With the advent of online banking and multi-thousand-dollar at-home safes, sometimes it’s hard to remember where humans stashed their valuables in humbler times. Believe it or not, the basic piggy bank used to be far more than just a childhood relic. The concept of stashing cash in hollowed objects has been around for nearly six centuries – before banks themselves were even dreamt up.
“Before the creation of modern-style banking institutions, people commonly stored their money at home — not under the mattress (or hay rack), but in common kitchen jars. During The Middle Ages, metal was expensive and seldom used for household wares. Instead, dishes and pots were made of an economical orange-coloured clay called pygg. Whenever folks could save an extra coin or two, they dropped it into one of their clay jars — a pygg pot.”
Over time, “pygg” evolved with the English alphabet, turning into “pigge” and, finally, “pig.” That explains why potters in 19th century England started making pig-shaped vessels when people asked for pygg banks. It might have been accidental, but the model’s been with us ever since.
The photo above is an example of a Majapahit piggy bank, which hit the scene sometime between the 13th and 15th century.