Tudor Pig Bank
Tudor pig bank

Piggy Bank History

The true history of the Piggy Bank is still somewhat uncertain but there appears to be a consensus that it derives its name from the orange clay, "pygg" from which it was originally made. In the Middle Ages people used to store items such as salt in wide necked jars which were made from a clay called "pygg". The so called "pig" jar retained its name long after potters stopped using "pygg" clay to produce pottery.

Money also used to be kept in the jars and in England, by the turn of the eighteen century, the jars had acquired the name of "pig banks", from where followed the name "piggy bank." These piggy banks were ceramic and had no hole in the bottom, so the pig had to be broken to get the money out.

Another theory is that the piggy bank acquired its name because it was fed the scraps and leftovers of ones small change until it was fat enough to be smashed, and the savings retrieved.

Whilst in Western Europe these first piggy banks are thought to originate between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries as a replacement for the clay jars, a somewhat earlier piggy bank from Bali is thought to be able to be dated back some1500 years!

To this day in some European countries, notably the Netherlands and German speaking countries, it is customary to give piggy banks as gifts because the belief is still held that pigs bring luck and good fortune. At New Year so-called "Lucky Pigs" are still exchanged as gifts. Children are still given piggy banks as birthday or Christmas presents to help encourage saving.

Major Banks and Building Societies have often given piggy banks to children in an attempt to encourage saving, but the most famous ones ever given away by a bank are undoubtedly the "Nat West Pigs" of the 1980's, the majority of which were made by Wade. These are now highly collectable pieces.

There is undoubtedly a lot more to be learned about the origins of the European piggy bank and a lot of history must surely exist in the early Spanish and Italian majolica earthenware and with the potters of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and England. Maybe one day we will learn some more.




20th Century Salt Pig
Modern day salt pigs

20th Century Salt Pig

We do not own the Tudor pig bank or salt pigs but have permission to use the photographs

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