NatWest money box globe

NatWest globe

Materials: injection moulded plastic, metal key
Dimensions: 13 centimeters high
Place acquired: charity shop, north London
Place of manufacture: Finland

In 1968 the National Provincial Bank and the Westminster Bank merged to form the National Westminster Bank, or NatWest. Soon afterwards a promotional campaign, possibly through an outside advertising or PR agency, came up with the idea of free gifts to encourage young people to open accounts with the new bank. To help develop a product they approached a Finnish company called Oy MK-Tuote, who specialise in making plastic money-boxes. The result was this globe of the world, in translucent blue plastic, with the bank’s name and logo boldly circling the equator.

It must have seemed quite innocent back then, pre-Big Bang, pre-credit crunch, pre-financial crash. It was just a forward-looking bank trying to position itself as a global company. And the money-box, aimed at a cosy domestic market, was an attractive gift that seemed to say ‘modernity’, and ‘security through size’. It was shiny and optimistic in a space-agey sort of way.

Only with hindsight does there seem to be any irony in this little object – its presumption, its hubris, its quaint self-confidence. For now we know, do we not, that banks don’t make for a stable world. They don’t bind the globe with a band of security as this little money-box seems to suggest. The world straddled by a bank and its logo suddenly feels slightly uncomfortable.

These little moneyboxes do crop up on eBay from time to time, but they are not very common. They were short-lived and soon replaced by a more famous series of ceramic NatWest piggy banks, which are now much collected. Possibly even back then it occurred to someone that the whole world wrapped around by the NatWest Bank was something of a hostage to fortune.

A final irony on my example is the coin slot at the top of the globe. Sitting neatly across the arctic region from Canada to Russia and skirting Greenland, the slot is chipped, chewed and damaged. It has been attacked at some point in its life with a knife or a screwdriver in an attempt to prize out the money from inside. For our real arctic region, with its shrinking ice cap and vast mineral resources beneath, could this be an omen?