Mysterious vintage toy bank launches fantastic journey
BY RAYMOND R. REINES
I WOULD HAVE NEVER thought the die cast toy bank my friend handed me in a North Georgia antique store (one of the hundreds we’d visited over a roughly two year period) would change my life so dramatically, even as I placed it back on the shelf due to the drastic difference between its condition and the asking price. But the information molded into the metal of the bank was easy enough to remember: Strato Bank and Duro Mold and Mfg. were the first group of key words I’d be using in collectors’ guide books and web search engines, with more discovered as the research unfolded.
The research proved a challenge at first however, as just a few different model types appeared in any one book at a time (many having fewer than three of the nine model types ever produced,) and extremely limited information was found on the internet.
Phone records yielded few leads, but I was able to find and call a couple of family members whose parents worked at Duro and Astro! While searching the U.S. Patent website I was able to find almost all of the model types produced, including one which never saw production.
I was greatly assisted with this research by information gained through several telephone conversations with Mr. Cary Berzac, the son of one of the two brothers who quit Duro to start their own business, Astro Mfg. in 1957. I could never have found all of these patents without the names, dates and other information he provided. This is the reason I’d dedicated my donations to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum in their honor.
Having had the opportunity to give back to the Smithsonian and several other prominent American museums including two in my hometown of NYC, I also feel the need to give back to Marietta, Ga. But I’m getting ahead of the story.