Brother Can You Spare a Dime? a Guest Post from Brenda J. Webb + a Giveaway

We have had LOTS of interest in this post, so Brenda Webb and I thought we would highlight it again today. Brenda has generously added a giveaway to the post. Comment below to be part of the giveaway of two Kindle eBooks – winner’s choice of any of Brenda’s books. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, March 28. 

One thing I love about writing Regency stories is that you learn a lot doing research. A new term I came across while I was writing Darcy and Elizabeth – A Promise Kept was money box. Like most, I had heard of a piggybank, but I had not heard the term money box. It seems both of these names were used during different periods in time, though the term money box was used most often until the late 19th century.

After reading about them, I went in search of pictures, and it quickly became evident that common money boxes of the early 1800’s were just plain ugly. Still, I decided to incorporate a money box into my latest story and share some of the pictures and information with you.

Pottery-money-box Tudor-Green-Ware
Pottery-money-box Tudor-Green-Ware

The practice of collecting coins by putting them in ceramic vessels dates back to ancient China. At some point, a clever bureaucrat must have figured out that using ceramic jars with a small slit near the top as their only

Crude yellow clay Money box 16th century
Crude yellow clay Money box 16th century

opening would ensure all taxes collected would be turned over to the tax authority. The populace dropped their taxes (coins) into the jar, and once finished, the collector had only to deliver the coin-filled jar.

By the Tudor period, the practice of ceramic boxes had spread to England where they were called money boxes or money jars. We most often think of a box as a square or rectangular container, but in its earliest meaning, a

box was a receptacle made of any material, in any shape, which held drugs, perfumes or valuables. Therefore, it was perfectly logical to call the pottery vessels in which coins were kept money boxes.

During the Regency period, a wide range of money boxes were still in use, primarily by servants and their children. They were cheaply produced, of various shapes and sizes, but typically 10-15 cm tall and round, usually glazed in brown or green, had a penny sized slot cut into them and a characteristic ‘knob’ molded on top. Nearly all servants used one to hold spare coins collected over the course of the year. By tradition, on Boxing Day, they would smash the box and use the money to enjoy themselves and buy a new box for the coming year. For that reason, these money boxes were also known as Christmas boxes and rattling boxes.

16th or 17th Century Money Box
16th or 17th Century Money Box 

Boxes were also purchased by the middle and lower classes as gifts for babies and young children.

It was customary for a parent or god-parent to give a baby a money box into which they placed a few coins to start the child’s savings. Each year, on the child’s birthday or name day, family and friends might make gifts of coins, which would be dropped into the child’s money box.

1586 -1603 English Money Box
1586 -1603 Money Box 
Dutch Delft Dog circa 1700
Dutch Delft Dog circa 1700

As they got older, children might also earn a few coins from time to time which they also slipped into their money box. Typically, the money box was entrusted to the child’s mother, who would safeguard it and present it to the child when they came of age. Though it seems the upper classes seldom bothered with money boxes, it is always possible that a doting and/or eccentric relative might give a more expensive money box to a child and slip coins into it each year on that child’s birthday as well.

Because the nature of the money box dictated it had to be destroyed to access the coins, most were made quickly and sold cheaply. Making square or rectangular objects was more labor-intensive; thus, for centuries most were made in the shape of simple jars with a small finial or button on the top. By the turn of the eighteenth century, potters began making them domed-shaped with decorated surfaces. After being coated with a yellow glaze, these pineapple-shaped boxes sold well, and with the use of simple designs, colored glazes and cheap child labor, many potters developed a steady business. 

With the advent of ceramic molding, various shapes became inexpensive to create; thus, chicken shaped boxes were turned out in great numbers. Having a palette of white, yellow, red and brown glazes, they looked quite realistic. Then, as the nineteenth century began, dogs, cats, cows, sheep, elephants and lions joined the line-up. Buildings, primarily ceramic cottages and castles, were available at the beginning of the Regency period and by 1820, were increasingly more elaborate and expensive. Afterward, they were purchased more for household ornaments than for vessels in which to save money.

Very few money boxes have survived since they were smashed when their owner wanted the coins contained within, but I have included some photos of the nicer and more interesting ones below—some from other countries.

