Thank Medieval England for Modern Day Piggy Banks

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Thank Medieval England for Modern Day Piggy Banks


The piggy banks of today may be the best way we can teach our children to save money for themselves or for that toy they’ve always wanted, but before the beloved pig became the icon for thriftiness, its counterpart in the past was a modest, orange clay pot. 

Before it was called the “piggy bank,” it was called the “pygg” and was invented in the middle ages as a way for people back then to store money. 

According to The Vintage News, a popular history site that contains interesting stories from the past, the use of orange-colored “pygg” clay was preferred by many because other materials at the time were expensive. But the ancient Europeans weren’t the only ones who stored their money with makeshift materials. 


Photo Credit: The Vintage News


Relics from Greece dating back to the second century showed that Greeks would store their money in a box in “the shape of a miniature Greek temple with a slit in the pediment.” In Rome, the “pygg bank” was called a money box, and evidence of excavated sites in Pompeii, Roman Britain, and Rhine supported these findings. 

Furthermore, The Financial Brand, a digital publication focused on marketing and strategy issues affecting retail banks and credit unions, says that the use of piggy banks stretches as far back as 600 years, and that even as the word “pygg” melted to mean “pig” bank in the following years, people of the middle ages would put these banks in common kitchen jars. 


A 1970s Piggy Bank / Photo Credit: HASPA (via The Vintage News)


The Financial Brand article reads: 

“During the Middle Ages, metal was expensive and seldom used for household wares. Instead, dishes and pots were made of an economical orange-colored clay called “pygg.” Whenever folks could save an extra coin or two, they dropped it into one of their clay jars -- a pygg pot.”


Photo Credit: National Museum of Indonesia (via The Vintage News)


Sadly, most of these pots cannot be shown in museum exhibits because the earlier models had no holes in the bottom. The only fortunate piggy bank to have been pieced together was the Majapahit piggy bank which now resides in the National Museum of Indonesia, which people used in 14th century Java to store terracotta money.




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