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Fun on Friday: Bust That Piggy Bank!

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Did you have a piggy bank when you were a kid?

I did. And it almost never had anything in it.

I would drop a few coins in now and then. Every once in awhile, I even stuffed some paper money in there. But usually within a week or two, I’d be prying the bottom off that thing and pulling out those coins and paper for an important purchase. By important purchase, I mean buying candy bars or baseball cards.

My mom tried to teach me to save. Her failure is no reflection on her commitment to the task. It just didn’t take. I’ve always had what economists call a high time preference. I am more concerned about my current well-being than the future. To put it in non-economist terms, I liked stuff more than cash.

Now, my son – he’s the opposite. When he was a kid he always had money. When we’d go on vacation and hit the souvenir shop, my boy would pull out a wad of bills. My wife used to joke that he had more money than we did. If he wanted something, he’d save for it and buy it. I could never save up for anything. But I did eat a lot of candy. And I had a pretty substantial baseball card collection at one time.

I say all of this to say that I wish I was a better saver.

I got to thinking about piggy banks thanks to an interesting story I ran across the other day. Archeologists in Israel dug up what appears to be a 1,200-year-old piggy bank. Of course, it wasn’t shaped like a pig. That would just be bizarre given Middle Eastern attitudes toward that particular animal. Nevertheless, the small clay jug was stuffed full of gold coins. So, basically it was a piggy bank.

The coins date back to between 786 and 809 A.D. According to Robert Kool, a coin expert at the Israeli Antiquities Authority, “The hoard also includes coins that are rarely found in Israel. These are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia, on behalf of the Abbasid Caliphate centered in Bagdad.”

I have to follow a little bunny trail here. This is how my mind works as I write these Fun on Friday articles – I start in one direction and end up going off on a tangent. Anyway, I was just thinking: why in the heck do they call a piggy bank a piggy bank. And why is it shaped like a pig, of all things?

Well, there is a legit reason. According to an article at ScienceABC.com, ” Piggy banks are not actually named after pigs; in fact, they date back to the Middle Ages, when a type of clay – called ‘pygg’ – was used to make pots that could store money.”

So, there ya go.

The article goes on to note that people have been saving money since currency came into existence i.e. thousands of years ago.

However, unlike other household things, money (which predominantly existed as coins in ancient times), had to be kept somewhere safe and protected. This resulted in the rampant use of boxes and containers to store money (spare change). To encourage saving, new containers – with a small slit on their top, where you could only drop coins in, but not retrieve them –  eventually emerged. Therefore, once you dropped a coin through that slit into the container, it remained there until you broke the entire box to retrieve the money (akin to withdrawing money from a bank account, minus the shattering part).”

This reveals a problem with my childhood piggy bank. It had a plug on the bottom I could just pull out. Maybe if I’d been required to destroy the bank in order to get my money out, it would have facilitated saving. Then again, maybe not. I did know how to swing a hammer.

The bottom line is saving is important. It always has been. And one way to preserve your wealth is to buy gold.  I don’t advise dropping it in a piggy bank. (Although I guess it worked pretty well for the guy who owned the clay jar recently dug up in Israel. It was preserved for 12 centuries.) But we do have more secure storage options at SchiffGold.

But first things first – get some gold and have real money in the bank – whatever that bank might look like.

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

Photo by Liat Nadav-Ziv, Israel Antiquities Authority

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About The Author

Michael Maharrey is the managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and the host of the Friday Gold Wrap Podcast and It's Your Dime interview series.
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