A Fabergé silver money box, Moscow, 1908-1917, the lid inset with 1 poltina silver coin of Empress Anna Ioannovna (dated 1732), the sides with trompe l'oeil casket straps, gilt interior
A Fabergé silver money box, Moscow, 1908-1917, the lid inset with 1 poltina silver coin of Empress Anna Ioannovna (dated 1732), the sides with trompe l’oeil casket straps, gilt interior


A rare English earthenware pottery stoneware saltglaze money bank.  Decorated with relief molded images of a portly gentleman with a tankard of frothing ale, windmills and dogs. The side of the box has an image of a huntsman on horse chasing a fox.
A rare English earthenware pottery stoneware saltglaze money bank. Decorated with relief molded images of a portly gentleman with a tankard of frothing ale, windmills and dogs. The side of the box has an image of a huntsman on horse chasing a fox.

Money Box Heads

Early Staffordshire Money Box Heads In the early 19th century, circa 1820, these were a tuppence a ton, widely made and given to children to encourage savings. However, as the only way to get the money out was to smash them, not many have survived.


Did you have a piggybank when you were a child and, if so, did you save for a specific purpose? I remember saving my money for our summer vacations and how thrilling it was to buy a souvenir that I selected. It would take several days before I would choose which one I simply had to have! How about you? Do you have any piggybank memories to share? I’d love to hear about them.

Information in this post came in part from:  and

51gzVysYGSL._UX250_.jpg Meet Brenda J. Webb  ~ Before my obsession with all things Jane Austen, I worked as an administrative assistant to the president of a CPA firm. No longer working in that industry, thankfully, I enjoy spending time with my family and indulging my love of storytelling.

Born on a farm in Cullman, Alabama, I proudly admit to being a country girl, and after years of living in the city, I have finally achieved my dream of moving back to the country. My husband and I now reside on a three acre mini-farm, sporting chickens and numerous rescued dogs and cats.

Always a voracious reader, I rediscovered Jane Austen books after watching the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie. Searching for everything relating to Miss Austen, I eventually stumbled into the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. After reading many of other people’s stories, I decided to try my hand at writing a tale that kept coming to mind and began posting that story on online.

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About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, Georgian England, Regency era, tradtions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Brother Can You Spare a Dime? a Guest Post from Brenda J. Webb + a Giveaway

  1. Jacey Bedford says:

    I’m British and i would still use the generic term ‘money box’ rather than ‘piggy bank’ which is specifically a quirky money box shaped like a pig.

  2. Betty Campbell Madden says:

    Brenda, I have read and enjoyed these six books, but I cannot recall the money box. In which one does it appear?

  3. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    Thanks for featuring Brenda. As you know, I love her writing. The money box was an awesome feature in “A Promise Kept,” and having these visuals is perfect. Looking forward to your next Brenda, and Regina, I’m reading your’s right now. Jen Red

  4. BeckyC says:

    Very interesting!

  5. Anji says:

    As you know, I’m a Brit like Jacey, and what she says is what I remember too. “Piggy bank” was always used to refer to pig shaped money boxes with a slit along the back for the coins. “Money boxes”, in my experience, were usually a lockable metal box with a slot, or slots, in the lid. The one I had possessed six slots, one for each denomination of the lower value coins in circulation at the time: halfpennies, pennies, threepenny bits, sixpences, shillings and florins. My Dad had custody of the keys to the boxes my sister and I had, so we couldn’t open them and splurge the money too early! He would occasionally open it and swap the smaller value coins for larger ones if their compartment got full. An pre-decimilisation penny was quite a large coin!

    Thanks for such a fascinating article Brenda. I haven’t read A Promise Kept yet, so it’d be interesting to find out what part the money box plays in that. If I’m one of the lucky winners, maybe I’ll choose that, although Passages is really tempting, too!

    • Anji says:


      • brendabigbee says:

        Anji, I would have loved to have the money box with the slots for different coins when I was a child. That would have been so cool if I didn’t have the key to raid it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I wish you well in the drawing! Hugs, Brenda

  6. Nancy Dworak says:

    I remember my first money box(piggy bank) look like a cash register. The money saved went to the bank. The money box is a good teaching tool for children to learn how to save.
    Brenda, I really enjoyed your books. I have them all.

    • brendabigbee says:

      Thank you for your kind words Nancy. I had a bank piggy bank (our term) that one of the banks gave children to inspire them to save. It was very small and once it was full you were to transfer the money to a savings account they had for children. It did teach us to save. 🙂

  7. SueBarr says:

    I have a passage in a current story I’m writing where Mrs. Bennet pilfers from her daughters. I simply called it their ‘treasure’ boxes. I may have to go in and change that, but I kind of like the idea of treasure… Anyway – thank you for this interesting post.

