Cast Iron Humpty Dumpty Mechanical Clown Bank

This is another modern reproduction example of a cast iron 'Humpty Dumpty' mechanical bank. This example is virtually identical to Item ID: 2007RP00097, but we are showing it, too, because it makes a good side-by-side comparison to that item, which has a more pristine surface. This example shows how much 'older' the same item can look with just a little bit of judicious artificial 'aging' applied. This item is the exact same age as the other example, but this one looks scuffed, bruised and rusted. A bit of a sad clown, now. And more easily mistaken for older than its true age.

The original design for this bank was believed to have been modeled after a pantomime clown character popularized in 1868 by a Mr. G. L. Fox. Humpty Dumpty the clown appeared in a somewhat bizarre variety show popular enough to have a stage run of about five years in New York City, ending when Mr. Fox came to a bad end that was no laughing matter.

Put a coin in the bank clown Humpty's hand and press the lever and the coin goes in through his mouth. Probably this meant something of significance to the designer's of the bank, in relation to Humpty the real clown, but that significance is now lost to time. The patent for its mechanics covered several different bank designs made by the same maker and so the same patent number can often be found on all original examples.

The mark on the back of this reproduction bank reads 'Humpty Dumpty,' just like the original bank, though there was so little detail left in the mold used to make it the letters are hard to make out. The bottom is marked, 'Taiwan,' though this often is obscured by thick white paint. A Taiwan mark is of course a sure clue the bank is not authentic. Though markings on authentic examples can vary somewhat because they continued to be made over time, authentic pieces will have some variation of a 'Shepherd Hardware, Buffalo, NY, USA' mark - never Taiwan.

There are other characteristics that immediately indicate this bank isn't 'right' without even turning the bank over to look for a mark. For instance:

1. In collecting circles Shepard Hardware Company is known for the exceptionally nice paint and detailing they put into their banks. Original Shepherd Humpty Dumpty banks had three primary colors - red, white and dark blue, with yellow details added. The colors on this bank aren't even close to being correct. The blue is pale and modern looking, pink was used instead of red and the collar, which should be white with neat red and yellow details, is entirely painted a horrid shade of orange.

2. Humpty's hand should be flesh colored, not simply a paler shade of the same awful pink used on the costume.

3. The eyes on authentic banks look more natural, with very human coloration. This item has weird and scary eyes. They've been painted the same color as the collar no doubt as a factory cost savings, to not waste money adding even one small additional detail like natural eye color just to finish their banks.

4. There are star shaped decorations on the chest. On this item they were carelessly painted over with a solid color. These decorative devices on original banks are painted bright alternate colors; usually with red background and a yellow center on Humpty's left breast and a yellow background with red, blue and white details on the right.

5. Other characteristics of modern cast iron, like a rough surface, poor quality casting, the presence of bright orange colored rust and seams that meet poorly.

Although this specific example could be as old as the 1970's, the same bank is still being reproduced today. Originals came in two slightly different sizes of about 7 and 1/2 inches and 8 inches, but reproduction wholesalers may sell other sizes, too.

Item ID: 2007RP000404

Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies

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