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Bill E. Grin
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - October, 1964

64-10.JPG (18523 bytes)A rather late mechanical bank which is another of the writer’s favorites is our choice as No. 123 in the numerical classification. This is the Bill E. Grin, an exceptionally nice little bank, unusual in appearance, and the action necessitates the use of a coin. The bank fits into two groups; the bust group, and since it represents a clown it can also be classed in with the circus type banks.

This particular bank intrigued the writer for years insofar as trying to find one in all original condition with better than good paint. In the first place it is somewhat difficult to find an original Bill E. Grin since it was a late bank and apparently never made in any great quantities. Being a late item and made after the popularity of the mechanicals was more or less over, it was therefore not made over a long period of time, unlike many of the other banks. Then some years ago a party in New Jersey made a number of reproductions of the bank, and while these are still around and have fooled a few dealers and collectors alike, they are not difficult to judge for what they are—recasts. The original bank has a fine smooth surface inside and out for one thing, and the recasts are rather rough and poorly painted. They are in fact painted to look old and this is rather obvious in itself. The paint work, in addition to being rather crude, is considerably off in colors, apparently to give an aged effect. They are a yellow-brown color, while the originals are white. This leads to another reason for the difficulty in obtaining a nice original Bill E. Grin. When they were manufactured only a light coat of white paint was used over the entire bank, and all that were made were painted in this fashion. This paint was not durable, chipped and scratched rather easily and could not stand much wear. Then too this was the type bank that lent itself to possible rough usage such as the Hindu (HOBBIES, February, 1955) by being tossed around in toy boxes, and so on.

The Bill E. Grin was patented July 27, 1915 by J.W. Schmitt of New York City and manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. The bank was made exactly the same as the five drawings that are part of the patent papers. Several points of interest in connection with this bank are herewith quoted from the text of the patent papers:

"My invention relates to toy banks and more particularly to a type of non-registering banks having movable parts adapted to be actuated by a coin inserted therein for the purpose of affording amusement.

"In toy banks of the type to which my invention relates, the object sought to be attained is the encouragement of the habit of saving in the young by providing a bank structure, the operation of which, upon the insertion of a coin therein, will be amusing or grotesque.

"A bank made in accordance with my invention embodies a casing so constructed as to simulate the head and shoulders of a human being, and having mounted therein a simple mechanism which will, when a coin is deposited in the bank, be so actuated as to simultaneously change the expression of the eyes and project the tongue in a manner to amuse and to arouse the interest of the user. The arrangement of the mechanism is such that the effect produced will vary in accordance with the sizes of different coins deposited. The mechanism for actuating the tongue and eyes is simple in design, may be readily assembled in the bank casing, and, in addition to securing the effect of a change in facial expression of the casing, will protect the coin slot and the mouth opening in a manner to prevent the removal of coins from the bank therethrough. The various parts are overbalanced in such a way as to dispense with the use of springs and hence the mechanism cannot be so disarranged as to clog the coin slot or permit the coin to be withdrawn therethrough."

The bank pictured is in exceptionally fine original condition and the best specimen of this bank the writer has ever seen. Colors are fine and bright and it is painted, as are all other originals known, as follows: The overall bank is white in a sort of cream tinge. The eyebrows, two marks between the brows, the eyes, and the name Bill E. Grin are all done in black. The lines beside each of his eyes are red as are the two v-shaped marks on each cheek. His tongue and lips are also red. There is a black line around his collar and a black button above the name. On the back of the bank appears the wording "Pat. App’d. For." In the base of the bank is the conventional round Stevens coin trap.

To operate the bank a coin is placed in the slot as shown in the picture. Pushing the coin into the slot causes the eyes to give the effect of blinking and the tongue protrudes from the mouth. Parts return automatically to the position shown after the coin drops inside.


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