During the late 1950s, while I was barely a teenager, banks and savings institutions were warring for new customers. Using my paper route earnings to open a savings account held the promise of any number of free “gift” items. There was the prospect of receiving a travel bag or a set of toenail clippers. But my favorite “gift” was the coin bank. So, I opened and subsequently closed many an account in order to build a small collection. I recall several of my banks, most notably a blue “book” bank, which provided me with a secret hiding place for money on the bookshelf.
In all probability Banthrico Incorporated produced my book bank. In 1931, Jerome Aronson and Joseph Eisendrath purchased the business and equipment of Banker’s Thrift Corportaion, creating a new company with the abbreviated name Ban-thri-co. Both Banker’s Thrift and its subsidiary, Stronghart, were well-known makers of coin banks.
Although Banthrico continued the Bankers Thrift and Stronghart name during the 1930s, most banks were clearly incised with the Banthrico name in the base and/or trap door of the bank until the company was sold to Toystalgia in 1985.
Banthrico made over 900 different metal banks; most were sold to financial institutions. This vast variety of banks reflects Banthrico’s capacity to create designs and produce molds for custom orders of as few as 500 or 1000 units. The designs included famous politicians, actors, college mascots, fictional characters, animals, birds fish household items, food products, modes of transportation, and buildings, particularly those of the financial institution giving away the premium.
Most Banthrico banks were made of “white metal” consisting of 95% zinc, 5% aluminum and traces of copper, brass and lead. The production of the banks required a highly skilled workforce including a sculptor, mold maker, engraver, chemist and metallurgist. The production was by hand. The caster poured the molten metal into each mold separately. Later, imperfections and burrs were removed with a belt sander and buffing wheel. Banks were then colored through an electroplating process and a clear lacquer was applied.
Over the years Banthrico made incursions into other product lines including lamp parts, trophies, bookends, figurines and machine parts. All production of the approximately 75 employee company was in a Chicago manufacturing facility.
You may wonder what happened to the coin banks I collected in my teenage years. Well, I always made the mistake of actually trying to save money in these banks. I deposited coins, even some paper money. But, I soon found myself wanting to count my money or spend some of it. Then, I would look for the key, which invariably got lost. After hours of shaking the bank upside down, or fishing for folding money with a paper clip, I would turn to more extreme measures. In desperation, I would try to punch through the coin slot or pry open the trap door with a hammer or screwdriver. None of my banks survived.
My own experience suggests that the surviving banks are somewhat rare, because the need for what was in the bank often surfaced long after the key was lost. Of the fifteen or so banks in my current collection, I only have one key.
Collecting Banthrico banks can be
both easy and challenging. Some banks are more common than others. Architectural
banks can be very rare because they were only distributed in a specific
geographic area, and then only by the bank they represented. Examples include
the Lost Angeles Coast Federal Savings “rabbit and building” bank or the
Houston City National Bank architectural bank. More common are the banks
designed for general appeal like the stage coach or covered wagon banks.
Pricing for banks can range from around ten to several hundred dollars-
condition and rarity being the deciding factors. -John Regan
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