I went to the Suwannee County Christmas on the Square event yesterday, and among the locally made Christmas gifts, knick-knacks, furniture, luxury sheets (two competing booths, by the way) there was a covered tent selling antiques.
Among the rusted horseshoes and dented wind vanes I spotted a set of old rusted banks, each weighing a few pounds and standing a little over 10 inches tall. One was shaped like the iconic “Mammy” or “Aunt Jemima” figure, the other like an “Uncle Mose” figure.
When I asked the seller where he got these and what they were, he answered “They’re banks. And I pick them up wherever, mostly in the South or on eBay, people don’t really know how much they’re worth.”
This really got me thinking: how much are these worth, and to whom? Who originally made these, and who was the intended purchaser? And what does it mean for me to now own them? If I put these out on my kitchen counter, what would people say? According to this article on identifying real versus fake “Mammy” banks, I’m fairly confident this is not a recent reproduction – but I do not know how old it is. Could be from the 1980s, could be from the 1880s, I’m really not sure. I might check out the book “Mammy and Uncle Mose: Black Collectibles and American Stereotyping”, and I read this academic article on “Stereotypes of History: Reconstructing Truth and the Black Mammy”.
That’s the purpose of this post: to see what people would say, what you would say these objects mean now, and what they meant when they were produced? I found some initial responses on the Straight Dope message board, but I’m curious what our readers think.