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WHIMSICAL COLLECTOR TOYS WITH ANTIQUES

WHIMSICAL COLLECTOR TOYS WITH ANTIQUES

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If only he'd kept the toys he owned when he was a boy, sighs George Heatwole. He would have had much more than the 1,000 toys he owns now. Why, maybe he'd have 2,000.

Antique toys 'R' George Heatwole. His house is full of toy cars and trucks - everything from horses and carriages to cement mixers.And then there are the banks. Hundreds and hundreds of banks, most dating from the 1860s to the 1940s. The majority are displayed on shelves lining his attic. They are meticulously categorized.

There are his animal banks: elephants, squirrels, pigs, monkeys, bears, lions, deer, horses, ducks, roosters ... And his ``city' and ``state' banks, including the streetcar Desire from New Orleans and an Idaho potato. Not to mention his Sealtest ice cream truck bank, a Coca-Cola truck bank, a Shoney's Big Boy bank and other banks promoting products as varied as dog food, coffee, mustard and gasoline.

A part of Heatwole's collection will be on display Friday and Saturday at the National Guard Armory on Morganton Road in Southern Pines during the Moor County Historical Association Antiques Show.

Heatwole, a retired manufactured home builder, began collecting toys and banks during the 1960s. His brother-in-law was an avid collector, and before long Heatwole was enthusiastically scouring shows and sales. He joined The Mechanical Banks of America Club and the Still Bank Collectors Club (still banks just sit there and take in money; mechanical banks have movable parts).

``The banks originally were for children, to encourage them to save their pennies,' he said. Alas, many of the old banks were smashed by those children to retrieve their savings.

Some notable still banks in the Heatwole collection are a commemoration of the 1939 New York World's Fair, a Mr. Peanut, globes of varying sizes, a doughboy, an apple, a grenade and a baseball. There is a gallery of famous people whose likenesses became havens for pennies. There's Jimmy Durante, Gen. Pershing, Charles Lindbergh and even George Washington.

There's also the whimsical: A pig sitting in a high chair, and a bear stealing a pig.

But perhaps the most interesting banks, made primarily of cast iron, are the mechanical ones. One bank manufactured in 1895 by J&E Stevens features a monkey holding a coconut. Put a coin in the slot in the coconut, and the monkey ``devours' it. A bank made during the Teddy Roosevelt years features an imposing cast-iron tree. Place a coin in a slot, and a bear pops up from the branches.

One 1983 mechanical bank features a lion growling at a monkey in a tree. Deposit a coin in the monkey's paws, and he deposits it safely in the tree trunk.

One of Heatwole's favorites is his bank commemorating the discovery of the North Pole. On the bank explorers are working their way up an icy mountain. An American flag pops out of the mountain upon receipt of a coin.

Although his bank collection outnumbers his toy collection, Heatwole displays many of his older toys throughout his house. His Buddy L aerial fire truck is from his own youth. He rediscovered it several years ago in an aunt's garage.

``I remember sitting on the cab and riding it downhill when I was 7,' he says.

Collectors of toys and banks can be a fanatic bunch. Once they set their sights on a desirable item, there's no stopping them.

``It is such a thrill to see something at a sale or show that you've been wanting for a long time. Your heart stops,' Heatwole said.

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