Although its longevity in the toy business was a few short years from 1882-92, the Shepard Hardware Company had an impact far beyond its size, receiving patents for 15 banks, many of which have become classics of the genre, including the one we present here, the Jolly Nigger for which the company received its first mechanical bank patent on March 14, 1882. Many other makers, including J E Stevens would produce this bank for another 40 years after Shepard sold out.
This bank is operated by placing a coin in the hand of the Jolly Nigger, then pressing the lever behind his left shoulder. The quality of construction is first rate in every respect with the molds fitting tightly as one would expect from cast iron toys of this era. However, Shepard did not prime its iron, leaving their banks vulnerable to paint loss, and this one is no exception, suffering 40-50% loss. Nonetheless, given its age, its appearance and patina are in high order.
Compared to other versions of this bank, we consider this one the premier collectible version as it comes from the original patent holder, and from a very early vintage. The quality attributes are also seen in the rear inscription of the bank, the silky smooth iron, and the base plate holding the coins in. The banks is still mechanically sound, and continues to feed coins through its mouth.
You will find other manufacturers' banks with more paint, but that is largely due to better painting techniques compared Shepard, but the company is unrivaled in fit and quality otherwise. We regard the patina of this bank as outstanding.
The underside is marked Made by Shepard Hardware Co Buffalo N.Y. Made in Canada Mar 27, 1882. The backside is embossed Jolly Nigger bank Pat. Mar 14 '82.
Dimension: 6 3/4" h