Title:
Animal or character coin bank
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toy bank in the shape of an animal, doll, or character with an accompanying sound that correlates to the animal, doll, or character when a coin is deposited into the bank is provided according to the invention. The sound is provided by an integrated circuit inside a sound module contained inside the bank that transmits the prerecorded sound bite to a speaker. The sound module is automatically activated when the falling coin applies force against an associated prong that extends partially into the coin slot. Such a sound provides a viscerally fun response to the depositing of coins into the bank, thereby further encouraging the child to save his or her money. Moreover, a clear, transparent collection chamber in the animal or character could allow the child to see the money grow in the bank. By adapting the toy bank to a school mascot or popular entertainment or newsworthy figure with a sound bite to match, the toy bank could appeal to teenagers and adults too.



Inventors:
Sayles, Shari (Eden Prairie, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/168275
Publication Date:
12/28/2006
Filing Date:
06/28/2005
Assignee:
SJ Associates, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45C1/12
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, ALYSSA MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Moss & Barnett P.A. (4800 Wells Fargo Center 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN, 55402-4129, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A toy bank for the collection of money coins deposited therein, comprising: (a) a body in the shape of an animal, doll, or character; (b) a slot opening within the surface of the body for receiving insertion of a coin; (c) a chamber located within the body for collecting coins inserted into the slot opening; (d) a tube located within the body and connected at its first end to the slot opening and at its second end to the chamber, the tube transporting a coin inserted into the slot to the chamber; and (e) a sound module interposed within the body between the slot opening and the chamber, and having means operatively connected thereto for causing the sound module to play a prerecorded sound bite correlated to the animal, doll, or character persona when mechanically activated by the coin passing from the slot opening to the chamber.

2. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the animal is a pig.

3. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the animal is a cow.

4. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the animal is a dog.

5. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the animal is a bear.

6. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the animal is a elephant.

7. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the animal is a monkey.

8. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the body constitutes a hard surface.

9. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the body constitutes a soft or plush surface.

10. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the chamber is made from a transparent or semi-transparent material and is visible from the exterior of the animal, doll, or character.

11. The toy bank according to claim 10, wherein the chamber extends beyond the surface of the body.

12. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the sound bite is an animal noise.

13. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the sound bite is a song or melody.

14. The toy bank according to claim 1, wherein the sound bite is a word phrase or speech.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to the saving of money, and more specifically to a coin bank in the shape of an animal or character containing a receptacle for receiving deposited coins which activate a pre-recorded sound bite correlated with the animal or character when inserted into the bank to encourage the saving of money, entertain, or appeal to nostalgia.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Saving money is contrary to human impulsiveness. It is much easier to spend money to buy products that a person desires, because this appeals to instant gratification—a powerful and often-times irresistible human trait. This can particularly be true for children.

Therefore, it is known within the prior art to provide coin banks in the shape of animals that may appeal to humans, children in particular. Ceramic piggy banks are one example. Silver banks in the shape of rabbits or other animals are yet another example. See also U.S. Pat. No. 4,593,817 issued to Ferrero. Such banks contain a rigid hollow body with a slot on top. The deposited coins collect within the hollow body of the animal bank until they are later removed by means of a plugged hole in the bottom, and deposited in a real bank or otherwise used.

The primary appeal of such animal banks is the natural human psychological response to deposit “spare coins” within a fun or cute bank. Done over a prolonged period of time, such occasional coin deposits can grow to a substantial sum of money. This is a particularly valuable lesson for children, since it illustrates a reward for delayed gratification in the form of saving money.

Nevertheless, for many children, animal banks with hard surfaces may be insufficiently appealing to generate a desire to save. Such animal banks may become quickly forgotten, gathering dust on the back of a dresser or closet shelf. Thus, efforts have been made to provide coin banks in the shape of familiar objects like animals or dolls, but with soft or plush exteriors that are huggable like a child's stuffed animal or doll. See U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,831,313 issued to Cichy; 4,401,259 issued to Knutson; and 6,186,852 issued to Davis. Children may want to play with such cuddly or huggable toy banks by depositing coins therein, thereby instilling a savings ethic.

Still other efforts have been made within the prior art to provide a direct visual response to the depositing and collection of coins within a toy bank. Hence, U.S. Reissue Pat. No. 24,355 issued to Whalen, for example, takes the form of a soft-sided pig with a stomach that visibly expands as the deposited coin collection grows. Meanwhile, U.S. Pat. No. 5,437,408 issued to Chestnut discloses a hard-surfaced dragon bank with a transparent cylindrical container within the main body for collecting the coins, and a serpentine pathway from the coin slot in the mouth to the collection chamber, so that child can watch the coin travel a circuitous path to the stomach. U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,650,452 issued to Martin and 4,345,400 issued to Katzman et al. provide banks in the form of ducks or birds wherein the bill or beak moves or “chews” after the coin is deposited to entertain the child.

