Posted 5 years ago
During the early years of the Space Race, three Detroit-area companies produced pot-metal banks...
The patent for the first bank model type was applied for July 17, 1947 by a Mr. Henry Arthur Stewart of Highland Park, Michigan (1895-1962.) Though not named in the files, this first bank is called...
***1) The Atomic Bank, by Duro: Prominently marked as such across the front just under the bull's-eye. While most of these didn't seem to have labels at all and came in just the one silver-grayish color with the red bull's-eye, a few have been seen with banking institution labels. Perhaps those with no labels were occasionally sold in stores, as were some of the other model types. It consists of a Ray Gun on a pedestal aimed at a semi-domed structure which acts as the coin trap with locked access on the bottom. It fires the coin in via a spring-loaded mechanism. The original keys rarely survived with the bank, and were made of the same type metal which breaks rather easily when abused.
The second model made, according to Mr. C. Berzac, was the Mercury. As of yet however I cannot locate any patent information on this model.
***2) The Mercury Rocket Bank, by Duro (early 1950's) : Designed much like the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon-type comic book rocket ships of the era, these were the next type produced. Resting horizontally on a small pedestal coin trap, this rocket shoots a coin into itself through a slot cleverly designed into the rocket's nose-cone area, with coin access again through a locked hatch on the underside. Earlier models employed a simple block as the launch mechanism (as illustrated in the patent diagram,) but this feature was later modified to resemble a small bomb or airplane. This model, like the Atomic Bank, primarily came in a silver-grey matte finish, but they also came in a chromed silver version as well as the extremely rare matte green model. I also have a Mercury Rocket Bank which was made in Germany.
***3) The Strato Bank, by Duro, also resembles the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon-type spacecraft. Resting horizontally and aimed at the Moon, it uses a similar firing mechanism. The patent, by Mr. Carl G. Bergman, was filed June 15, 1953 and approved Jan. 3 of the next year. This model came most commonly in green, with rare appearances in both chromed and matte silver. I've seen one in gold chrome, as a commemorative, and a matte gold model. I've also seen a couple painted in the orange and brown scheme of the Sportsman Bank, but they were from foreign banking institutions. I have a Belgian specimen modeled after the commemorative, including a plastic ring.
***4) The Flying Saucer Bank, by Duro, (Carl F. Peterson & John Berzac, applied August 28, 1956.) This bank actually states on the underside that it should be valued as a collector's item (the only model type to do so.) This by far is the most intriguing of the nine model types, and has a completely unique firing mechanism. Coins are retrieved by unlocking and removing the entire base plate. The only color I've seen these in is green, but there's also a silver chrome edition.
***5) The Guided Missile Bank, a Berzac Creation made by Astro Mfg, (patent filed by John Berzac in 1957.) John Berzac and his brother Steven left Duro Mold to start their own company, Astro Mold, in 1957. This bank most resembles a conventional rocket, and came in the 4 metallic shades as well as the blue-grey. While most were give-aways to persons opening new bank accounts, the much rarer gold versions were given to those who opened premium accounts. It came in two basic configurations: One with pegs on the fins to accommodate red rubber boots and one without the pegs, having a flat finish. This bank also was offered as an un-painted version which was designed to be "customized" by the buyer, complete with paper decals. The Missile Bank had a similar firing mechanism as the previous models, but the locking "plug" was actually the rocket nozzles at the bottom of the rocket. Produced just after the two Berzac brothers left Duro, over two million of these were sold worldwide as this new company's debut model. Missile Banks with no sign of a label were more than likely salesman's samples. A one-of-a-kind chrome green model is in the possession of the Berzac family.
A Missile Bank which sat in president Kennedy's Oval Office back in the day eventually ended up with his secretary and finally sold just last year at an Heritage auction for just over $1,900.
Vacumet Finishing later obtained the molds and produced the Guided Missile Bank in 1975, bare of any finish and designed to be painted by the new owner...it came complete with its key, all rubber parts and a paper sheet of sticker decals.
Also; A version of the Mercury Bank was filed on 11/18/57 by John Berzac: It stands at an angle atop a hemisphere of Earth, much like the Satellite and Flying saucer Banks with a lock-plate identical to the Flying Saucer's. I was recently informed by Mr. Cary Berzac that none of these were actually produced.
***6) The Satellite Bank, by Duro, (Carl F. Peterson and Karl Gust Bergman, filed 3/14/58 ) yet again closely resembles the comic book rockets, only this model points to the skies as it sits perched atop the northern hemisphere of our Planet Earth. The same basic firing mechanism shoots the coin into a similar slot in the nose of this bank, with retrieval through a locked rectangular hatch in the bottom. This model also later came in commemorative types and in most of the colors but green and blue-grey. Produced primarily by Duro, these were later acquired and produced by Vacumet.
***7) The Destination Moon Bank, by Duro, (Carl F. Peterson, filed 2/9/59) To the best of my knowledge, these models came in four basic colors; The rare gold chrome, the more common chromed silver, the extremely rare matte silver, and the very rare matte green. These banks, as the others, were given out at banking institutions when new accounts were opened, with the gold versions given for new premium accounts. This bank was later modified as a commemorative model*, the honor molded into the metal ring which encircles the Moon, as well as noting "1st U.S. Direct Hit April 26th-1962" on the inside of the base. As stated earlier, some commemorative rings are marked on both sides, honoring two different occasions, doubling the artifact's collector potential. This bank utilizes the same firing mechanism as the Satellite, though coin retrieval is through a lock-plate on the side of the Moon.
***8) The Plan-It Bank, by Astro, (John Berzac, filed 9/3/59) was not as mechanical as the rest. Consisting of a rotating metal ring of colorful rubber planets around the chromed sun, this bank would simply drop the coin into itself as you slowly turn the ring. Some were made with clear plastic rings (Vacumet) while others were the blue-ish metal (Astro.) The suns were either silver or gold chromed. These were very educational, as the planets' orbital cycles were molded onto the ring by each of the celestial bodies .
A special note: A modification of 2 of the eight different model types, the Destination Moon & the Strato, were made in 1961 by a different company, R.M.S. Sales Corp. in East Orange, N.J. to commemorate the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. The Moons On These Highly Coveted Collector's Items Have Been Replaced With The Unisphere, The symbol Of The Fair That Year.