Cute toy or racist relic? Shoppers divided on money box for sale in Wellington
The ears wriggle and the eyes roll in the deep-set black face as he swallows the coin – "Greedy n..... boys" are for sale in central Wellington.
The Chinese-made money boxes are not now marketed using the n-word, but they are almost exact replicas of money boxes – now sold as antiques – that had the offensive term cast in their metal bodies.
The modern versions are for sale for $30 from Just Men in Dukes Arcade, central Wellington.
Tasos Paivagioteus, from Just Men, said he had heard them referred to by numerous names, but had received no negative feedback about the "cute little guy" in the few years he had sold them.
"People remember in the old days, say 'My father used to have it', or, 'My grandfather used to have it'.
"We have never had a negative comment."
But out on the streets of Wellington, people were less tolerant.
"It's kind of inappropriate in this day in age," Anna Loughnan said.
"Antiques are fine, because it is cultural heritage, but I'm not into the revival of old things like golliwogs and things like that. Leave them in the past."
Wellington antique dealer Peter Wedde, who has an 1880s American version, said the n-term would have been used "all the time" in the United States during the 19th century.
"They fit into quite a long tradition of 19th-century American money boxes."
There was an equivalent "negress" one also made.
In about the 1950s, a Christchurch company started making New Zealand equivalents, though these were of lesser quality and smaller than the American originals.
One found online from 1882 was called the "jolly n..... bank" and had the name cast into it, while one on YouTube described the "greedy n..... boy" money bank as a " racist toy made in New Zealand in 1930s".
In 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld about a Trade Me listing for an antique "awesome Early NZ Greedy N..... Boy Money Box" saying the term was "offensive, racist pejorative".
The Human Rights Commission, where Dame Susan Devoy is race relations commissioner, did not return calls on Friday.
* Children's book The Story of Little Black Sambo, by Scottish author Helen Bannerman, was first published in 1899. Two copies available at Wellington Library, which describes the book as: "A little boy loses his fine new clothes to the tigers, but while they dispute who is the grandest tiger in the jungle he takes his fine clothes back again."
* in 2015 a Hamilton Pak 'n Save store pulled "Happy golly" - modern versions of Golliwog dolls - from its shelves. Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said: "Golliwogs aren't harmless toys, they were born out of racism and represent an era that is best left in the past.".
* The 1962 Maori Community Development Act has been described as "New Zealand's most racist law" and allows Maori wardens to order bars to stop serving "drunk and quarrelsome" Maori. It also makes it illegal to serve alcohol at a gathering of Maori without a permit, while the wardens can take the car keys of any Maori who "by reason of physical or mental condition...[is] incapable of having and exercising proper control". While there has been talk of repealing the law, it remains on the books.