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Germania Exchange Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine May, 2005

     What pleasurable explanation may be offered for the depiction of a beer-guzzling goat poised atop a large keg of brew as a subject for a toy? Since there is no apparent relationship we are left to wonder what the designer of "Germania Exchange Bank", Figure 1, had in mind when deviating from "appropriate" topics for children.
     The portrayal of this seemingly happy animal about to imbibe is the comedic subject of a mechanical bank of possibly unknown origins. To date, insufficient factual information, e.g. patent papers and catalogs, has surfaced to reveal irrefutable identification of our subject's designer and/or manufacturer. However, the lead composition of the figure of the goat and the cast iron beer barrel do suggest the possibility that the "Germania Exchange Bank" may have been the product of Charles A. Bailey and the J. and E. Stevens Company.
     Bailey was a prominent mechanical bank designer of the nineteenth century. He began his career as an independent artisan, creating several mechanical banks fabricated solely of lead alloy. During his subsequent employment that began in the 1880's with the J. and E. Stevens Iron Foundry of Cromwell, Connecticut, Bailey designed one bank that was composed of both lead alloy and cast iron. This documented mechanical was "The Bismark Bank" in which he utilized lead for the representation of the figure of German Chancellor Otto von Bismark, and cast iron for the form of the pig. The combination of cast iron and lead to create the "Bismark Bank" prompted many historians to believe that Charles A. Bailey and J. and E. Stevens also parented "Germania Exchange".
     Additional information that further supports the aforementioned supposition is seen in Figure 2. In it is a representation of an 1880's Winter Edition of Erich's Fashion Quarterly, a toy jobber's catalog. Pictured are both the "Germania Exchange Bank" and the "Bismark Bank" (seen as a pig), with selling prices of ninety-five cents and seventy-five cents, respectively. This catalog page lends further credence to the possibility that the "Bismark" and "Germania" mechanical banks were created during the same period of time and by the same manufacturer.
     The question that still remains unsolved is the reason or meaning for the naming of this bank. A possible and perhaps correct explanation is its title which simply describes the mechanical action: Deposit a coin and it will be "Exchanged" for a stein of "Germania" beer.
     As an aside, prior to the discovery of the toy jobber's catalog, mechanical bank collectors offered much conjecture pertaining to the intended purpose for the creation of the "Germania Exchange Bank". The following is offered merely as interesting, albeit unsubstantiated thoughts presented several years ago. Some believed it to be a marketing incentive, offered by an actual Savings Bank of German-American extraction operating in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Others expressed their belief that it was designed to celebrate a brewery party held at a hotel in St. Louis, Missouri.
     Of further interest is the use of the goat in German beer folklore. Many of the German breweries introduced their newly brewed supply of "Bock Beer" late in the year or during the season of Capricorn, hence the usage of the symbolic goat on many of their casks and bottle labels. In addition, the word "bock" translates to billy goat or ram in several German dialects.
     Action of "Germania Exchange" is aptly described in the aforementioned catalog page: "A novel arrangement for a toy money bank. Upon placing a coin in the goat's tail and turning the faucet, he immediately deposits the money and presents to the depositor a glass of beer". Removal of deposits is achieved by unscrewing a curved metal coin retainer underneath the bank.
     I am unaware at this time of any casting variations of "Germania Exchange". There are, however, three color variants, and these pertain solely to the barrel. In all examples the goat is painted in identical colors, while the barrel may be decorated as seen in Figure 1, or an overall tan color with red or black bands, or a red barrel with gold bands.
     "Germania Exchange" is extremely rare, with fewer than a handful of completely original, unrestored banks known to exist. In most instances, the goat and/or one or more of the bank's pedestal feet may be damaged or missing.
     I am not aware of the existence of reproductions of "Germania Exchange". Figure 3 is a base diagram of an original example. If recasting was attempted it would appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter in length O.D. than indicated.
     Acknowledgement: The superb, all original example of "Germania Exchange Bank," Figure 1, is from the collection of Robert Weiss. It was formerly in the L.C. Hegarty collection.

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