Piggy banks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 January, 2010, 12:00am

Pig-shaped bank

Everybody knows what a piggy bank is. It is the little pig you save your coins in. For a long time they have been used by children to learn the importance of saving money. But why do they come in the shape of a pig? What do pigs have to do with saving money?

Actually, probably nothing at all. The shape and the name of the piggy bank is an accident. In old times in Europe people did not cook with metal pots. Almost everything they stored things in and cooked with was made of clay. The most common clay used for pots was called 'pygg'. But by the 18th century the spelling of pygg in English had changed to pig. Before long, 'pig banks' were being made in the shape of a pig and everybody forgot why.

Before they were pigs

Before pygg clay pots became piggy banks, people had been saving coins in jars for many centuries. One has been found in a colony of ancient Greece. It is around 2,200 years old and is in the shape of a small Greek temple. Strangely, a 500-year-old piggy bank has been found in Indonesia. It is actually shaped like a pig. Nobody is sure why.

The Romans used piggy banks, too. They usually looked like small clay pots. They had a hole in the top. To get the money out, the pot had to be broken. Until fairly recently, almost all piggy banks were like this. The idea is, if you have to break the piggy bank to get your money out, you will think twice. Children can learn about saving, because they only break their bank if they really need to use the money.

In China - no change

Piggy banks are a great way to learn about saving, but if too many people use them, it can create problems. Every country needs to have enough small change so that if someone wants to buy something with, say, a HK$500 or HK$1,000 note, they can get change.

On the mainland, so many children use piggy banks, there is often not enough change to go around. There are people on the mainland whose job is to go around looking for change. They can sell the change to people who need it - shopkeepers and people in markets. But often, by the end of the year, change is very hard to get. Many shopkeepers will not accept 100 yuan notes.

now do this

1 The piggy bank got its name from ...

a. tin pots

b. a kind of clay used to make pots

c. the idea that pigs are lucky

2 The oldest piggy banks have been found in ...

a. an ancient Greek colony

b. Indonesia

c. ancient Rome

3 On the mainland, too many piggy banks are creating ...

a. pollution in landfills

b. a shortage of change

c. too many 100 yuan notes