About piggy banks

Money boxes in this shape are especially popular among children, while the piggy bank has in general become the symbol of saving. Today, money boxes in this shape are produced from different materials (like plastic), but for us, ceramic money boxes (made of clay or china) are probably the most common; after filling them up they need to be smashed.

Overall, money boxes have been produced in Western Europe for a long time. The oldest money box was discovered by archaeologists in Greece and comes from the 2nd c. BCE. Its shape is reminiscent of a Greek temple. Money boxes in all sorts of different shapes have also been found from Ancient Greek and Roman times. The piggy bank appeared much later.

The origin of the term ‘piggy bank’ is not as obvious as it might seem. The term originated approximately 600 years ago, when people also saved money. Money was usually kept safe in pots or simple clay containers. Since people did not have precious materials for the production of containers, they were produced from cheap clay painted in an orange colour that at that time was called ‘piggy’ (it is not clear how much the term is directly related to pigs). Thus, the name ‘piggy jar’ (clay container) caught on. From the 18th c. the name was simplified into ‘pig jar’ and later renamed as a ‘pig bank’. Eventually money boxes were produced from other materials (glass, plaster, etc.) and they changed in shape according to their name, becoming most reminiscent of a pig. This shape has survived to the present day.

Money boxes shaped like a pig were known in distant lands as well and were produced there even earlier than in Europe. Dozens of money boxes shaped like a wild pig, produced from terracotta (a type of pottery), have been found in the Java Archipelago. Such money boxes were produced in the 14th c. in Indonesia, which was then called the Majapahit Kingdom. Few of them have survived to this day because they used to be smashed. Indonesians even have the term ‘cèlèngan’, literally meaning ‘similarity to a boar’, which is used today as the term to define savings and money boxes.