In Brief

"Turning his little savingsbox about in his hand," Mr. Deasy tells Stephen, "These are handy things to have....You just buy one of these machines. You'll find them very handy." Trolley conductors of the time made change with barrel-and-lever devices that could be clipped to a belt, but they could hardly be called boxes or turned about in one's hand. Joyce is more likely referring to a device that could be carried in a pocket, such as the one shown in the first two photographs here.

Read More

In a personal communication, Nariman Tavakoli has called my attention to this vintage machine offered for sale on the Etsy website. Made in Germany in the first decades of the 20th century, the spring-loaded device features slots around the sides where coins can be inserted and ejected. It has compartments for five denominations of old U.K. currency, as Mr. Deasy's does—"See. This is for sovereigns. This is for shillings. Sixpences, halfcrowns. And here crowns"—but it holds a slightly different mix (threepences, sixpences, shillings, two-shillings, and half-crowns). The narrative describes Mr. Deasy not only turning his coin-holder about in his hand, but later tapping it "against his thumbnail," so Joyce must be thinking of some small pocket box of this sort, rather than a barrel-and-lever device like the American model shown in the third photograph.

Deasy advises Stephen to go buy a coin-sorting machine rather than scooping up his pay and dumping it all in a pants' pocket: "You'll pull it out somewhere and lose it." Stephen brushes off his moneyed employer's advice, but Deasy does have a point. In Eumaeus, when Corley accosts a ferociously inebriated Stephen in the street and pleads poverty, Stephen reaches into a pocket "thinking he might lend him anything up to a bob or so," and finds "what he surmised in the dark were pennies, erroneously however, as it turned out. / — Those are halfcrowns, man, Corley corrected him." Intending to give Corley anything up to a shilling (12 pence), and pulling out what he thinks are pennies, he instead finds himself holding half-crowns (coins worth 2 shillings 6 pence, or 30 times more than a penny) and gives Corley one of them.

JH 2021
Spring-loaded pocket coin holder, made pre-1938. Source:
Side view of the same device. Source: