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'Racist' find at Sydney bar sparks heated debate: 'Can't erase the past'

An unlikely item on display at a Sydney bar has prompted a fiery debate after a customer shared the questionable and "racist" find online.

Bar staff at Balmain's Cantina Bar allegedly told the customer they "couldn't remove it" despite her request, "because the owner loves it".

The item in question is a vintage "Jolly" mechanical money bank with the original dating back to the late 19th century. Since then, it's been replicated and sold globally and remains a popular collector's item. The issue, it seems, is the wording on the back which reads, "Jolly n***er bank". The "Jolly" bank is part of early black Americana memorabilia, but many argue the cast iron bank is "racist".

Jolly money box in Cantina Bar, Sydney.
The woman hit out at Cantina Bar in Sydney after finding this Jolly money box on display. Source: TikTok/Fkmgmt

The TikTok user, whose real name is unknown, shared a video on Monday which shows her questioning bar staff about the item. It's since racked up more than 1.7 million views.

"Do you think this should be left out if it has the N word on it?" she's heard asking the worker, but the worker's response is unclear. "The bar staff are lovely but they couldn’t remove it because the owner loves it and doesn’t want them to touch it," she wrote in the caption, calling for it to be removed. In a second video, she labelled it a "racist money box".

Questionable item divides: 'Part of history'

Comments rolled in from people sharing their thoughts on the matter — although they proved divided. Some agreed with the woman and said they're "glad" she's "calling it out". "We need to cancel that pub," one exclaimed.

But while sometimes dubbed "offensive", black memorabilia represents an important part of American history so many claimed there is "no issue" with the money box. "It's part of history," one wrote in the comments. "I don’t see a problem with that at all," another said.

Some pointed out the current value of this money box, saying it's a "genuine collector's item". In fact, dozens said they own a few themselves and are looking to find more to add to their collection of vintage pieces. Others said we "can't erase the past" which this Jolly item represents. And while some agree, many suggested the vintage piece "belongs in a museum" and "not in a bar".

Black Jolly money box in Moss Vale antique shop in Sydney.
This money box was on display in 2017 in an antique shop in Moss Vale, Sydney. Source: Supplied

Hitting back at critics in a follow-up clip, which has now been deleted, the poster shot down claims her request is "cancel culture". "We’re just asking for it to be removed from display," she wrote."Yes it’s part of history, a very racist history which should not be proudly on show to your customers."

Antique stores have been known to sell similar items. A photo shared with Yahoo News Australia shows a similar money box on display in Mona Vale, Sydney in 2017. It was selling for $40 and was labelled "n***er money box".

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