The Changing of the Banks

Children’s banks have been a unique “toy” and collectible for decades. While coin banks started many years ago, there was a big shift from the late 1800’s throughout the 1900’s that resulted in the changing of the banks.

Companies like the Stevens Co. began creating very unique styles with out-of-the-box thinking in their designs of mechanical banks that dated between the 1880’s and beyond. These original banks were made from cast iron, like other mechanical toys of the period, and were brightly painted but often had an extraordinary theme that kept their owners very entertained all while serving the purpose of saving.

Here’s a wonderful example of a Stevens Co. cast iron bank that dates between 1885 and 1890 of a clown on top of the world who physically flips over when you feed him a coin. He has became a rare, but able to locate, vintage bank.


Remember, to make these an excellent retail item, the creators had to be very clever and come up with scenes and the use of mechanics to keep them moving off the shelves. Many got very creative as we see below with the two cast iron original banks seen below; one that includes an acrobat, and another one a dentist pulling teeth.  The clown bank features a litho tin and came later on during the 1920’s or so:


Toys and materials changed over time through the Industrial Revolution, and so did banks. The mechanical age that was rising in America was mimicked in the area of banks. Many different industries from the age of flight to the rise of amusement parks and more were featured in smaller versions of these exceptional, and now collectible, banks. Pairing their bank creations with famous and early cartoons, such as Popeye, the banks continued to change. By this time they were using tin more than the heavy cast iron and using the process of lithograph for the printing process. Here’s a glance at some wonderful 1930’s and 1940’s banks that used all of these processes in their creations:


These two flying banks were hot sellers for kids of all ages who loved to admire the motion of transportation. The top one with the amusement ride and the bottom on not only featured popular character, Popeye, but also maximized its entertainment by having a train and a biplane that moved around and around.


This 1930’s tin type bank showed the simplicity from the cast iron originals. This one still used mechanics as he raised and lowers his hat with every coin collected, but also used the lithograph process and is made of thin tin.

As we moved towards the middle of the 1900’s and times of war, many materials were being rationed during. This made makers of even small items such as banks take a look at their creation process and having to simplify it further.

By the 1950’s and 1960’s children’s banks rarely moved if at all. It was popular to remain in the tin type process though and lithograph still proved prominent. They rarely had the use of mechanics, however, and generally lured their owners to purchase by what was printed on them. To draw in the kids, they would capitalize on stories such as popular fairy tales or merchandise with popular radio or tv shows. Here’s a look at how banks were simplified by the time mid century hit:

By the time the later 1900’s had moved in there was a huge surge to items that merchandised with popular characters. Children’s banks were not often made of tin either, rather it had paved the way to plastics or ceramics. Here’s a look at some of the banks that 80’s kids had on their dressers or desks:

Banks have such an interesting history! We at GVS love to hear about your toy collections! Please feel free to leave us a comment below to share with us what you collect. If you want to learn more about certain vintage toys, please let us know by commenting below as well.

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