Piggy Bank


Roman vase-shaped money box (2nd-3rd century AD). Ancient money boxes appear in the archaeological record in a wide variety of shapes.

In Middle English, “pygg” referred to a type of clay used for making various household objects such as jars. People often saved money in kitchen pots and jars made of pygg, called “pygg jars”. By the 18th century, the spelling of “pygg” had changed and the term “pygg jar” had evolved to “pig bank.”

Once the meaning had transferred from the substance to the shape, piggy banks began to be made from other substances, including glass, plaster, and plastic.

The oldest find of a money box dates from 2nd century BC Greek colony Priene, Asia Minor, and features the shape of a little Greek temple with a slit in the pediment. Money boxes of various forms were also excavated in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and appear quite frequently on late ancient provincial sites, particularly in Roman Britain and along the Rhine.

Majapahit terracotta piggy bank, 14-15 century A.D. Trowulan, East Java. (Collection of National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta)

In a curious case of parallel evolution, the Indonesian term celengan (a celeng is a wild boar, with the “an” affix used to denote a likeness) was also used in the context of domestic banks. The etymology of the word is obscure, but evident in a Majapahit piggy bank from the 15 century A.D.[citation needed]


The general use of piggy banks is to store loose change in a quaint, decorative manner. Modern piggy banks are not limited to the likeness of pigs, and may come in a range of animal shapes, sizes and colours. Some collect piggy banks as a hobby.[citation needed]

Famous piggy banks

Rachel, the official mascot of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, is a bronze cast piggy bank that weighs nearly 600 pounds, located at the corner of Pike Place under the “Public Market Center” sign.

Rachel was designed by local artist Georgia Gerber and modeled after a pig (also named Rachel) that lived on Whidbey Island and was the 1977 Island County prize-winner. Rachel receives roughly $ 9,000USD annually in just about every type of world currency, which is collected by the Market Foundation to fund the Market’s social services.[citation needed]

The 1995 Disney/Pixar movie Toy Story features a character named Hamm, a wise cracking piggy bank.


^ “DigiBank Piggy and Panda Banks Learn to Count”. Gizmodo. http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/digibank-piggy-and-panda-banks-learn-to-count-239597.php. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 

^ a b Hurschmann, Rolf (Hamburg): “Money boxes”, Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider (ed.): New Pauly, Brill, 2009

^ “What’s the origin of the piggy bank?”. The Straight Dope. http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mpiggy.html. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Piggy bank

What’s the origin of the piggy bank? (from The Straight Dope)

The Piggy Bank page Photographs and Facts about Piggy Banks

Piggy Bank Project Hundreds of Piggy Characters and customised ceramic Piggy Banks

Categories: Containers | Banks | Coins | Traditional toysHidden categories: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements from July 2009 | Articles with unsourced statements from January 2010 | Articles with unsourced statements from June 2009