Q: My son inherited a cast-iron mechanical bank that has been in the family for five or six generations. I think it’s called a “Hoover bank.” It’s in the form of a man sitting in an office chair with one hand extended. When you put a coin in his hand, he puts it in his jacket pocket and nods his head. The bank has its original paint and has never been refurbished. We are curious about its value.
A: The design for your son’s mechanical bank, known as the “Tammany Bank,” was patented by John Hall of Watertown, Mass., in 1873. It has also been known as “Little Fat Man Bank” and “Boss Tweed.” Tammany Hall was a New York City political organization, and William “Boss” Tweed was its corrupt leader. He was jailed for embezzlement in 1873. J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn., introduced the bank in 1875 and continued making it for about 45 years. Early versions of the bank did not include its name, but later banks were labeled “Tammany Bank” on the side of the chair. Both 1873 and 1875 patent dates can be found on the bank. In most versions, the man is wearing gray pants. A rare version with brown pants sells for the highest price, $500 to $600. The bank is very popular and has been reproduced.