How to get into a Yorkshire Penny Bank Money box!

How do you get into one of these things when the key is long gone? Foolishly, some years ago, I put lots of pre-decimal coins in this money box! Maybe I had the key then, but I certainly do not have it any more. So as a lock-down project I decided I needed to get it open. But hopefully without demolishing the money box!

I don’t know how old this is: I think it was my mother’s savings box before me. The number, 42284, I thought was fairly old, until I saw one numbered 2012 on Ebay. Total value in the LSD coins in the money box is about £5: while the old coins might be now worth more than the face value, this project was more a challenge than a treasure hunt!

Every funny looking key available was tried, but none worked. Lock picking was even less successful, made difficult by not knowing how the lock worked. So I needed to see a lock mechanism, to hopefully find a way of defeating it!

This could be an on-going saga, as I have not achieved the objective yet, but progress is good.

The Plan

The plan was to buy a cheap similar money box on Ebay, that had no family memories: there are lots available without keys! Then to cut this up, to see how the locking mechanism worked. Straightforward! Then it should be possible to bypass the lock, or at least see what a key had to do.

With P&P the money box cost £8. It was showing the serial number 203599. First the rivets holding the nameplate were filed down, and bashed out. The nameplate came off, exposing three metal tabs holding a brass coloured metal plate under the silver lid. It was then sawn open, working from the halfcrown slot. The lid is brass, plated with a silver metal. Folding back the halfcrown slot sides gave little further information.

So then brute force was used to try to separate the cover from the base plate, which from previous knowledge supports the coin tubes, which are round, and sort of three quarters of a circle. When opened with a key, these tubes present the coins in several neatly stored columns. The two parts were levered apart, which ended up in the storage tube for the pennies, opposite the halfcrowns, being left in place, with the three tabs from that circular construction, into the base plate, having been pulled out. 

The major discovery there was that the money box locking mechanism uses a brass tongue pushed into a slot in the back of the old penny storage tube. The box is dated on the base as from a patent of 11th June 1921. They were a bit devious at this time, as having realised that the tongue of the lock could be pushed open using a knife through the penny storage slot, they introduced a sort of metal curtain as a barrier to such an intrusion. This curtain interrupts the straight line from the slot to the end of the brass tongue, so frustrating that approach. Unless maybe you had a knife like a grapefruit knife, with a bent blade.

The next task was to remove the brass locking mechanism, still stuck inside the cover, held by the three bent metal ears from the top lid. These three metal tabs on the top of the cover were holding the lock.  The tabs themselves were part of the cover, bent through the brass coloured plate that held the lock. So all three tabs were pushed out from the top, which was necessarily violent, and caused a bit of damage! Then the lock was levered away from the cover, which when suddenly released caused a slight explosion of lots of bits of the lock, as the spring behind the tongue became free to move away from its housing.

Unfortunately this meant that the three main elements of the lock were scattered about, so I cannot absolutely say in which order they were assembled, but it seems reasonable to assume that the two spacers were above the tongue, which fits best in the base of the lock mechanism.

The conclusion for this section is that if you need to break in to the money box, the best cut is made at the top of the “Penny” column, which might give you enough access to release the lock by pressing on the tongue, from slightly below the horizontal plane, to avoid the barrier in there!

Dimensions of the key

It seemed the only way in to the money box was by using a conventional key, so the next step was to work out the dimensions and shape required. Perhaps foolishly I also thought I should check on the internet to see how much the boxes with keys were selling for, since it seemed that one standard key shape would fit all these round box locks.

As ever, the result surprised me, as there was a guy offering to sell newly made money box keys for these round boxes from Yorkshire Penny Bank and Midland Bank…. at an auction starting price of £5 (+£1.50 P&P). He was not giving much away, but the picture of his key showed it to be much the same as what I was planning.

It also proved that there is always another engineer/enthusiast/nutter also thinking along the same lines as yourself, but that he had much more common sense than you, as he saw a business opportunity! Just to prove it, his picture shows the key, with a cleverly placed key ring, that hides the critical part of the key pattern…. see below!

The auction for this particular key ends in 24 hours, so we will see how much it costs me! Needless to say, this will not be published until after the auction ends……

The result so far…

The key sold for £20+ . OK so I need to work out the dimensions…..

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