    • brendabigbee says:

      You could change it to money box, Sue, but you have to remember that the only way to get the money out of them was to ‘break’ it open. 🙂 I am glad you found the post interesting. There is so much to learn about the Regency period.

  8. The dog moneybox especially is adorable. A piggy bank or money box would be useful since most Japanese currency is coins I wonder if that is similar to currency in regency times.Love your books have read twist of fate at darcy and lizzy website of yours am looking forward to graduating and buying them unless of course I win passages

    • brendabigbee says:

      You make a good point Nikita about coins. And of course most children would be given small coins to save I imagine. So proud that you like my stories and I wish you much luck on the drawing.

  9. dianneshalom says:

    My money box/piggy bank was like a revolving door when I was a little girl and was shaped like an old British post box. I used to use a knife to extract any money I had but on reflection, it would probably have been wiser to have had a lock up box with only my parents having access to it with a key.
    I did however try and teach my children the benefits of saving and never disclosed my own injudicious practices!!

    • brendabigbee says:

      Oh, the old knife trick! I did that, too, Dianne. I would be rich if I had all the money I meant to save when I was a child. I tried to teach my son to save as well, but he was not into that in any fashion and still is not. Sigh.

  10. KateB says:

    How fascinating, Brenda. I assume, that the Faberge box was not supposed to be destroyed.

    About ugliness. My piggybank was a plastic, pink pig. It was ugly, but cute as well. My sister and I usually saved money to have savings, not for any specific purpose. We were not spenders.

    Do not count me for the giveaway, Brenda. I own all of your books. 🙂

    • brendabigbee says:

      I agree about the Faberge box. It would have been a shame to touch it with a hammer. I had several banks and, yes, one was a plastic pink pig. I wish I had it now. Thank you for taking time to comment here girl. Very sweet of you. Hugs.

  11. 2luv2laff says:

    Loved the article, thank you for sharing. My “piggy bank” didn’t arrive until later in my life and it was a shell casing that I acquired at a family day event when my husband was in the military. 🙂

    • brendabigbee says:

      How interesting to have a shell casing bank. I am assuming it was a ‘large’ shell casing??? Made me smile to imagine it. Thank you for coming over to comment too, Elissa! Hugs.

  12. I have never heard of the piggy bank referred to a money box. I still have my piggy bank as a child. What an interesting article about how you had to smash them to get your money out. I remember a piggy bank that my mother had that as you put the money in the horse galloped. Thanks for the history lesson. I will share with my children.

    • brendabigbee says:

      So happy that you learned something new, Shelley. I did when I researched this article. I do hate that the only way to get the coins out was to smash them, for that left very few for future generations to see. Thank you for taking time to comment.

  13. len says:

    We were still using the term ” Money Box,” in the 1960’s without a doubt in the North east of England. It was used also by folks I knew from London ( working and middle class.)

    • brendabigbee says:

      Thank you for weighing in on money boxes, len. I had never heard the term before I ran across it in an article and decided to look it up. Being an American, it was always a Piggy Bank. 🙂 I do think the working folk would be more familiar with them since they were largely aimed at them.

  14. Vesper says:

    As children we didn’t have money boxes but we had saving accounts at out local Post Office, where an account could be opened for as little as a couple of pence. This was back in England though.

    • brendabigbee says:

      We had bank accounts called “Flying Savers Club” (I will never forget that name) at a savings bank that my parents used when I was a child. They gave us prizes as incentives to save and I was hooked on earning the prizes. However, it only lasted until vacation every year when I had to have my ‘savings’ to buy a souvenir. Thanks for commenting Vesper!

  15. Luisa1111 says:

    We could open an account at the local bank called the Christmas Club. I think we’d deposit our allowance each week or maybe once a month. We’d proudly take it in and the bank teller would stamp our book showing we what had paid. Then just in time for holiday gift buying, we’d collect our monies and shop for family presents. It was an excellent way to teach the value of saving.

  16. JanisB says:

    I read A Promise Kept last year and wasn’t quite clear on “money box” until I read this and saw the photos. Not quite like a piggy bank! (Please do not enter me in the giveaway as I have all of Brenda’s books already.)

  17. Lúthien84 says:

    What an interesting insight, Brenda. Money box does sounds better than piggy bank.

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