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Preserving Pennies – Delft Money Banks

With the introduction of coin money in the Netherlands by the Romans, saving coins began. Over the centuries, skilled craftsmen from various backgrounds contributed to the creation of money banks, which eventually became integral to the diverse range of products crafted in Delft potteries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These charming ceramic money banks have an interesting history, serving not only as decorative objects but, also as practical tools for saving money. In this article, we focus on their origin, purpose, and model in order to uncover their true wealth beyond the mere coins they usually contain.

Roman influence

With the Romans’ introduction of coins, the concept of money banks also emerged in the Low Countries, as evidenced by archaeological findings.(1) Ceramic money banks primarily served as convenient storage and discreet saving solutions. While storing money at home offered accessibility, it also posed risks of theft. In times of conflict, like wars or rebellions, when the threat of looting loomed, burying money underground was a much better alternative for safeguarding significant sums rather than risking their exposure at home.(2)

Fig. 1 Earthenware Money Bank, Dutch archeological finding, Roman, circa 150-270 A.C. on loan in Collection Archeon, Alphen aan den Rijn, inv. nr. 10381

The anti-theft, or at least theft-deterring, purpose extends beyond Western cultures. In ancient China, for example, tax collectors utilized sizable ceramic jars with a single narrow slit near the top as they went about collecting taxes in their designated regions. Coins were deposited into the jar during their rounds, and upon completion, the collectors delivered the filled jars to the tax authority. A shrewd Chinese bureaucrat had deduced that employing ceramic jars would guarantee the turnover of the entire tax amount from each collector. The sole access point to the jar was the coin slit, and retrieval of the coins necessitated shattering the jar completely.(3)

The popularity of this concept is evidenced by its continuity much later during the Regency style period in England(4), where safeguarding money against theft remained common among servants. Practically every servant possessed a money bank where they stashed away any spare coins received as tips or gratuities throughout the year. In communal living environments typical for servants, ceramic money banks provided a sense of security for their savings. With few servants having access to private quarters or secure storage spaces, ceramic money banks offered a cost-effective solution to safeguard their earnings. The only means of accessing the coins was by breaking open the money bank, effectively deterring theft.(5)

Fig. 2 Money Bank, Bronze with copper inlay, Roman, A.D. 25-50, 12.2 × 13.5 cm (4 13/16 × 5 5/16 in.), Getty Museum, 72. AC.99

That it offered no guarantee is evidenced by an article in the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant on April 14, 1849, which reported that ‘on the evening of the second day of Easter, a significant theft was committed in a property on the Bloemgracht near the Baangracht in Amsterdam, during which various valuable items were stolen, including ‘a green stone piggy bank containing approximately ƒ25 worth of various coins’.(6) Events like this undoubtedly occurred earlier too.

Money banks were crafted from a range of materials, including wood and various metals. These containers featured an opening, with or without a lock, as this was the only way to access their contents. The production of metal or wooden money banks was often costlier and only available to wealthy clientele. Unsurprisingly, earthenware emerged as the predominant material for money banks.(7) One prevalent design featured a shape reminiscent of a mother’s breast, symbolizing abundance and fertility.(8) This concept dates back to ancient Greece and was introduced in the Netherlands by the Romans. Variations of this design have been found throughout Europe, with production of this model persisting even in Delft during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (fig. 1).

The models were certainly not limited to just the breast shape. Undoubtedly, the most well-known alternative shape is the pig, which eventually lent its name to the money bank itself: the piggy bank.(9) Pigs were symbols of wealth and prosperity in the past. Most importantly, pigs were fattened slowly, mirroring the gradual accumulation of savings in money banks. The term ‘piggy bank’ seems to originate from Medieval England, when people stored their coins in ceramic pots, made from an orange clay known as pygg.(10) Pygg’ was first articulated as ‘pug’, and evolved into ‘pig’ over time. Ceramic piggy banks spread all over Western Europe. Surprisingly, Delft pig-shaped money banks are exceptionally rare.(11) Models crafted in Delft are further discussed later in this article.


Fig. 3 Fragment of polychrome Money Bank, Delft, dated 1771, Collection Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede on loan, inv. BR0001 (R065)

Based on grave findings, money banks were cherished objects to bring into the afterlife and were possessed by both adults and children.(12) The necessity to break the pot to access the coins likely heightened people’s awareness of thrift. In essence, it encouraged individuals to refrain from dipping into their savings too hastily. For children, it must have been an educational journey towards thriftiness. An exceptional example of a Roman children’s coin bank that certainly holds a decorative purpose, is this figurative bronze coin bank, shaped as a young girl holding up her hand ‘begging’ for a coin (fig. 2). Although not in the least depicted as a beggar, with her elaborate copper inlaid tunic and well-dressed, curly hair.(13)

Coin banks continued to play an important role in children’s lives. Much later, during the Regency period in England, coin banks were acquired by individuals from the middle and lower classes as presents for infants and young children. Especially within the lower classes, it was customary for a parent or godparent to give a baby a money bank, into which they would place a few coins to start the child’s savings.  During birth or name day celebrations, it was common for relatives and friends to offer coins as gifts to be deposited into the child’s money bank. Typically, the responsibility of safeguarding the money bank fell to the child’s mother, who would keep it safe and present it to the child upon reaching adulthood.(14)

