Thursday, January 12, 2006


Quick! Where does Captain Picard stow his paycheck? Ah, that's a trick question. Officers in Starfleet (and presumably all Federation citizens...) don't use money in the 24th Century. Hah! Everybody just "enriches" themselves educationally and stuff. Sounds boring if you ask me...

But for us guys left in the apparently Ferengi-like, "Yankee Trader" capitalist society of the early 21st century, we need a place to hold on to that valuable loose change. (A lesson Kirk and Spock learned in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home...) Sure we've got our ATMs and Debit Cards for big purchases, but where do we stick the dimes, quarters, nickels and - god forbid - all those pennies?

The answer, if you're REALLY a sci-fi geek, is - of course - science fiction oriented piggy banks! I guess they're not really "piggy" banks at all anymore, but sci-fi character banks. "Piggy banks" still sounds more fun as a descriptor.

One of the first such banks I ever owned was produced by Playpal Plastics Inc. in the mid-1970s. It's a character piece of Galen, the intelligent chimpanzee (played by Roddy McDowall) on the Planet of the Apes TV series. As a kid, I used to keep this item close to my bed, and dump the spare quarters in (so on the weekends, I could go buy trading cards at the milk store...).

One truly odd character oriented piggy bank came to me courtesy of my late grandfather, who - in the late 1980s and 1990s - explored probably hundreds of flea markets to find me sci-fi collectibles. It's an ALF "Talking Bank" from Alien Productions Inc., circa 1987.

The legend on the bank (which features ALF and a bank vault, is "Wonderful, Strong. Safe with me." This is a weird one, but I've never found anybody in the world who owns an ALF bank (besides me), so I sort of treasure it.

With the resurgence of Star Wars popularity in 1999 came a whole new generation of interactive character banks. Why, there were banks of Jar Jar Binks, Qui Gonn Jinn, Obi Wan Kenobi, old-schoolers like Darth Vader, and even my favorite non-Vader Sith, Darth Maul.

The great thing about these banks is that they all play music (like Vader's theme), dance around like little automatons, light up, and do all kinds of neat stuff. The downside is that they go haywire spontaneously. One of my best friends has a kid we just love, named Jacob. He was ten years old or so when these banks came out, and they would freak him out by suddenly "activating" themselves in the middle of the night. Very, very strange...

A couple of years ago for Christmas, my parents gave me a truly wonderful piggy bank. This is a Star Trek "borg" bank, a toy/bank that proves we truly live in the age of the collector. This bank lovingly recreates the Enterprise's first encounter with the evil Borg, from Next Gen. You place a coin on the Enterprise, a tractor beam activates, and the ship gets dragged into the large bank, the Borg cube.

Tell me that isn't incredibly cool. Or geeky. Depends, I guess, as Obi-Wan would say, on "your point of view."


  1. Anonymous9:25 AM

    Hey John! I actually have a painted ceramic figure of Galen that looks exactly like your bank except it is painted different colours. 20th Century Fox must have licensed that mold for all sorts of different things.

    My favourite bank is one from Radio Shack that is a little yellow robot. You place a coin on his hand, push a button, and he puts the coin in his mouth and chews on it!

    -Chris Johnson

  2. Hey Chris!

    You know, come to think of it, that Galen mold is also very similar (though maybe not quite identical...) to the Aurora model kit of Cornelius. Hmmm. I think you're right, the mold must have gotten "lent" out to various and sundry companies.

    I've never seen the robot that chews the coin!!!

  3. Yeah, that robot bank is the best! I have one, but found out a couple of weeks ago that it no longer works. Tragic, really. My blog sucks, but I will take a picture of the bank and post it. Check it out if you want. It's not a good picture, either.