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Aeroplane Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine November, 2008

     Weaponry and combat have long been utilized as subject matter for toys and numerous other commodities. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a plethora of war-related mechanical banks were produced by European and American manufacturers. These "toys" functioned not only to fascinate and stimulate the imagination of young children, but also to encourage the practice of saving their pennies.
     Notable examples of such mechanicals include: "Tommy Bank", "Hold the Fort", "Artillery Bank", "King Aqua", "U.S. and Spain", "Creedmoor Bank", "Wimbledon", "Saluting Sailor", "Tank and Cannon", and the subject of this article, "Aeroplane Bank" (Figure 1).
     Interestingly, of all the war-related antique mechanical banks ever produced "Aeroplane Bank" alone portrayed the image of an aircraft. The subject was a strikingly similar representation of a newly developed British fighter plane entitled the Supermarine "Spitfire" (Figures 2 and 3).
     The year was 1940; German aircraft were conducting bombing raids over England. The Royal Airforce was not only greatly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe, its fighter planes were easily outmaneuvered as well. Great Britain then commissioned the Supermarine subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrongs Aircraft Company to design and produce a high speed, highly maneuverable pursuit plane in response to Germany's air superiority. By the beginning of World War II, England had 306 Spitfires in deployment. These served Great Britain well, matching and surpassing all that Germany had to offer.
     Interestingly, the creation of "Aeroplane Bank" had its beginnings at an earlier date. On July 31, 1919 Robert Eastwood Starkie and his wife and associate, Nellie Starkie, of Burnley, England, were granted Patent Number 130,225 for their design and invention of "Aeroplane Bank" (Figure 4). The patent drawings illustrated an early monoplane, similar to those flown during the First World War. A mechanical bank utilizing this design was never manufactured. However, prior to World War II, it appears the Starkies revised their original design to reflect a more contemporary aircraft. Apparently influenced by the modernistic lines of the Submarine "Spitfire", their redesigned mechanical incorporated much of its sleek characteristics, as seen in Figure 2.
     It is unclear whether the Starkies manufactured any, or all, of their mechanical banks, or if they had subcontracted production to local foundries. Additional banks in their line included "The Robot", several versions of "Jolly Nigger" bust-type banks, and "Tank and Cannon".
     Most of the Starkie mechanicals were manufactured of cast aluminum, with the occasional use of cast iron, tin and pressed wood-pulp board. The "Aeroplane Bank", itself, is composed of cast aluminum, with a sheet steel, twist shaped, descending pole. The flat base plate may be constructed of either aluminum or pressed wood-pulp board.
     Action of "Aeroplane Bank" is a simple representation of an airplane engaged in a high-speed dive. Using the supplied handle (refer to Figure 1) the aeroplane is initially lifted to the top of the spiral pole and locked into place. The small lever protruding from the bottom of the plane is pushed forward. A coin is then placed into the designated slot located atop the aircraft. The weight of the coin activates the plane to descend the pole in a spiral pattern. When the aeroplane reaches the mountain peak, it automatically deposits the coin into the base. Monies are retrieved by removing two screws that secure the base plate to the bank.
     "Aeroplane Bank" is a scarce, imaginative coin-activated savings device. It is also an extremely attractive addition to a mechanical bank collection. I am not aware of the existence of reproductions. Figure 5 is a base diagram of an original example, provided solely to aid the collector in determining size and scale.

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