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Safe Deposit Box (Tin Elephant)
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - March, 1972

72-03.JPG (26018 bytes)A quite rare, unusual, desirable tin elephant bank is our choice at this time as No. 206 in the numerical classification. This mechanical, the Safe Deposit Bank, along with the Royal Trick Elephant, are two of the real challenges in the elephant group of the mechanical banks. True, each of these tin banks would, generally speaking, have a greater appeal to a more advanced collector, however, this does not alleviate the fact that any collector, beginner or otherwise, would like to own either or both. And a challenge it is when we consider the bank under discussion and pictured herewith is the only known example to exist in a collection.

The bank shown is from the extensive Hegarty collection, and Mrs. Gertrude Hegarty was most thoughtful and helpful in permitting the writer to examine the Safe Deposit Bank thoroughly and have it photographed and so on. The bank was originally found some years ago by the late Frank Ball, and unfortunately there is no record as to the circumstances surrounding his discovery of it. This could have been of some possible help since, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, there is practically nothing known with respect to the background of the bank. For example, the name itself is quite unusual for a bank of this type. One would not normally associate an elephant bank of this nature with the name Safe Deposit. It just doesn’t fit. Now this is not greatly important, but it does offer a curiously interesting point. We also do not know the time period of the bank in any factual area. We have no old catalog information, nor is there any information on the bank itself. In any case, in the writer’s opinion, based on a thorough study of the bank, it is a rather early item and of American manufacture. Part of this judgment is based on the paper labels which are on each side of the base and have the name thereon. Also, this bank is put together in similar fashion to early tin toys of similar type that were made in the United States. So until such time that factual information may come to light, we will place the bank circa 1880’s and of American manufacture.

The bank shown is in very nice original condition with no repairs. The original paint is exceptionally good, particularly for a tin bank of its type. Colors are as follows: The figure of the elephant is an overall gray, and on his back he has a red blanket with gold edging. He has black ears with a white mark to the front of each ear. His tusks are white and he has white eyes with black pupils. A red mouth and black feet complete the coloring on the figure. The rectangular shape base has a slant roof-like top in red. The ends of the base are blue. On each side of the base there is a large dark blue paper label. Stenciled or printed on each is the name "Safe Deposit Bank" in decorative gold lettering. The name is legible, but somewhat worn — more so on the reverse side, not pictured.

To operate the bank a coin is placed in the rounded end of the trunk. On depressing the tail, the trunk recedes (moves back), dropping the coin in the provided slot in the top of the roof-like base on which the elephant stands. The action is quite unusual, as a matter of fact unique, with the trunk in a lowered position and swinging back to deposit the coin. This method of operation adds considerable interest to the bank.

In closing it bears mention that the Safe Deposit Bank belongs considerably further up in the numerical classification. Its assigned number in the classification at this point is not vitally important. The information concerning the bank, recognition, and so on, is of importance, and that is what we have done at this time.


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