Native and Crocodile
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 2005
Violence and savagery were topics rarely depicted as subject
matter by late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries mechanical bank
designers. During this period of toy production themes were generally of a
more "innocent", or naive nature.
However, a few bank manufacturers attempting, perhaps, to heighten
interest and excitement for their creations, chose supposedly verboten
topics. These included the following: "Snake and Frog in Pond", "Springing
Cat", "Cat and Mouse Bank" (with mouse in cat's mouth), "Tabby Bank",
"Lion and Monkeys", and our subject, "Native and Crocodile Bank" (Figure
Of the aforementioned, only the "Lion and Monkeys" alludes to a bit
of humor. The gravity of the situation is lessened somewhat by the comical
appearance of a grinning adult monkey and its offspring perched high in a
treetop. The monkey gleefully tosses pennies into the gaping mouth of a
marauding lion while the tiny sibling quizzically peers over its parent's
shoulder. In sharp contrast is "Native and Crocodile Bank". Pictured in
Figure 1, we see a club-wielding native engaged in deadly combat with a
fierce crocodile whose lethal jaws appear primed to strike its mortal
"Native and Crocodile" is believed to have been manufactured during
the "Golden Age" of German tin mechanical bank production, i.e. 1900 to
1930. Its creator is thought to be the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of Nurnberg,
Germany. Bing was renowned for its line of tinplate kitchen utensils, toys
and model steam engines. "Native and Crocodile Bank" unfortunately bears
no wordage that may attest to its heritage or country of origin. The Bing
catalog however, seen in Figure 2, sheds some light upon its lineage.
Although our subject (Figure 1) is not pictured, its construction and
appearance is quite similar to those mechanicals represented in several
illustrations. Note the flagless mast emanating from the peak of the bank
(Figure 1). The catalog (Figure 2) displays banks of similar design that
do exhibit flags. Such an omission possibly indicates our featured
mechanical experienced loss of its flag, or banner.
Information and pricing pertaining to the entire series of Bing
mechanicals is indicated in the catalog: "Banks — Made of tin, nicely
decorated. With key lock and moving figures. Supplied in 24 assorted
subjects. Price per piece: .57 Marks."
"Native and Crocodile Bank" is constructed of hand painted tinplate.
The artfully decorated animated figure of the native, the crocodile, and
the palm tree are composed of zinc-lead alloy.
Operation of the mechanical is initiated by insertion of a coin
through the slot located at the back of the bank. The native's poised arm,
club in hand, rises and then descends, as if to strike its reptilian foe
(Figure 3). Deposits are removed by opening the key lock, trap door type
coin retainer underneath the base of the bank.
The entire group of Bing articulated banks are extremely rare. With
flimsy tinplate construction, delicate paper clad and painted surfaces,
subjection to heat, cold, moisture, and playful usage, it is puzzling how
any complete examples have survived.
I am not aware of the existence of reproduced mechanicals in the Bing
series. However, due to their extremely delicate nature there is the
possibility of restored or reproduced parts. In such an instance, limited
professional conservation may be considered acceptable without
significantly devaluing the bank.
Although diminutive in size (Height: 4-13/16 inches, Width: 3-1/2
inches, Depth: 2-15/16 inches), the desirability of "Native and Crocodile
Bank" is certainly not diminished. It is considered a unique, highly
attractive and valuable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
Acknowledgements: The fine example of "Native and Crocodile Bank"
(Figure 1) is from the Kidd Toy Museum Collection, Frank and Joyce Kidd
Copies of the Bing catalog pages (Figure 2) were provided by fellow
collectors and historians, Harold and Uli Merklein of Nurnberg, Germany.