Collecting Trek: The Irony of Star Trek Banks

By Maria Jose and John Tenuto - May 26, 2014

Jake Sisko: "I'm Human, I don't have any money."
Nog: "It's not my fault that your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favor of some philosophy of self-enhancement."
Jake: "Hey, watch it. There's nothing wrong with our philosophy. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity."
Nog: "What does that mean exactly?"

While conflicting on-screen information exists about the status of, as Doctor McCoy calls it in Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered County, “real money” among the humans of future Earth in the various Star Trek films and episodes, one thing is for certain: we use money now in the real world and need a place to keep it. Fortunately, Star Trek licensees have been creating banks since the 1970s, providing fans with a plethora of choices of where to store their cash, at least until currency becomes obsolete, if we are to believe Tom Paris in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Dark Frontier,” sometime in the late 22nd century.

Some of the first Star Trek themed banks were produced in 1975 by Play Pal, Inc. These 11” high plastic banks had two versions: Kirk or Spock. However, it was during the 1990s that the heyday of Trek banks occurred when Thinkway Toys had the Trek bank license. During 1993-1994, the company produced three character banks of a Klingon, Borg, and, appropriately, a Ferengi. These were nicely detailed in plastic and served double duty as both a bank and a collectible bust.

Arguably, one of the most imaginative bank ever produced was the Star Trek: The Next Generation Electronic Console bank. Modeled after 24th century desk monitors, which like many items of Treknology, foretold the ubiquity of laptops in the real world, this bank included the voice of Brent Spiner as Data.

Either pressing the delta shaped button or placing money in the bank triggered four different light and various authentic sound effects, along with pictures of Data, William Riker, Geordi La Forge, and the U.S.S. Enterprise. Also vying for the title of “Best Bank” may be the equally cool IPI toys 1999 Borg Cube with U.S.S. Enterprise D bank. A coin would be placed on the Enterprise which would then be drawn to the Borg cube, followed by sound and voice effects. Your money, in essence, was assimilated.

In 1996, to celebrate the Star Trek: First Contact film release, there was a NASCAR Citgo/Star Trek: First Contact car driven by Michael Waltrip in the Winston Cup. A 1/24 scale bank version of the car was released.

While the Borg were represented on no less than three 1990s banks, the more practical economic conditions of 2014 appears to have inspired a different choice for Trek banks: Spock.

Diamond Select Toys will be releasing a Star Trek Original Series Spock Bust Bank in the United States. Alternatively, U.K. fans are treated to a money box tin picturing Spock with the words “Live Long and Prosper” from Half Moon Bay. Star Trek banks make it fun and easy to save pennies for those proverbial rainy days and to prosper.

 

Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio, and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at jtenuto@clcillinois.edu or mjtenuto@clcillinois.edu

 

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