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Toy Banks - Still Banks and Mechanical Banks

Antique cast iron banks are generally considered to be one of the Most Popular Collectible of all American Toys. Most of these mechanical banks are intricate in their design, very rare and are in great demand by collectors. Made between the 1860's and 1930's, vintage cast iron banks can be divided into two main categories, Mechanical Banks and Still Banks. Some old banks can be found in both mechanical and still versions.

There is also a flood of reproduction banks on the market. The repro's as they are called, do not have the same detail, and in most cases are slightly smaller. No paint or poor paint jobs and a lighter weight are just three ways to spot and imitation.

Still Banks, Piggy Banks and Mechanical Banks For Sale

Still Banks were the first mass produced American toy banks and did not have any moving parts. Buildings were the most common design for still banks. One of the earliest was a penny bank made to accommodate the first large copper coin minted in 1793 by the United States Mint. Mechanical Banks appeared during the 1870s. A patent for a mechanical bank called Hall's Excelsior was filed in 1869. The peak of production was the period between 1860 and 1940. 400 distinct types were made and for each there were usually many variations. When one manufacturer produced a popular bank, his competitors were likely to copy it.

Mechanical Banks were toys intended to encourage children to save their pennies by making the process fun. In some, the mechanical action rewarded child with a piece of candy. Essentially the mechanical banks were simply designed for the amusement of children. Their mechanical action would be started by depositing a coin or pressing a lever.

Mechanical banks made of cast iron became popular shortly after the Civil War, when several northern foundries started producing them as a profitable side line to their regular business of casting such items as stoves, plumbing fixtures and tools. The J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, CT was one of the largest. Manufacturers competed to see how complex they could make their banks operate.

To perform stunts, mechanical banks relied on various combinations of levers, springs, wheels and other moving parts. The weight of the coin plays an essential role by moving a lever from one position to another, causing a wheel to rotate activating other parts. The more intricate the outer mechanism of the bank, the more complex the inner mechanism worked. So the sophistication of the mechanism is important. Collectors look for mechanical banks with interesting action as well as historical significance. Yes, political subjects were also popular.

During World War I, when the production of cast iron was severely limited, manufacturers began to use tin, wood and other materials for banks. Since the 1940s most mechanical banks are made of plastic.

There is a book privately published about reproduction toy cast iron banks by Robert McCumber. A Penny Saved: Still and Mechanical Banks by Don Duer is another good book on mechanical banks. Other books about Toy Banks are available on eBay.

Still Bank Mechanical Bank Mechanical Bank Toy Bank

Piggy Banks are the traditional name of a coin accumulation and storage container, most often used by children. Piggy banks are often shaped like pigs and made of ceramic or porcelain. Piggy banks are used to reinforce ideas of savings and spending to children; money can be easily inserted, but the pig must be broken open for it to be retrieved, forcing the child to justify his or her decision. Other forms of toy banks include bears and many other animals. Some are even in the shape of cartoon characters and vehicles.


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