Do you remember these classic Australian money boxes?

How did you save your coins back in the day?

I suspect I am one of many tens of thousands who were given a Commonwealth Bank tin money box in the shape of a bank building.

You know the ones, yellow and gold. They are still kicking around and selling for up to $25 online.

When I had mine, you could still put one and two-cent coins in them, but if your family was minted, it was 50c a week. 

They came with a pop-out opening in the bottom, but these often rusted shut so we just generally took a screwdriver to the slot and bent it out of shape until you could shake some money out.

There were also plastic elephants. The early ones were vaguely Art Deco shaped, but they later came with a raised trunk. They didn’t have an opening and underneath was printed: “When you fill this box take it to any office of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The contents will be credited to your savings account and a new box supplied free”.

Online sales

I bet the bank staff were just thrilled to spend their time cutting open a plastic money box for a handful of coins. If you have one in the shed, you’re not going to make your retirement selling them. They go for about $20 online.

I’m so old, I even remember the bunyip, above. It was a cheery fellow in the Commonwealth livery of green and gold and the antennae could be removed and were almost always immediately lost.

If you have one of these, you are doing well as they sell for up to $30 online.

The National Bank, as it was then, took a different tack and handed out mini safes with three buttons you had to twiddle to get into it. It appealed to the inner thief but didn’t seem to catch on like the Commonwealth offerings. This was a personal favourite.

Later on, there were the Dollarmites accounts, which were launched in 1986, giving the Commonwealth Bank yet more opportunities to foist more plastic coin receptacles on our younger generation.  

The Dollarmites alien

Australian children were given bank books and deposit slips in a yellow plastic sleeve, and a money box shaped like an alien. Good idea to start your savings habit, but once you turned a certain age, fees kicked in, and most were wiped out in a few years.

The Commonwealth also got a bit manic about these accounts, which in some cases also came with an offer of a credit card with a $2000 limit.

Mixed lollies

I can only imagine what eight-year-old me would have done with $2000 in credit. Go crazy with a bag of mixed lollies at the pool, maybe?

Anyway, the reason you don’t hear about these accounts anymore is CHOICE gave them a Shonky award in 2018 after a royal commission found that: “Commonwealth Bank staff fraudulently manipulated Dollarmites youth accounts for personal financial gain”.

Ouch, geez, even the children. Banks really do have an image problem. Or maybe just a problem.

Another popular money box was the St George Dragon. He looked like a friendly fellow and came in green, orange, red and a fancy-schmancy gold. Apparently, if you get the right person, they still hand them out.  

Did you have any of these money boxes? Why not tell us which one in the comments section below?

Also read: When the playground could kill you

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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