The piggy bank is the traditional name for a container that is used to accumulate or store coin and paper money, usually by children. They are typically constructed out of ceramic material or porcelain and are used as devices to educate children to the importance of saving money or being thrifty. Originally, the first piggy banks had to be broken in order to take the money out of them, but the modern day versions usually have a plugged hole to empty it, so no breakage is necessary.
Piggy banks today come in all styles and types. There are personalized piggy banks, John Deere piggy banks, sports oriented piggy banks and many more. In this case, they are more like toys than actual savings containers. Summit Products even manufactures an ATM piggy bank. Unlike the original piggy bank which looked like the animal it was named after, modern-day versions do not necessarily follow the same path.
Why a Pig?
But why did this savings device start out as a pig? One of the more common theories about this is that it was a common practice to purchase a piglet, feed it table scraps to fatten it up, and then slaughter it for food. Centuries ago, metal was extremely costly, so an affordable, orange-colored clay called pygg was used to make jars and pots. They were commonly called "pygg jars" and were often used to hold coins. It was eventually called a pig bank and later on, a piggy bank.
Supposedly the evolution of the piggy bank as described above transpired about 300 years ago in the U.K. Clay crafters were hired or contracted to for the purpose of making pygg banks, but misunderstood what was intended and crafted them into the shape of a pig. This is the most common story, but it is not necessarily held as the truth. The oldest piggy bank in recorded history dates back 1,500 years to ancient Indonesia and was shaped like a pig. If this in fact is the truth, then it predates the "pygg story" by nearly 1,200 years.
It could be speculated that there was a relationship between the pig and saving money but this is not confirmable either. One way or the other, it seems to have influenced Western culture where what we know as the piggy bank evolved from the pygg bank only 300 years prior. Piggy banks have also attained value in some areas as collectible items, and have been manufactured out of various materials such as beads, ceramics, metal and plastic.
Incidentally, the expression "break the bank" has nothing to do with the history or the story of the piggy bank.