See U.S. Design Pat. Nos. 291,938 issued to Kauffman; 354,834 and 378,786 issued to Chestnut; 426,595 issued to Jager; and 458,727 issued to Beacham for a variety of animal shapes for a toy bank. See also U.S. Published Application No. 2005/0045709 filed by Beacham et al. for a multi-compartment piggy bank that allows a child to allocate deposited coins between different financial objectives, including savings, spending, donations, and investments.

Sound is another appealing motivator to encourage children to deposit their coins into a toy bank. Thus, U.S. Pat. No. 3,002,313 issued to Hutchison discloses a chime bank containing a series of ramps for travel of the deposited coins with vertically-oriented chime at the end of each ramp, so that the coin strikes the chime to provide a tone. U.S. Pat. No. 2,650,452 issued to Martin entails a bird-shaped bank with a beak whose bottom portion is hinged to strike the body of the bird to make a percussive sound in response to the deposit of a coin. Yet, such sounds are relatively simplistic, and unlikely to appeal to a contemporary child accustomed to the visceral response of video games. Collection Etc., Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Ill. therefore now sells coin banks in the shape of traffic-lights or railroad crossing signals with electrical switches that activate flashing lights and the sound of a train passing through the station to entertain the child. However, the child needs to separately activate these signs and sounds by means of the manually-operated switch, since they are not triggered by the deposit of the coins.

Being able to include a prerecorded sound bite directly correlated to the animal or character shape of a toy bank could be very advantageous in terms of providing a viscerally fun response to the depositing of coins in the bank, thereby further encouraging the child to save his or her money. Moreover, a transparent collection chamber in the animal or character could allow the child to see the money grow in the bank. By adapting the toy bank to a school mascot or popular entertainment or newsworthy figure with a sound bite to match, the toy bank could appeal to teenagers and adults too.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A toy bank in the shape of an animal, doll, or character with an accompanying sound that correlates to the animal, doll, or character when a coin is deposited into the bank is provided according to the invention. The sound is provided by an integrated circuit inside a sound module contained inside the bank that transmits the prerecorded sound bite to a speaker. The sound module is automatically activated when the falling coin applies force against an associated prong that extends partially into the coin slot. Such a sound provides a viscerally fun response to the depositing of coins into the bank, thereby further encouraging the child to save his or her money. Moreover, a clear, transparent collection chamber in the animal or character could allow the child to see the money grow in the bank. By adapting the toy bank to a school mascot or popular entertainment or newsworthy figure with a sound bite to match, the toy bank could appeal to teenagers and adults too.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective front view of a lamb embodiment of the toy bank of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective back view of the toy bank embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the coin slot housing, throat, and stomach portions of the toy bank of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a plan view of the exterior of the sound module.

FIG. 5 is a plan view of the interior of the sound module of FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

A toy bank comprising the shape of an animal or popular character containing a transparent chamber for collecting deposited coins and a sound chip that is triggered by each deposited coin to play a prerecorded sound bite that is congruent with the animal or character is provided by the invention. Such invention may provide a fun, entertaining, and educational method for encouraging children to save their money by depositing their coins into the bank, instead of spending it on other things. Moreover, a toy bank in the form of a popular or nostalgic figure could be appealing to teenagers or adults, as well.

FIGS. 1 and 2 show the toy bank 10 of the present invention. In this case, it takes the form of a lamb with a head 12, eyes 14, ears 16, nose 17, mouth 18, main body portion 20, arms 22, and legs 24. It is important for the animal to be visually realistic enough that a child can readily identify with it. The animal can have a hard surface made from any suitable material like plastic, metal, ceramic, or wood for purposes of this invention. It can also be made from a soft material like cloth or felt. Even more ideally, it can take the form of a plush toy, so that the toy bank is similar to the other stuffed animals or dolls that a child likes to hug or cuddle and play with.

Inserted into hole 30 in the top of the animal's head is coin slot housing 32, as shown more clearly in FIG. 3. Coin slot housing 32 is a rectangular prism having two opposing side walls 34 and 36 and two opposing end walls 38 and 40. Extending from the top edge of the housing is lip 42 which surrounds the perimeter of the housing. Also fabricated into the housing is slot 44 which extends vertically through the housing. The cross-sectional length and width a and b, respectively, of this slot must be sufficient to enable a coin to pass through it, while not too large so as to allow the coin wobble or flutter while it travels downwardly through the slot, or otherwise enable a child to insert unwanted objects into the slot. For purposes of United States coins, slot 44 should be ¾″×1¾″ in dimensions, preferably ⅛″×1¼″.

Throat 48 constitutes a rectangular-shaped tube having cross-sectional dimensions that complement the cross-sectional dimensions of coin slot housing 32, so that the housing fits closely inside the throat. When properly inserted, the top wall 50 of the throat will abut the bottom surface of lip 42, and flanges 52 and 54 extending inwardly from the top wall of the throat 48 will snap fit into groove 46 around the perimeter of the coin slot housing so that the two parts are joined in a secure fashion. The throat is preferably made from flexible plastic material to prevent breakage, as the toy bank is huggable and can be held by children.

