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the orange clay, "pygg" from which it was originally
made.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.