Poverty Premium: Banking in the USA



Life is expensive for America’s poor, with financial services the primary culprit, something that also afflicts migrants sending money home (see article). Mr Martin at least has a bank account. Some 8% of American households—and nearly one in three whose income is less than $15,000 a year—do not (see chart). More than half of this group say banking is too expensive for them. Many cannot maintain the minimum balance necessary to avoid monthly fees; for others, the risk of being walloped with unexpected fees looms too large.

Low smartphone penetration in turn makes life more expensive in other ways. The unconnected do not benefit from the cheap communication, education, and even transport the app economy provides. A quarter of poor households do not use the internet at all, which makes seeking out low prices harder.

Inflation has also squeezed the poor more in recent years. The prices of items which soak up much of their budgets—such as rent, food and energy—have risen faster than other goods and services.

It’s Expensive To Be Poor, The Economist,  09/2015

Elephant Bank

1960s/1970s Circus Elephant Still Bank

When I stumbled across this little elephant my first reaction was: what is it? The slot in the top suggested it was some kind of bank and the penny rattling around inside was evidence I was not the only person who thought that. Yet, I turned it over several times, trying to figure out if it was part of a larger item or some kind of metal-work art project. Finally, it became clear this required further investigation – so I brought it home.

It turns out this is a cast metal 1960s/1970s reproduction of a 1920s era Still Bank, which means it’s a bank without moving parts. The original 1920s banks were manufactured by Hubley A. C. William. I have no idea who manufactured this reproduction because there’s no imprint or logo (or anything).

You’re probably thinking I got all of that off of the internet – and you would be mostly correct. A google image search for cast iron circus elephant and metal circus elephant turned up quite a few items that were very similar, thereby providing the words ‘still bank.’ This new information led me to John Marquand and his Etsy shop: The Still Bank Shop.

John’s Etsy profile invites anyone with a Still Bank question to contact him. So, I sent a photo of my little elephant and provided as many details as I thought relevant – being a complete novice in this area, I was floundering around trying to figure out what details he might need.

After sending the message, I went to work on the list of 1000s of tasks always in need of being done, assuming I’d hear back in a few days. He must have been working at his computer at the same time as myself because I get a reply in less than 15 minutes!

Here’s what he had to say: “Your bank is a modern reproduction of the elephant on the tub bank. Any old banks will have flat head screws, not Phillips head. The paint is not correct for an old bank but yours is pretty colorful! I would say it’s from the 1960’s or 70’s.”

As you can imagine, I thanked him for his amazing help! I also learned two helpful little tidbits about cast metal still banks: 1) The little screw on the side provides crucial information (who knew?) and 2) John Marquand is a really helpful guy!

What’s the moral of this story? If you ever have any questions about Still Banks, stop by The Still Bank Shop and chat with John!

If you would like your very own elephant bank, you can purchase this one at the Wild Raccoon Market or visit The Still Bank Shop for a larger selection. 🙂