Stomach or belly 60 is shaped like an oval prism. It constitutes two halves 62 and 64. Half 62 has a series of prongs 66 which extend from circumferential end 68. Half 64 has a series of recesses 70 formed into the circumferential end 72. Prongs 66 are snap-fitted into the recesses 70 in a mated relationship to secure the two halves 62 and 64 together to form the stomach 60 that collects the deposited coins within the bank, as described more fully below.

The stomach is inserted through hole 74 in the belly of the animal 10 so that the ends protrude slightly from the front and back of the animal. While the stomach chamber may be made from any suitable material, it is preferably manufactured from a clear and transparent or semi-transparent, but unbreakable, material like acrylic plastic, so that the child can clearly see the deposited coin collection grow over time from the front or back of the animal. This may provide an important incentive for the child to keep depositing coins, and thereby receiving a visual reward for saving.

Rectangular cutaway regions 76 and 78 in stomach halves 62 and 64, respectively, cooperate to form through hole 80. The lower end of throat 48 is inserted into through hole 80 with outward flanges 82 on the throat snap fitting against sides 84 and 86 of the through hole to secure throat 48 to stomach 60. It will be appreciated that a coin inserted into slot 44 of the toy bank will travel in a downwards direction by means of gravity through the slot and throat 48, and fall into stomach 60 whereupon it remains until plug 88 is removed from discharge hole 90 in the bottom of the stomach 60 to remove the collected coins when, e.g., the child wishes to deposit the coins in a savings bank account.

For a preferred embodiment, the animal 10 sits 14 inches high with a 7-inch long throat 48 and a 5-inch round stomach 60. The bottom of the round stomach extends another 2 inches, and is supported by a 4½″ round base to balance the weight of the stomach filled with coins. The plug 88 is preferably 1½″ in diameter for U.S. coinage.

In an important feature of the invention, coin slot housing 32 contains a sound chip that is activated when the coin depresses prong 92 as it travels through the slot 44. As shown more fully in FIG. 4 and 5, housing 32 actually constitutes a first half 96 and a second half 98 containing recessed chambers 100 and 102, respectively.

Installed in chamber 100 is a “sound module” or “sound chip” constituting a one-time programmable voice integrated circuit 106 that is powered by button cell batteries 108. A sound chip is an integrated circuit (i.e., a “chip”) designed to produce sound. It may do this through digital, analog, or mixed-mode electronics. Sound chips normally contain oscillators, envelope controllers, samplers, filters, and amplifiers. Prong 92 is wired to integrated circuit 106 so that when it is depressed to a sufficient degree by a coin falling through slot 44 to complete the electrical circuit, current is sent to the sound chip to cause the prerecorded sound bite to be played through speaker 110 contained in chamber 102 of housing half 98, and connected to integrated circuit 106 by wires 112. Such sound chips are produced by a large number of manufacturers, and may be sourced from George Kaufman at www.gmkmg.com or Popwin Giftware Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong for purposes of this invention.

In an example embodiment of the invention, the integrated circuit can include read only memory or ROM that is preprogrammed by the manufacturer with the particular animal or character sound. Additionally, the integrated circuit can include an amplifier to increase the animal or character sound output. One skilled in the art will recognize the versatility of utilizing integrated circuits to modify or alter the audible outputs. Any changes or modifications to the circuitry should be considered to be within the spirit and scope of this invention.

While this invention has been illustrated by a lamb, it could just as readily take the form of any other animal that is appealing to a child, including but not limited to dogs, cats, horses, monkeys, frogs, bears, pigs, cows, ducks, horses, donkeys, elephants, lions, and tigers. The sound bite should be congruent with the animal. Therefore, a toy bank in the form of a lion might include a sound chip containing two to three prerecorded seconds of a lion roaring. Likewise, a toy bank in the form of a dog (there are a large number of possible breeds) could include barking on the sound chip.

Alternatively, the toy bank could adopt the form of a doll or a character. A wide variety of different characters are possible, including without limitation cartoon or animation characters, famous entertainers or movie stars, prominent political figures, and significant historical figures. Thus, a Disney character could sing one of their songs, Scoobie Doo could exclaim “Scoobie Doo!”, Elvis Presley could sing part of one of his popular songs, or Abraham Lincoln could recite part of the “Gettysburg Address.”

In another possible embodiment of the present invention, the toy bank could adopt the form of a college mascot who sings part of the school's fight song when a coin is deposited into the bank. Due to a healthy dose of nostalgia, such toy banks could appeal to adults who are alumni of that college. Because almost anything can be prerecorded onto the sound chip, the toy bank of the present invention could take on almost an infinite number of forms.

The toy bank of the present invention appeals to the senses visually by allowing a person to see how much money he has collected, and providing a very appealing decorative item to a child's room. The bank provides a sense of accomplishment by the child seeing how much money he has saved. The bank also appeals to the sense of touch because it is soft and huggable. The bank also appeals to the sense of sound by deposit of a coin activating a familiar and recognizable sound or tune, which corresponds to the theme of the bank. This encourages children to keep inserting coins to activate the sound again.

The above specification, figures, examples, and data provide a complete description of the structure and use of the invention. Since many embodiments of the invention can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, the invention resides in the claims hereinafter appended.