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Almost two decades after the first America-made novelty banks, John Harper and Company of the Albion Works in Willenhall, Staffordshire filed a patent for the ‘Wimbledon’ bank on September 21, 1885.

The Wimbledon bank is a typical conceit from the heyday of cast-iron mechanicals. It features a red-coated soldier lying on a green-painted base who, with the help of a lever and a spring mechanism, shoots a coin into a brown fort flying a red, black and white flag.

But why the name?

Wimbledon probably refers to the place where the National Rifle Association were formed in 1860. Their first meeting was held on Wimbledon Common and subsequent meetings in SW19 included an annual competition for the Queen’s Trophy, the nation’s largest rifle shooting contest, attended by Queen Victoria and then Edward VII.

It showed substantial signs of wear, but one of these rare banks turned up at Patrick Cheyne’s sale at the St Peter’s Assembly Rooms, Hale, Cheshire on March 20. English mechanical banks have never attained the desirability or popularity of the American made variety (where prices in excess of $20,000 are not uncommon for rarities), but this example did soar above hopes, selling to a Yorkshire collector at £2100 (plus 12 buyer’s premium).

John Harper & Company later made a number of different mechanical banks, including several variants of their best-known issue, the Jolly Nigger bank.