Eighteenth century archival sources show that, also in the Netherlands, children possessed money banks.(15) For example, the then ten-year-old Anna Spillebout from Amsterdam owned a money bank containing 90 ‘dubbeltjes’ (coins with a value of ten cents each), according to an inventory of assets made upon the death of her father in 1739.(16) It is therefore not surprising that a large number of Delft money banks have been gifted to children.(17) Similar to numerous occasional Delft ceramic gifts, many of them feature a date, initials, or a full name. For instance, a surviving fragment of a polychrome money bank bears the inscription: “Alida / Goverdina/van/Hoorn/1771 (Fig. 3). Alida was born in Delft in 1765, and this example was likely given as a sixth birthday gift. Another example is Neeltje Uijttenbroek, who was gifted a 35.8 cm high money bank on a special occasion when she was 4 years and 4 months old, according to the inscription on the double-spherical pot: ‘Neeltie ùÿtten Broek/oúd 4 ÿaren er 4 mann,’ sold at Christie’s.(18)

Fig. 4 Blue and White Money Bank, Delft, dated 1663, Ex. Aronson Collection


Early Delft money banks, dating from 1660-1680, are known to be shaped in various sizes resembling the long-used Roman breast form. This particular type continued to be used into the eighteenth century, as evidenced by dated examples.(19) Surviving examples commonly consist of one sphere with a nipple-shaped top. Perhaps the oldest dated money bank in a variation of this design is one with an unusual conical ornament build up with rings, each ring bearing a number from 10 at the foot, up till 100 on the top. The body features biblical verses combined with Chinoiserie decorations and is dated 1663 (fig. 4).(20) The regular breast type also appears as miniature in dollhouses, as evidenced by a 6 cm high Delft example in the collection of the Nederlands Openlucht Museum.(21)


Fig. 5 Polychrome Double-Sphere Money Bank, Delft circa 1685, Attributed to Jannetge Claesdr. van Straten, widow of Jacob Wemmersz. Hoppesteyn and the owner of Het Moriaenshooft (The Moor’s Head) factory from 1671 until 1686, height: 29.3 cm. (11.5 in.), ex. Aronson Collection
Fig. 6 Polychrome Double-Spherical Money Bank, Delft, circa 1725-1740, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, BK- NM-12400-230

A double-spherical money bank attributed to Jannetge Claesdr. van Straten, widow of Jacob Wemmersz. Hoppesteyn and the owner of Het Moriaenshooft (The Moor’s Head) factory from 1671 until 1686, shows a new variant of the familiar shape (fig. 5). Both spheres are pierced with a coin slot, which could be utilized for different sizes of coins.(22)

It remains unclear whether the urn-shaped top on a polychrome double-spherical money bank in the Rijksmuseum marks the initial step towards the later prevalent urn-shaped money banks (fig. 6). However, more likely is that the emergence of this style in the latter half of the eighteenth century was influenced by the Louis XVI aesthetic, which was fashionable during that era. This type co-existed alongside the traditional spherical ones, sometimes even featuring three spheres. An early eighteenth-century example of a three-spherical money bank, bearing the mark of Pieter Kocx, owner of de Grieksche A (The Greek A) from 1701 to 1722 and a three layered rectangular money bank, probably produced in Rotterdam in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century (fig. 7), alongside the existence of three-spherical flower vases in the late seventeenth century, hints at a potential earlier adoption of this style.(23)



Fig. 7 Blue and Manganese Three-Tier Money Bank, Probably Rotterdam or Amsterdam, circa 1690-1730, height 22,3 cm, (8 3/4 inch), ex. Aronson Collection

Lastly, we turn to the animal-shaped money banks. As previously discussed, the classic pig-shaped design appears to have either been produced in limited quantities or simply has not survived the passage of time. Interestingly, the scarcity of other animal forms, such as mice, cats, and dogs, suggests a modest production of animal-shaped banks in general (fig. 8). Further research is necessary to gain a deeper understanding of this aspect.

Fig. 8 Pair of Polychrome Money Banks in Dog shape, Delft, circa 1750-1800, Collection Kunstmuseum The Hague, inv. nr 1059333



Fig. 9 Blue and White two-spherical Money Bank, Delft, dated 1774, height: 30.4 cm. (11 15/16 in.), ex Aronson Collection
Fig. 10 Blue and white Double-Spherical Money Bank, Delft, circa 1720, Collection Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, on loan from Oudheidkamer ‘Riessen’, Rijssen, inv. nr. BR0001 (R010)

Delft money banks do not show significant differences from other occasional Delftware objects. The period style is implemented, such as Chinoiserie in the late seventeenth century and floral decorations, Commedia dell’Arte, landscapes, Biblical scenes, and professions in the eighteenth century. Mostly intended as gifts and custom-made, Delft painters could spend more time on their creations, and within the period style, some very specific scenes occur. A remarkable one is a blue and white double-spherical money bank from Delft, dated 1/5 1774 and inscribed on the front ‘Johanna vander Sanden’ above a longer pierced coin slot and painted with a gentleman handing a similar money bank to a lady standing behind a gate in a landscape (fig. 9). This scene could represent Johanna vander Sande being gifted this money bank.

