World Savings Day and the Piggy Bank. History and curiosity
Tuesday 31 October 2023
Our UniCredit Historical Archives colleagues take us to discover World Savings Day, the Piggy Bank and the story behind 31 October, the date when several countries across the world celebrate and highlight the importance of financial independence and savings. Did you know the day was invented by an Italian Professor back in 1924?
During the 1st International Savings Congress (World Society of Savings Banks) in Milan, held on 31st October 1924, Italian Professor Filippo Ravizza declared this day the "International Saving Day" on the last day of the congress.
World Savings Day, or World Thrift Day as it was also called, was in fact established to inform people all around the world about the idea of saving their money in a bank rather than keeping it under their mattress.
The informal symbol chosen to represent World Savings Day was the piggy bank.
Let’s look back at why this came about. The piggy bank has an ancient history: as early as the 2nd century BC., Greek temple shaped models with a hole on the top where money was inserted were in use in Asia Minor.
In Roman times the piggy bank had a rounded shape, while from the Middle Ages mainly metal caskets closed by a padlock have been preserved. Terracotta and other ceramics remained the most widespread materials for many centuries and zoomorphic forms became increasingly common like the pig.
The origin of the pig is uncertain. In medieval English, the word "pygg" referred to a type of clay used to make household items such as vases. In the 17th century, with the evolution of spelling forms, the term "jar pygg" became "pygg bank", favoring the production of pig-shaped piggy banks by assonance. An alternative theory sees the pig as a symbol of luck and abundance, a resource to be used as a bargaining chip in case of economic need and, therefore, the most suitable animal for guarding one's wealth.
The use of the piggy bank in Italy was also favored by the birth of World Savings Day in Milan and its founder Professor Filippo Ravizza.
From the 1920s to the post-war period, savings banks and others gave piggy banks to primary school students across Italy.
The steel box, burnished for a boy, nickel-plated for a girl, was reminiscent in its shape of a lady's handbag or a military pocketbook.
Children were also given a bearer passbook, but not the key to open the piggy bank which was kept in the bank.
At the beginning of the year, it was tradition to go to the counter where an employee opened the box, and the small savers were surprised to see their efforts counted and the amounts paid with the interest into the booklet.
UniCredit's historical archive preserves a notable collection of piggy banks, around a hundred, from all over the world, which mainly core was inherited from Cassa di Risparmio di Verona, that used them for different exhibitions starting in 1977. The UniCredit historical archive has expanded this collection with a section dedicated to piggy banks produced by the banks and savings banks that joined the Group. A significant selection of these particular piggy banks is on display in the archive study room at the Sant'Elia headquarters in Milan.
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