Review: Big Belly Banks by Chesnut Creations

“Thank you Grandma. Money, horsey tummy.”

Little Miss had her first substantive uncoerced phone conversation yesterday, thanking Grandma for a gift she received for her second birthday.

Big Belly Banks are stand-up painted wooden characters who “eat” money. Place a coin into a slot in the character’s mouth and it rolls down a coin track into a clear plastic bulbous tummy.

Marketing photo of a painted brown wooden Big Belly Bank horse seen in profile.When I pulled our brown horse bank from its shipping box, Little Miss began yelling, “Giddyup! Giddyup! Giddyup!” Mom handed her a quarter and without instruction or prodding she knew exactly what to do. She received such a kick out of feeding the horse that it took us a couple minutes to show her that she could watch the coin roll down the horse’s zigzag esophagus and into its stomach.

The banks are also crafted as dinosaurs, dogs, cats, alligators, dolphins, flowers and a few other objects.

This was a gift I suggested to Grandma because Miss finds loose change around our house and brings it to us. So I thought, why not have her deposit these coins in a solid, large stand-up bank? The only thing I’m not quite crazy about is the horse’s wild buggy eyes.

The bank is 23 inches tall and 13 inches wide, but the wood board
comprising the horse’s body is only three-quarters of an inch thick. I
don’t mean anything negative by saying “only,” it’s just that a profile
photo of the horse doesn’t convey how the distended belly juts out from this pregnant or terribly
malnourished animal.

The manufacturer’s web site states the 5″x5″ money chamber holds “almost 1,000 quarters.” That number seems implausible when looking at the tummy, but whatever. It holds a lot, and works with pennies, nickels and dimes, too. The money chamber seems child-safe, accessible by unscrewing a bolt.

I first saw these belly banks at a Goore’s children’s store far from home a couple years ago and kept them tucked away in my mind. (Goore’s is sort of like a Babies R Us, but is independently owned). What struck me upon inspecting the bank closely yesterday is that the inventor’s name, Jim Chesnut, is printed in tiny, not-visible-unless-you-hunt-for-it letters on the rim of the belly. According to the manufacturer’s web site, these banks were originally hand-made by him at his home in New Hampshire, but are now produced at a cabinet-making facility in New York. When Chesnut is not inventing toy banks or puzzles, he’s developing build-it-yourself component sports cars (the real thing, not toys).

Anyhow…. here’s a disclaimer: I don’t know what age this bank is rated for. It seems solidly built. I also don’t know whether your toddler understands that wooden horses can eat money but humans should not. So, buyer beware, especially if your kid still mouths objects. Little Miss abandoned her pacifier at 8 months and has never been one to taste tiny inanimate objects. I definitely would not buy it for a toddler who just learned to stand or walk.

Perhaps the best aspect of this bank is that it will force Mom and Dad to stop leaving coins around the house. This morning the horse ate about four bucks in quarters left on the kitchen table.

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