Although it is the first known Delft example to actually depict the money bank itself within the decoration, there are some other unique examples of objects appearing in the decoration of a similar object, as described in one of our previous articles ‘Delft Trays’.

It’s likely that not all money banks were solely designed for practical use. This assumption arises not only from their exceptional quality and beauty, which may have discouraged people from breaking them to access the money inside, but also from an ambiguous functionality observed in a money bank from the collection of Rijksmuseum Twenthe, in Enschede (fig. 10). This particular money bank features a decorative, curly opening that doesn’t appear to be suitable for depositing money.

Additionally, the fact that not all money banks were made to order but rather with the same attention to detail and care, is exemplified by a large octagonal campaniform money bank in the Aronson collection (fig. 11). Bearing no initials or date, this bank seems to have been made for regular sale in the shop. It depicts a man seated on a rock or tree trunk, looking over his shoulder and pointing towards a sailing boat and castle. Over time, the owners of this money bank must have recognized its quality and beauty and perhaps safeguarded their savings in an old sock instead of their wonderful money bank, which made we can still enjoy its charm today.

Fig. 11 Large Blue and White Money Bank, Delft, circa 1760, Height: 26.6 cm. (10.5 in.), Aronson Collection D2458.



  1. For example this Roman Money bank, found at Nigrum Pullum, Zwammerdam, produced circa 150 – 270 AC:
  2. PhDr. Elena Minarovičová, ‘From the history of coin hoards and money containers’, in: BIATEC, Volume X, 5/2002, p. 35
  3. Kathryn Kane, ‘Pottery Money Banks of the Regency’, on: The Regency Redingote, March 2015 (
  4. The reign of Prince George IV (1811-1820) is known as the Regency Period. The regency style however, was introduced in the late eighteenth century already and lasted until 1837 when the Victorian era began.
  5. Kathryn Kane
  6. H. Beelen en N. van der Sijs, ‘Spaarvarken’, in: Onze Taal 4, 2017, p. 19
  7. Kathryn Kane
  8. Kathryn Kane
  9. Beelen en van der Sijs, p. 19
  10. Colleen Taylor, Irish Materialism: The Nonhuman and the making of Colonial Ireland, 1690-1830′, Oxford University Press, 2024, p. 202
  11. One miniature piggy bank, 4 cm high for example, made between 1730 and 1770, is depicted in Léon – Paul van Geenen, ‘Delfts Aardewerk, Merken en Fabrieken’, Hoorn, 2017, p. 288, ill. 26.16
  14. Kathryn Kane
  15. Source: Amsterdam City Archive
  16. Notariële archieven, archiefnummer 5075, inventarisnummer 11493, aktenummer 157054, Gemeente Amsterdam, periode: 1739 (
  17. Joseph Estié, ‘Beelden, Trompe-l’oeuil en Excentrieke objecten De Hollandse Modellenin: Lahaussois, ‘Delfts Aardewerk’, 2008, p. 201
  18. This money bank was sold at Christies in London, June 4, 2014
  19. For example this 1743 dated money bank in the collection of Rijksmuseum Twenthe:
  20. Aronson, Below the Glaze, Dated Delftware, 2023, p. 40
  21. Blue and White miniature Money Bank, Delft, circa 1740-1760, hight: 6 cm (2.4 in) Collection Nederlands Openluchtmuseum, inv. nr. NOM.38131-68
  22. Fragment of three spherical flower vase, Delft, circa 1680-1700, in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv. nr BK-1978-13
  23. Other examples of this type are depicted in Ingrid de Jager en Nora Schadee, ‘Tegels uit Rotterdam‘, Uitgeverij Aprilis, Zaltbommel, 2009, p. 156.


Aronson, Robert D. and Celine Ariaans, ‘Below the Glaze, Dated Delftware’, Amsterdam, 2023

Beelen en N. van der Sijs, ‘Spaarvarken’, in: Onze Taal 4, 2017

Estié, Joseph, ‘Beelden, Trompe-l’oeuil en Excentrieke objecten De Hollandse Modellenin: Lahaussois, ‘Delfts Aardewerk‘, 2008

Geenen, Léon-Paul van, ‘Delfts aardewerk, merken en fabrieken’, Uitgeverij PolderVondsten, Hoorn, 2017

Jager, Ingrid de en Nora Schadee, ‘Tegels uit Rotterdam‘, Uitgeverij Aprilis, Zaltbommel, 2009

Kane, Kathryn, ‘Pottery Money Banks of the Regency’, on: The Regency Redingote, March 2015 (

Minarovičová, PhDr. Elena, ‘From the history of coin hoards and money containers’, in: BIATEC, Volume X, 5/2002

Taylor, Colleen, ‘Irish Materialism: The Nonhuman and the making of Colonial Ireland, 1690-1830′, Oxford University Press, 2024



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