Printer Friendly Version

Money and Trade

Saving Your Pennies
John D. Hall and J. & E. Stevens Company<br><i>“Hall’s Excelsior” or “Cashier Bank” mechanical bank</i>, 1869<br>Iron, wood, pigment<br>Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br>Gift of Katherine Kierland Herberger
zoom John D. Hall and J. & E. Stevens Company
“Hall’s Excelsior” or “Cashier Bank” mechanical bank, 1869
Iron, wood, pigment
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Gift of Katherine Kierland Herberger


Personal money-boxes and coin banks have been used to save and store coins by people around the world for hundreds of years. So it’s not surprising that when the United States of America distributed the first U.S. copper pennies in 1793, manufacturers began to produce special containers, called penny banks. Made as children’s toys, these banks taught youngsters a valuable lesson—the importance of saving money.

Still and mechanical banks of all shapes and sizes included models of animals, clowns, trains, safes, and children at play. All were fun to play with, but the mechanical banks rewarded the child who deposited a coin with an entertaining stunt. This building-shaped bank performs at the pull of a string, causing a monkey seated at a desk to pop out of the building’s roof. If one places a coin on the desk, the monkey quickly falls back into the bank, taking the coin along with it.

By the early twentieth century many people were collecting these artful and entertaining penny banks. One such collector was a woman named Katherine Kierland Herberger, who lived in Minnesota. She first purchased a bank for her son’s birthday, triggering a lifetime of collecting more than 1,000 banks.

spacer related images 1.  + 2.  + 3.  + bracket spacer
1. A girl skips rope when a deposit is made to the squirrel.
James H. Bowen and J. & E. Stevens Company, “Girl Skipping Rope” mechanical bank, 1890, Iron, pigment, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Katherine Kierland Herberger
2. A game of cat-and-mouse makes money fall into this mechanical bank
Charles A. Bailey ”Springing Cat” mechanical bank, 1882, Lead, pigment, wood, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Katherine Kierland Herberger
3. This still bank in the form of a safe looks like a secure place to deposit coins.
J. Chein & Company, ”Child’s Safe, Fire Proof” still bank, 1906, Tin, pigment, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Katherine Kierland Herberger


February 2008