Some Thoughts on Mechanical Banks
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - April, 1976

The writer has always had sort of a thing about whales — an interest in them and knowing something about them. This interest has not been a great in depth type of thing or scientific in any way, just a kind of general knowledge type of information.

In any case, liking whales as he does, naturally the Jonah & The Whale Bank has always had special appeal to the writer. And prior to having one, the Jonah & Whale (Jonah Emerges) really was a hopeful goal and a great center of interest to the writer. It has particular attraction with the figure of Jonah coming out of the whale and, of course, the rarity of the bank itself. So when he finally obtained one some years ago, it was a real occasion.

Well to get to the point, the writer just accepted the two Jonah & Whale Banks for what they are, which is a lot, but for some reason he never took time to study the respective whales on each bank. While this is not earth shaking as such, nevertheless it would seem of particular importance that each bank represents a different specific type or species of whale. The one on the conventional Jonah & The Whale (where Jonah is in the boat) is a Sperm whale, the other much rare Jonah (where he comes out of the whale’s mouth) is a Humpback whale.

One can say what difference does it make, a whale is a whale. Well it is sort of intriguing that two different whale mechanical banks were made and that a different species of whale was used on each, and in reality in each case they are today in fact two of the most endangered type of whales. Let’s certainly hope that something more definitive is done by certain other nations to preserve these wonderful creatures of the sea.

In speaking of rare banks we usually think in terms of just that — a certain bank that is rare in itself and perhaps only one to five or so are known to exist. There is, however, another phase of rarity in banks that we are inclined to overlook, or at least not give proper thought to. This has to do with condition, particularly so with respect to original paint. An excellent example of what we are trying to point out is the Humpty Dumpty Bank. This is a real rare bank to find in extra fine to near mint paint condition. The white face on Humpty Dumpty just didn’t lend itself to any amount of even fairly rough treatment.

While most collectors may have a Humpty Dumpty in their respective collections, how many have one in fine to better original paint? Very few. Over a considerable number of years the writer has seen two, possibly three, Humpty Dumpty Banks that would come into the category of extra fine to near mint paint condition.

So actually while in a general way Humpty Dumpty is a fairly common bank, there are examples which are quite rare. This same circumstance applies to several other of the mechanicals, and another that comes to mind at the moment, exactly comparable to Humpty Dumpty but less common, is the Bill E. Grin Bank. Try to find one of these in great original paint condition and you’re faced with a real challenge. Very few exist in this state in the many collections the writer knows of or is familiar with.

A not particularly rare bank, but certainly not common, is the Hindu. Try to find a white faced Hindu in fine to extra fine paint condition. It is most certainly a rare bank in this state.

The Magician Bank is another good example in making our point. A real challenge is to obtain one of these banks with fine to extra fine paint and original colored flocking on the stairs. Very definitely a Magician in this condition is a rare bank, and no doubt about it. The writer knows of only three, perhaps four, examples of the Magician that would measure up to this standard. And after all the years of his collecting, the writer’s still looking for one in this state.

Let us take one of the most common of all the mechanicals, Tammany Bank. Thousands and thousands of these were made over a long period of years. How often does one see an extra fine near mint Tammany? Very seldom — and while not greatly rare in this condition, it is difficult to obtain one.

Going to the other side of the coin for the moment, it is really amazing how certain of the mechanicals turn up in excellent paint condition. Banks like Chief Big Moon, Hen & Chick, Creedmoor, I Always Did ’Spise A Mule (both kinds), Darktown Battery, and others are frequently found with exceptionally nice original paint. A lot would seem to have to do with the character of the bank, the type paint used as well as the colors, and then, of course, the subsequent use or abuse.

Circumstances could be a governing factor. Take the case of the Kiltie Bank. A number of these were found years ago in an old store stock in Scotland. Thus, a number of Kiltie Banks known are in mint condition. Now and then one showing signs of wear turns up, but at least one half or more of those known to exist are brand new, old and original, but never subject to any use.

In closing for now, an interesting observation on tin mechanical banks is in order. For some reason tin banks are at extremes where paint condition is concerned. They are really nice or they are rather poor. There seems to be no middle of the road where tin mechanicals are concerned. It’s interesting because in the case of tin toys of all types, particularly the early ones, they are often in the middle of the road condition. True, various of the tin toys made in the 1920’s and 30’s, which are quite collectible today, are found in mint condition, often in the original boxes. Transversely, it is surprising how many of the tin toys of this period condition-wise are middle of the road. Numbers of the tin mechanical banks were made after 1900 and it’s enlightening to realize that many survived in very nice condition. However, to repeat, they usually go from that to rather poor condition, not somewhere in between.