by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – August, 2011
THE MOST popular categories of both still
and mechanical banks is the representation of a building, whether it be
a commercial, residential or historical structure. Interestingly, the
very first patented, commercially produced cast iron mechanical bank was
introduced in 1869. Its subject Figure I was a bank building familiarly
known as "Halls Excelsior" (Figure 1).
In contrast, those mechanicals that derive their action from an
electrical-operated source represent
the smallest group. The unique and interesting "Wireless Bank", subject
of this article and seen in Figure 2, enjoys inclusion in both the
building and battery-operated categories.
"Wireless Bank" was the creation of Christian Berger of New York, for
which, on January 5, 1926, he was granted Patent Number 1,568.711
(Figure 3). His patent illustrates four detailed drawings pertaining to
the exterior design and internal components of the mechanical. Mr.
Berger subsequently assigned patent rights to a Frederick L. Sawyer of
Until recently, confusion prevailed amongst toy historians pertaining to
the actual patent date of "Wireless Bank". This was due to the fact that
following four patent dates had been inscribed underneath its cast iron
base: "Pat. March 11, 1913. Nov. 10, 1914. Dec. 19, 1916. Sept. 24,
1918." with no available official patent papers relating these specific
dates. The only known government issued patent is seen in Figure 3;
ironically, its date (January 5, 1926) is not imprinted underneath the
base of the bank.
Recently, the discovery of a paper label affixed to the base of a
battery-operated, sound activated, electro- magnet to namely "Wireless
Pup", has shed light on the previously discussed multi-patent date
conundrum. This paper label reads: "The Wireless Pup Manufactured Under
C. Berger Patents March 11, 1913 and November 10, 1914". Both of these
dates are also seen under the base of "Wireless Bank". It appears
obvious that the patent seen in Figure 3 not only served to protect the
design of Mr. Berger's "Wireless Bank" building, but was also utilized
as a patent renewal of the electro-magnet circuitry previously acquired
for his "Wireless Pup" toy.
Action of "Wireless Bank" is accurately described on the instruction
card included within the packaging of each bank. The card indicates
that, prior to activation, a "D" size battery must be installed into the
mechanical's battery compartment. The following are the designated
instructions for usage: "Directions for Operation.
1- Place Bank on level surface.
2- 'turn coin holder which is on top of bank over until it rests on the
electro magnet where it should
stay. 3- Place coin (one, five, ten or 25 cents piece) gently on coin
holder without jarring Bank, being sure that the edge of the coin rests
against the two projections on coin holder. 4- Coin holder being in
position call loudly: GO CASH or any appropriate word, or CLAP THE HANDS
and to your surprise the money will be deposited in the bank".
A key was included with each bank. Its purpose was to unlock the sheet
metal coin retainer door underneath the base.
Figure 4 pictures an original packing box for the "Wireless Bank". Its
importance is in the provision of data relating to the bank's inventor
and manufacturer. It reads: "THE JOHN HUGO MANUFACTURING COMPANY, NEW
HAVEN, CONN. Sole Mfg. and selling rights under Christian Berger's
Patents of March 11, 1913, November 10, 1914, December 19, 1916,
September 24, 1918 and February 7, 1922.
To my knowledge, "Wireless Bank" has never been reproduced. The
following dimensions are provided solely to aid the collector in
determining size and scale. Width: 6-3/4 inches; Depth: 4-1/2 inches;
Height: 4-7/8 inches.
On a final note, "Wireless Bank" is an extremely ingenious and
attractive mechanical. It is constructed of cast iron, brightly
lithographed tin plate, wood and copper. Although considered quite
common by mechanical bank devotees, attempting to acquire a pristine,
fully operational example can prove to be a challenge for even the most