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Mechanical Bank Trade Cards
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 2010

     The importance of historical data, ephemera, and artifacts to a collector of mechanical banks can never be overstated. The quest for knowledge often reveals significant information that may enhance the joy and appreciation of one’s prized collection. Sources such as dated catalogs, newspaper advertisements, labels seen on  boxes, written correspondence, mechanical bank trade cards, etc. are invaluable in eliciting much desired information.
     One of these sources, and the topic of this article, is the aforementioned category of mechanical bank trade cards (Figures 1 through 16). The advent of the advertising trade card industry occurred with the necessity by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers to seek a venue to promote their products and services. It was a vehicle to introduce “new’ and “exciting” mechanical hanks to their customers.
     Most trade cards featured a colorful illustration of the bank on its facade, accompanied with product information. Their sizes were fairly standardized, each approximately 5-1/4 inches by 3-1/4 inches. Occasionally, the card displayed the name of the dealer, distributor or manufacturer where such bank could be obtained.
     To date, only sixteen different mechanicals are known to have been featured on full color mechanical bank trade cards. These are: “American Eagle” Eagle and Eaglets (Figure 1), “Bad Accident Bank” (Figure 2), “Base Ball Bank” Darktown Battery (Figure 3), “Circus Bank” (Figure 4), “French’s Automatic Toy Bank” Boy on Trapeze (Figure 5), “Humpty Dumpty” (Figure 6), “Jolly Nigger” (Figure 7), “Mason” (Figure 8), “Picture Gallery” (Figure 9), “Punch and Judy” (Figure 10), “Stump Speaker” (Figure 11), “Speaking Dog Bank” (Figure 12), “Trick Dog” (Figure 13), “Uncle Sam” (Figure 14), “Trick Pony” (Figure 15) and “Watch Dog Safe” (Figure 16).
     Eleven of the trade cards advertise specific mechanical banks that were manufactured by the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York. Four of the cards represented mechanicals produced by J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. The remaining card, namely “French’s Automatic Toy”, promoted a mechanical produced by J. Barton Smith Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
     Vague explanations exist as to why Shepard Hardware and the J. and E. Stevens Company chose to feature specific banks and exclude others for their trade cards. It is also uncertain why several of the other mechanical bank producers of the period, e.g. Kyser and Rex, the Judd Manufacturing Company, Hubley, etc. did not incorporate the trade card into their advertising promotions.
     Mechanical bank trade cards are quite scarce, especially when found in superb, bright and undamaged condition. This is understandable considering the fragile nature of their paper composition which fares poorly with age and/or the elements.
     On a final note, exhibiting an assemblage of full color mechanical bank trade cards together with a collection of mechanical banks most certainly does enhance the display.

Acknowledgment: The cards shown in Figures 1 through 16 are from the collections of Barry Seiden, Larry Feld, Greg Zemenick M.D. and author, collector Bruce Roberts.

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