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European Tin 


Bonzo Bank (Tin)
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - April, 1977

77-04.JPG (33199 bytes)

In choosing the Bonzo Bank as No. 266 in the numerical classification, one might say we have picked the Mickey Mouse of England to occupy this position. That is to say, Bonzo to England is in many ways comparable with Mickey Mouse to the United States. Bonzo was a particularly popular cartoon character of the 1920’s and 1930’s with very wide appeal to the British population in this period. The fact that Bonzo is a recognized cartoon character adds considerably to the interest and value of the Bonzo Bank.

In recent years comic and cartoon type toys in tin, cast iron, and other materials have reached a high level of desirability. This passes right along to both still and mechanical banks as well. We will not attempt to cover all the different cartoon and comic character toys, sufficient to say there are many. They include cartoon figures such as Happy Hooligan, Popeye, Katzenjammer Kids, Mutt & Jeff, and others. Also included are comic figures such as Harold Lloyd, Amos & Andy, Charlie Chaplin, and others.

The Bonzo Bank has several other tin mechanical companion banks of similar configuration and operation. These are Mickey Mouse, Scotchman, Minstrel, and Jolly Joe. They form a very interesting group. Further, Mickey Mouse and Bonzo share an interesting feature, each having a picture scene on the respective back of both banks. See Figure 2 for back of Bonzo.

The Bonzo shown is in fine all original condition. Lithograph colors are as follows: The overall front and sides are red, the top and base black, and the back yellow. On the front, Figure 1, the face and paws of Bonzo are shaded tan. His eyes are blue and black, his right ear, nose, and lines on his face are black. He has a red mouth and tongue. Lettering is in black. On the back, Figure 2, the full figure of Bonzo is the same coloring as the head and paws on the front. Here his left ear is black. The table is green and the Bonzo bank sitting on the table is colored as the bank itself. Lettering is black and Bonzo holds a coin in his right paw. Also, on the back appears the German trademark or patent D.R.G.M., the double S in a circle, and the name Bavaria. The sides of the bank have decorations in yellow and dark and light green.

To operate the bank, the lever on front is depressed, causing a large tongue to protrude and the eyes to lower. A coin is placed on the tongue and the lever raised. Parts return to position as shown in Figure 1 and the coin slides from the tongue on into the bank. Coins are removed by means of a key locking coin trap in the base.

The short poem under the paws advises:
Press the lever lightly,
Watch my tongue appear,
Save a penny nightly,
Make your fortune here.

Bonzo, like Mickey Mouse, is an extremely tough bank to come by. For some reason neither bank would seem to have been made in any great quantity and apparently few survived to the present time.


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