Heidi Reina, M.S., Ed, is an educational technology integrator and teacher, reviewing free educational websites and apps.
Mechanical Coin Bank Reproductions Make Great Gifts for Kids and Adults
I saw my first mechanical coin bank in action when I was 5 years old. A neighbor kept his trick dog bank on the fireplace mantle. He was the father of one of my first friends, and he offered us each a coin when I visited. We put the coin in the dog's mouth, flicked the "magic" switch, and watched in delight as the dog jumped through the clown's hoop and dropped the coin in the barrel.
Ever since then, I have turned up my nose at the pedestrian piggy bank. If I was going to save money, something needed to jump, twist, twirl or hop my coins into a cast iron vault. As I grew older, I learned that the original antique mechanical banks sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars. But reproduction mechanical banks can generally be had for $25 to $50. I bought my first trick dog mechanical bank many years ago for $10.
The reproductions are just as entertaining as the antiques. And aren't banks about saving money anyway? So here are some of the favorites from my collection. Some are cast iron reproductions, some are wind-up tin, and some are modern plastic and battery operated. But all are fun for kids and adults.
Cast iron mechanical banks were first mass-produced around 1875, and the Trick Dog was one of the most popular. Its reproductions remain popular to this day. Trick Dog was originally produced by the Hubley Toy Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The reproduction cast iron version was my first mechanical bank.
How it Works
You place a coin in the dog's mouth, then depress a lever on the side. The dog leaps through the clown's hoop and drops the coin in the barrel.
Trick Dog in Action
Apple Mechanical Bank
Even fruit can make an engaging mechanical bank. This vintage plastic wind-up from 1970s features a worm popping out to snag the coin. It was another of my childhood favorites, when it was new.was originally manufactured in Japan by Yone.
How it Works
Gently wind the turnkey on the side of the apple. Place a coin on the red button in front of the apple's eyes. The mouse quickly slithers out of the apple's "mouth" to scoop up your coin and store it safely away.
Apple Mechanical Bank in Action
Dentist Chair Mechanical Bank in Action
Dentist Chair Mechanical Bank
Cast Iron Reproduction
The dentist is more than willing to pull your tooth - if you put a coin in his pocket first. But watch out! One good yank and over you go. This cast iron version was a very popular bank in the early 1900's. It was originally manufactured by J. & E. Stevens Company of Connecticut in the 1880s.
How it Works
Place a coin in the dentist's pocket, then push the button near his feet. The dentist and patient both fall backwards, and the coin falls into the green sack behind the dentist.
Hippo Mechanical Bank - Vintage Tin
The Hippo Windup Bank is a tin mechanical bank mass-produced in Japan in the 1950s and 60s. These are harder to find, but lots of fun. It takes a bit of skill and correct timing to pop the coin in when the hippo opens his mouth. So it is alway a bit of an arcade game for me.
How it Works
Wind up the key on the side. Then place a coin on the wood plank. Here's where your arcade skills come in. Pull back on the lever behind the coin. When the hippo's mouth opens, release the lever to slingshot the coin into his mouth.
Hippo Tin Toy Bank in Action
Itazura Kitty Stealing Coin Bank - A new kind of mechanical bank
Not all mechanical banks are cast iron reproductions or tin wind-ups. There's a new class of plastic mechanical banks that are battery-operated or windup. This one from Japan is a favorite of my daughter's. If you have a cat or dog, it will want to get in on the action too!
How it Works
Wind up the turnkey, then place a coin on the box. The kitten pops out of the box with her paw to swipe the coin away, then disappear.
Mechanical Kitty Coin Bank in Action
Choken Bako Dog Mechanical Bank in action - from Japan
If you're not a cat person, then perhaps this adorably hungry pup scarfing up your coins will tickle your fancy. Childrens' faces light up and they can't stop feeding the pup!
Mechanical Banks with Christmas Themes
Santa Claus banks also date back to the turn of the last century, with the earliest ones produced by Hubley. They became much more popular in the 1960s as the sale of Christmas-themed merchandise exploded. Many of today's reproductions are made of plastic. Coca-Cola has created a substantial collection of mechanical Santa banks.
Do You Have a Favorite Mechanical Piggy Bank?
Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on May 10, 2014:
What cool coin banks!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 04, 2013:
I wish I had. This is really a good gift for kids.
anonymous on January 10, 2013:
What fun! I love the dentist pulling teeth piggy bank!
Bubbajuju on November 29, 2012:
I have always loved mechanical banks! I need to get one for the kids as they make saving so much more fun! Great article!
chinchilla-cages on September 06, 2012:
These are fantastic. That turtle and kitty one was funny!
anonymous on July 15, 2012:
What a unique lens! I never grew up with a mechanical bank, but my kids have a Rugrats mechanical bank. I don't think that bank, however, is as interesting as the ones you have highlighted here!
zoren-de-legazpi on June 23, 2012:
Mechanical piggy bank is cool. I really wish. I have one, though I bought a piggy bank made of plastic for my 7 years old kid and his so happy with it and every day keep asking me for a coin to put in his piggy bank.
JoshK47 on June 17, 2012:
I absolutely love things like this - hard to pick a favorite, I'd love to have em all! Blessed by a SquidAngel!
Linda Pogue from Missouri on June 01, 2012:
My grandfather had a mechanical piggy bank. I wonder who wound up with it? Blessings!
Brandi from Maryland on March 19, 2012:
These are very cool! :)
imaginecreations on March 14, 2012:
My favorite: the Itazura Kitty Stealing Coin Bank!
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on December 17, 2011:
I love the video of the kitty and the kitten mechanical bank (that is simply heart warming). Thank you so much for a chuckle this morning. (hope you do not mind my mentioning but a couple links have expired - amazon and ebay.) Best of wishes.
nangaye-steve on November 27, 2011:
I had the apple mechanical bank when I was little. I'd all but forgotten about it - thanks for bringing the memory back!
C A Chancellor from US/TN on October 18, 2011:
I can remember seeing these advertised (in comic books maybe?) as a child and wanting one so much! I love the video with the cat, too -- totally made me laugh. Thanks for sharing!
CruiseReady from East Central Florida on August 13, 2011:
NO, I don't remember ever having anything but an automatic coin sorter. But what a fun lens! I really got a smile from the video of the kitty playing with the mechanical piggy bank.
SandyPeaks on August 02, 2011:
I remember one which fascinated my father and me in the 1960s - a coffin with a bony mechanical hand which emerged from within to grab the coin!
anonymous on March 11, 2011:
We always kept taking the same coins out of the bank just to play and didn't mount up much saving but we sure had fun not saving. Mechanical piggy banks have always been a favorite of mine and some of the antiques sure have become valuable. Now maybe saving the mechanical banks was the thing to do. You have lots of fun here.
Pete Schultz on February 25, 2011:
I had one as a kid, mine was a kind of creepy black coffin...place a coin on an x, flip a lever and a green skeleton had popped out to drag the coin into the coffin....it was quite amusing. A fun lens, I'd glad I came across it.
ElizabethJeanAl on February 02, 2011:
I love the old mechanical banks.
Lensrolled to From Mechanical Banks to Piggy Banks
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on November 09, 2010:
Excellent page. When I was reading your introduction, I was thinking, "Gee, I hope you can feature some great videos" and ta, da, you did! Very nicely done & good luck!