workers throughout the country.
     Or, does the name lack any symbolic meaning, and are the seemingly mystical hieroglyphics decorating its circular face merely meaningless designs of an unknown toy manufacturer? Was there any historical significance linked to the bank's creation, or was the intent solely to inspire savings?
     The action of "TIME IS MONEY" is unique and somewhat unexpected. The Father Time disk is rotated approximately one full turn clockwise, locking it into position. Upon insertion of a penny, the disk quickly spins around counterclockwise, causing the coin to drop into the bank. Deposits are removed by unscrewing both halves of the mechanical.
     I am not aware of the existence of casting variations of "TIME IS MONEY." However, there is one minor color difference. It pertains to the rectangular panel upon which the words, "TIME IS MONEY BANK" are cast. It may be painted either brown or red. The colors of the example shown in Figure I are as follows: the entire bank is coated with a dark brown japan varnish. The Father Time disk is painted silver and the finial, central thin horizontal protruding ledge, as well as the wide border across the bottom of the base, are bright red. Finally, the words, "TIME IS MONEY BANK" and the filigree on each side of the silver disk are highlighted in gold.
     "TIME IS MONEY BANK" is extremely rare, with less than a handful known to exist within collections. An attempt to explain its scarcity is to surmise the following: The bank was either a specialty item intended to recall a most unpleasant moment in our history and generated few or no sales, or its subject matter and composition were so obscure and unappealing to children that few were purchased.
     To my knowledge, "TIME IS MONEY BANK" has not been reproduced. Nevertheless, Figure III is a base diagram of an original example. If a recast were attempted, the result would appear ap­proximately one eighth of an inch shorter along the base than indicated.
     My thanks and appreciation to Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck for allowing me to utilize a photograph of their superb "TIME IS MONEY BANK" (Figure I) for the purpose of writing this article.
     The entire series of articles, from August 1982 to the present, is expressly the property of Sy Schreckinger and may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without his permission.

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