Banking on piggies

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This little collector went to an antiques show; this little collector stayed home; this little collector had lots of money; this little collector had none.

And this little collector got a good deal on a piggy bank and cried “yea, yea, yea” all the way home.


SALEM, Ohio – These days, piggy banks aren’t just for children. And they’re not just for saving money.

Adults are putting money into them in more ways than one. Not only are they slipping their pennies into a slit on the piggy’s back, but they’re also putting even more money into collecting these treasurers.

Pygg vs. pig. Piggy banks were not an invention. Instead they were likely a matter of language evolution.

Although the history of piggy banks is uncertain, the consensus is that in the Middle Ages, people used an orange clay to make utilitarian ware that held money. This clay was called “pygg” and eventually the jars were called pygg jars.

This name stuck after pygg clay was no longer used to make the jars.

“[Sometime] during the 18th century, the word was eventually pronounced the same as ‘pig.’ By then the term ‘bank’ had come into being, and the term ‘pig bank’ was coined,” said collector Michelle Moore of Little Rock, Ark.

“It probably did not take long for clever potters to start making pig banks in the shape of pigs.

“About the late 1800s is when some of the first pig-shaped pig banks started appearing,” Moore said.

Breaking the bank. Many of the older banks had one thing in common – once the coins were deposited, they didn’t come out unless the bank was broken.

These early banks did not have holes in the bottom to retrieve the money.

Another collector, Gert Deelman, suggests that “breaking the bank” to retrieve the pennies was a metaphor for real pigs.

Deelman said the following at www.geocities.com/Paris/9896/history.htm:

“In earlier times in the Western society, a pig was the poor man’s money box. A pigling, bought on the market in spring, could live from the leftovers of the household and was ready for the butcher just before the winter.

“Metaphorically speaking is this also the life cycle of a piggy bank: The leftovers of your money are for the piggy bank; when the capital has grown, one can harvest it by smashing the piggy bank to pieces.”

Collectible choices. Some of the collectible American pottery companies that made piggy banks are American Bisque, McCoy, Hull Pottery, Shawnee, Royal Copely, Camark, Rio Hondo and Kay Finch, collector Moore said.

Some of the older Japanese collectible banks were made or distributed by Kreiss, Norcrest and Norleans.

Wade and Wemyss made collectible banks in England.

Ohio pottery. Most pottery manufacturers made at least one type of piggy bank and Ohio potters are not an exception.

Hull Pottery was located in Crooksville, Ohio, and at one time, it was one of the largest manufacturers of stoneware specialties.

It was formed in 1905 by A.E. Hull and operated until 1985.

Hull’s pig banks were equally as popular as its pottery and dinnerware lines. They are collected by both Hull Pottery collectors and bank collectors.

Another popular Ohio pottery company was Brush McCoy Pottery Company, which was formed in 1911 when George Brush joined J.W. McCoy Pottery.

The company was located primarily in Zanesville, Ohio, but also had other facilities in the surrounding area.

Brush McCoy is a widely collectible pottery and frequently tops the list as one of the most collectible potteries in the United States.

The company manufactured piggy banks in the early years of the operation, between 1912 and 1925.

Rio Hondo in El Monte, Calif., was another piggy bank manufacturer. Although not much is known about the pottery company due to its short-lived business, the company crafted small novelties. Most were animal figurines.

These figurines and banks are recognized for their creamy glaze that has developed a light crazing over time. They usually have a handpainted dot floral motif in brown, pink and blue.

Bank material. Although many piggy banks were made of pottery, some banks are made of metal, glass and plastic. Although they are harder to find, other banks are made of wood, paper and cloth.

Savings accounts. Some banks gave piggy banks to customers to encourage savings account growth.

The most famous of these “bank banks” was given out by National Westminster Bank. The piggy banks became known as NatWest Pigs and were distributed in the 1980s.

These highly collectible banks were given to children who had certain balances in their savings accounts.

Wade made most of the NatWest Pigs.

Although George Wade and Sons began making pottery in the early 1800s, several Wade family pottery companies were in existence until they merged into Wade Ceramics Limited in 1989.

Money, money. Collecting piggy banks does not have to be an expensive hobby.

“You can find piggy banks anywhere from 50 cents at a garage sale to well over $1,000, perhaps even more at an auction,” Moore said. “But, I can say that collecting piggy banks does not have to break your bank account if you don’t want it to because there are many interesting banks out there for under $10.”

On the upper end of the money spectrum is the American Bisque Betty and Floyd wall-hanging bank. Moore said the last time she saw one of these sold, it went for more than $1,000.

Another rare bank is the Camark Pottery piggy bank bookend, which usually sells for $150-$300.

The Hull Corky pig bank is another rare find and usually is gray or tan. It sells for more than $600.

Good luck. In addition to being a source of saving money, some European countries give piggy banks as gifts. The belief is that they will bring good fortune.

(You can contact Kristy Hebert at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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