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The Evolution of the Piggy Bank

Updated on November 3, 2008

Majapahit terracotta piggy bank, 14-15 century A.D.

Trowulan, East Java(Collection of National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta)
Trowulan, East Java(Collection of National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta)

Traditional Piggy Bank

Mechanical Bank


When I saw this week's hub mob topic, I was absolutely giddy with delight. If there is one thing I have a lot to say about, it's saving money. I'm a Cancerian accountant...who married a Scotsman. Between the two of us we know how to hoard money, count money and be rather tight-fisted. Are we disgustingly rich due to our pecuniary ways? Hell, husband is only one quarter Scotsman with an equal portion of Irish blood. That means if any money is going to be spent, chances are it will be on beer.

Not having a conflict of interest in either my career choice or astrological sign, I still managed to hoard some money by confiscating the change from the washing machine. It's amazing how much change can accumulate in your car's change holder after a month of fast food runs through the drive-thru. It adds up.

Plus, all of the containers that my husband had been hoarding as a bachelor, now became half my property I added another four or five plastic jugs and jars of assorted coins, nuts, bolts, safety pins, tacks (ouch) and whatever detritus happened to be in his pockets at the time and was subsequently discarded into the nearest catch-all container at hand. The accountant in me was appalled at this lack of respect toward loose change. It must be organized!

And that's pretty much how my husband found me sitting in the middle of a lake of coins, gamely trying to sort every penny, nickel, dime and quarter and segregate them forever. Although my beloved scoffed at me, the call of counting was too strong of a lure to resist...due to his ethnic roots, you understand. With a beer in his hand, he squatted on a not too distant shore and began counting with me. It turned out to be a lot of fun. By the time we were done, impressed with how much we had already saved without knowing it, our hands were black. I had never realized how dirty money actually is until that moment.

While I own a couple of piggy banks, I don't use them for savings purposes. They're simply decorative in nature. Instead, I use plastic coffee cans or glass jars...whatever is available. In fact, I don't think I've ever used a traditional piggy bank for its intended purpose. When I was younger, I always wanted one of those mechanical banks. My cousin had two of them and I was always begging him to put in just one more penny. My favorite was the one that had a trap door and when you pressed a lever, this creepy hand skittered out until it had found the coin, directly in its path. The mechanism would then bring the hand back to the pit it had come from, dragging the coin as it retreated and with a metallic clatter, deposit it into the base of the bank.

While modern "piggy" banks occasionally mimic their old-fashioned counterparts, with the addition of technology they have about as much in common with them as the stone wheel does with the steel belted radial tire. Common ancestors, maybe...but that's it. I've taken the liberty to compile a few choices that exist today. Perhaps you'll be able to find one that inspires you to save, save, save!

Money Monster

Face Bank

The "Feed Me" Banks

As with the mechanical banks of earlier days, some of us still wish to be amused into saving money. These two choices, "The Face Bank" and the "Money Monster" will appeal to that childish need to be entertained. It will also appeal to most animal lovers as they will be unable to resist feeding the helpless mutant creatures.

Personally, "The Face" one is a bit on the creepy side and I think it would be markedly improved if they added a belching sound to indicate that the coin has been "consumed."

Bomb Bank

The "Save or Take the Money - What do I Care?" Banks

Okay...isn't it's a bomb.. Of all the banks I looked at, the concept behind this one has to be the most retarded I have ever come across. If you don't save on a consistent basis, it blows up. If you try to force it into giving you your money, it blows up. When it blows up, it disgorges the entire contents of its little bomb belly and spews coins all over the place. See the problem here? It discourages you to do anything BUT save money. The whole purpose of the thing would be to see it blow up...maybe once or twice...and then, I would think it would be rather annoying to have this nagging bank blow up just because you didn't drop a dime in now and then. I don't know about you, but I have a lot of more important things to do than to consistently pick up after a combustible coin container.

Bank of Life

The "Rich Man/Poor Man" Bank

When I first saw the name for this product, The Bank of Life, manufactured by the same folks that brought you the Tamagotchi virtual pet, I thought yeah, now you are talking. Of course, I'd just come back from looking at the bomb bank so I think that might have influenced my thought process. I figured that if the bank didn't think you were saving enough coin, somebody was going to die. Alas, that is not the motivation this small device inspires.

The goal is to save a certain amount of money. In the beginning, your wealth in the bank is reflected by the poverty of the little man on the screen, which is...You! He lives in a hovel and dresses shabbily. However, despair not, for as you accumulate more coins you may pimp out your little man and have him living a life of luxury in no time at all.

Brit ATM

Japanese ATM

The "Reality...Sort of" Bank

Remember playing house as you were growing up. Fisher Price was a champ at providing us with little shopping carts, vacuum cleaners, pots, pans and baby dolls. I believe they even came out with a preschool version of these two devices although it did not have quite the same level of sophistication.

There were many different models out there to choose from, however I found this infomercial and commercial give you a very good idea of how they operate. I rather liked the Japanese version, but only because the commercial was far cooler.

How long, do you think before they come up with a debit card for kiddies that can be used at the mall based upon the savings in their piggy banks? In all fairness though, it's not a bad teaching tool since it is, in my opinion, the one that closest approximates reality.

Alarm Bank

The "Hush Money" Bank

This one wouldn't last long on my bedside table. In college I once destroyed an alarm clock by yanking it out of the wall, screaming, "Duck! It's a BOMB!" before I launched it across the room, dashing it into a million pieces against the cinder block wall. In my defense, it was a very realistic dream and I eventually ended up saving the entire world...

The idea is to shut the alarm off by placating this ugly little box with a coin dropped into the appropriate slot. I don't think it would ever be something I would consider remotely entertaining that early in the morning. The video I've attached will pretty much give you an idea why...

The "Updated, Modern Piggy for the Techno Generation" Bank

While it might be fun to have a trendy little gadget that handles your spare change, sometimes it is the tried and true that we all fall back upon. Here, we have a modern pig...a plastic pig rather than the more traditional ceramic pig. Instead of one coin slot, however, this pig has four of them. There is one for savings, another for spending and one for donations. The final one though is rather odd, or so I thought. But then I thought of this kid...and it all made sense!

E-Trade Baby


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