Do you collect something? I’m always fascinated to learn about the collections people have. There’s often a deeper meaning to what can seem quite trivial on the surface. This new series I’m writing will explore the phenomena of collecting in intricate detail.
I’ve been a collector for as far back as I can remember. With a little extra time on my hands in the past few years to lean into some retrospective thinking, I’ve become interested in where the collecting mindset is born from.
Being a child of the 90’s I barely stood a chance against the “collect ’em all” message. Breakfast, free toy. Lunch, free toy, Dinner, free toy! What a time to be alive! (Let’s not think too much about the plastic in this moment, please).
These toys were never standalone, no! They were part of a set. (Again, just park the more serious thoughts about childhood obesity, there’s a time and place for sure but that’s not the vibe here today).
Before I was old enough to realise what I was being bribed with by the likes of Kelloggs, Walkers and Burger King, there was another collection I unknowingly entered into. The NatWest pigs. Watch the advert below from 1984 for something truly terrifying this Hallowe’en season (why do they look like rabbits?!).
This collection of five* piggy banks launched a little before my time on the 5th December 1983 (I was born in ’87). Produced by Wade Ceramics, they were commissioned to incentivise kids (and presumably, their parents) to set up a NatWest savings account, which was, at the time, one of the first aimed solely at children.
By opening an account with a minimum initial saving of just £3, you’d receive your first pig, Woody. If you’re familiar with the set, you’ll probably have noticed he shows up the most often on car boot sale tables, market stalls and second hand shops. I can only assume that’s because a fair percentage didn’t continue with their NatWest account and dipped out of the collection.
I spotted him out in the wild recently at a vintage store in Manchester, mint in package, retailing at a lowly £18. The tatty Donald Duck beside him cost £2 more.
The rest of the collection was dolled out by NatWest as you hit further saving milestones. Sister Annabel – £25, brother Maxwell – £50, Lady Hilary – £75 and Sir Nathaniel – £100. I achieved the full set and can just about remember Sir Nathaniel being delivered. The memory is more visceral than visual, a mixed feeling in the pit of stomach, equal parts satisfaction at completing the set and disappointment that there’d be no more.
I still have the collection. They’ve survived a few house moves over the years and a number of occasions where I could’ve done with selling what I mistakenly believed to be my nest egg (the price of the sealed Woody in Manc speaks volumes about their overall worth to be honest).
An odd thing happened later in my childhood. We saw a full of set of six for sale at our local indoor market (RIP). HOLD ON, SIX?!! I thought there were only five? The eagle eyed among you will have spotted the asterisk a few paragraphs ago and seen this plot twist coming a mile off.
‘Cousin Wesley’ was introduced by NatWest looking to cash in on former glories in 1998. He was a limited run of just 5,000 for customers who signed up to a five year £1,000 Children’s Bond. The promotion was a flop and they were mostly given away to staff. Regardless of this, he exists and my collection remains incomplete to this day. The elusive swine!
Upcoming posts here will focus on each of my collections, plus other collectors and the things they collect. If you would be interested in receiving future edition delivered direct to your inbox please subscribe the Collect Us All! mailing list.