The history of the piggy bank

Those who stock up are better prepared for bad times. Our ancestors already knew that and therefore developed a penchant for saving early on.

For as long as people have valued gold, silver or precious stones, they have hoarded these treasures in hiding places. Kings had treasuries. Ordinary people had a savings stash. Because at the latest with the introduction of coins as a means of payment, it suddenly became necessary to have a place where cash was kept more or less safely. Who likes to carry their entire cash around with them?

Usually the money hiding place was a money box made of clay. Such money boxes have existed since ancient times, as numerous finds have shown that were made during excavations. The oldest known money box in Eurasia dates from the 2nd century BC. It was found in Priene, in what is now Turkey, when an ancient house was uncovered. Today it is in the antiquities collection of the State Museums in Berlin and can be viewed there. The artfully designed money box made of fired clay has the shape of an ancient Greek temple. At the front, in the upper part of the gable, there is a slot for inserting coins.

When the Romans spread their coins as a means of payment throughout the Mediterranean region, this gave the money and savings economy an additional boost. Money boxes were very popular in the Roman Empire: archaeologists have found countless of them in Roman settlements. They are usually pear-shaped, made of fired clay and look more like a bulbous savings pot. Some, on the other hand, are very artistically designed, such as the Priene money box. In later times, in addition to the clay vessels, there were also metal vessels with locks and hinges. Money boxes made of wood with metal fittings are also used.

Over time, the money box slowly became the piggy bank. In Germany, pig-shaped money boxes have probably only been known since the Middle Ages, although they are said to have existed in China as early as the 13th century. The oldest find in Germany dates back to the 13th century and was found in Billeben in Thuringia. Other sources report that the lucky pig only appeared in Germany in the 17th century as a piggy bank.

Why a pig as a storage container for savings?

In the rural society of the Middle Ages, a pig stood for intelligence, fertility and high utility. Farmers who could call a pig their own were relatively wealthy. This gave them a higher social status. A stroke of luck for a medieval peasant family! So what could be more obvious than giving the vessel for storing the savings the shape of the animal, which was already associated with prosperity, happiness and security at that time?

Post-war Germany: piggy bank hits and World Savings Day

Through the centuries and numerous crises and wars up until the 20th century, the nest egg from the piggy bank gave people security. In 1924 World Savings Day was even launched and officially declared saving to be a matter of international importance. He should alert people to the importance of austerity for economies. After the currency reform of 1923, people’s trust in the value of money was severely shaken, especially in Germany, and the German banking industry also wanted to counteract these negative feelings with measures such as World Savings Day. In order to get their customers to put their sour savings into a savings account, the banks gave away piggy banks as advertising objects every year. In the savings-loving post-war Germany, since the 1950s they have often taken the form of a pig and have become a veritable cult object. There was even a song dedicated to the piggy bank, the “Hammerchen-Polka”. Chris Howland sang in it: “And then I smash my piggy bank, my piggy bank, with my little hammer. I’ll be fine with the inner workings of the little piggy bank …”.

Poor little pig! How good that today’s piggy banks usually have an opening to remove the saved coins and you no longer have to smash them with a hammer.

Money boxes are still popular with young and old. It is said that more than half of Germans have a money box at home that they regularly put money into. Today, however, the money box in the shape of a piggy bank has almost disappeared. It is pushed out by savings beetles, savings shoes, savings unicorns and savings teddies, savings balls or savings sheep, cats and elephants. There are even cheap soccer balls.

Lucky piggy bank with bronze nose.

Therefore, the “German piggy bank protection association” has made it its (not entirely serious) task to protect the piggy bank from extinction. In 2005, the satirical association claimed out of hand that the piggy bank had been invented around 1576 by the lord of the castle, Wilhelm Spieß von Büllesheim, at Schweinheim Castle near Euskirchen. That can not be proven. But because the responsible mayor had a good sense of humour, he found the idea of erecting a piggy bank monument in Euskirchen amusing and so today the sculpture of a happy, friendly pig, made of cast iron with a bronze nose, adorns the Euskirch monastery garden. Rubbing the pig’s nose is said to bring good luck. And whoever visits the little pig will see:.

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