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Tower with Cannon Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine June, 2014

GUNS, WAR and men bearing arms have long fascinated many a youngster. Boys, in particular, delighted in playing games involving soldiers and toy weapons.
     Enterprising mechanical bank manufacturers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries recognized opportunities to profit from these activities. An advertising flyer, circa 1880, depicted a mechanical bank entitled "Hold The Fort Bank". as seen in Figure 1. The targeted market for this object was, as the ad stated, "AN AMUSING AND INSTRUCTIVE TOY BANK FOR BOYS".
     Astute manufacturers, both in this country and abroad, combined the theme of armed conflict with the then-popular philosophy of saving and thrift. This strategy resulted in the creation of such notable examples as "Artillery Bank-. "Hold the Fort Bank", "U.S. and Spain Bank", "Target Bank", "Octagonal Fort Bank", "Tower with Cannon Bank" (Figure 2 and our subject, this article), etc...
     "Tower With Cannon Bank" was produced by the Gebruder Bing Company, Nurnberg, Germany. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was considered one of the foremost creators of sundry metalware goods, tinplate and zinc-alloy novelty items, toys, and penny banks. Its manufacturing and sales network spanned several major cities throughout the world
     Figure 3 represents an illustration of "Tower With Cannon Bank", numbered "1639", that had appeared in a 1901 Gebriider Bing wholesale toy catalog and again in its 1908 catalog. Another catalog, i.e. a French wholesale toy distributor's catalog, circa 1901, pictures the "Tower With Cannon Bank" (refer to Figure 4). It, too, is numbered "1639", and is priced at 4.50 francs.
     During this period in time a recurring subject utilized by Bing for many of its tin-plate still banks was historical buildings in the city of Nurnberg. One building, in particular, i.e. "The Weather House With Gargoyles", was pictured as a still bank in its 1901 wholesale toy catalog (Figure 5). Gebriider Bing utilized this "Weather House" still bank as the tower component for its "Tower With Cannon Bank" (Figure 2).
     Action of "Tower With Cannon" is swift and appropriate to the subject. Initially, the spring-activated hammer at the breech of the cannon is pulled back and locked into place. A coin is then inserted into the slot located in the muzzle of the cannon. Upon releasing the hammer, the coin is propelled forward and through the large slot in the facade of the tower. Deposits are removed by opening a key lock base plate located underneath the bank (Figure 6).
     Worthy of mention is a most interesting and creative aspect of "Tower With Cannon Bank". In an attempt to broaden its market to include adult smokers, the company added a cigar-cutting device as a component to several of its mechanicals. In the case of "Tower With Cannon Bank" the cigar-cutter was incorporated into an artillery shell located on the platform at the rear of the cannon (Figure 7). Other examples of mechanical banks in the Gebruder Bing line similarly integrating a cigar-cutter include: number 1411 "Church Collecting Box With Cigar Cutter", number 1640 "Ship Collecting Box With Cigar Cutter" and number 1749 "Summer House Collecting Box With Cigar Cutter".
     Several collectors and historians have speculated that Bing's incorporation of a cigar-cutter into its line of mechanical banks may have also allowed application as smoke shop, counter top trade stimulators, and possibly charity collection boxes.
"Tower With Cannon Bank" is extremely rare, with less than a handful known to be in complete, working, and fine condition. This mechanical's attractive, colorful appearance and impressive size (Length: 10-1/4 inches. Height: 7-7/8 inches) make it an exciting and welcome addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgments: The mint example "Tower With Cannon Bank" 'Figure 2) is in the collection of Don and Betty Jo Heim.
     My gratelful appreciation to noted European bank collectors and historians, Harald Merklein and Dr Peter Rens, for providing information relative to the Gebruder' Bing factory and the catalog illustrations (Figures 3, 4,5).
     My thanks to Shirley and Bob Peirce for supplying the photographs seen in Figures 2. 6. 7.

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