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We visit an Essex attic home to England’s first ever ‘Museum of Savings’

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Do you remember your first ever piggy bank, the first time your parents, grandparents or local bank gave you a box to put your pocket money or loose change in?

Because it, or something at least a little like it, might be on display in an attic room in a new build house in suburban Essex which is the current unlikely home of England’s first ever ‘Museum of Savings’.

Here, a collection of more than 400 money boxes, piggy banks, fliers, adverts, books and other assorted objects dating from the start of the 20th century to the early 2000s have been carefully curated and arranged in four glass cabinets and on a smattering of shelves and side tables.

Squeezed into the attic room of a house in suburban Essex is a 400-strong collection of piggy banks, money boxes and other items forming England’s first ever ‘Museum of Savings’

The project is a collaboration between James Blower, founder of The Savings Guru and an adviser to challenger banks, and his fiancée Tanya Burrage, who spent close to 10 years working for Norfolk Museums Service in Norwich.

It began as a hobby, with James purchasing a piggy bank from the 1980s in an antique shop, and around 40 other objects, around four years ago.

Since then, the collection has multiplied tenfold, but, Tanya says, ‘We had no idea until lockdown we were going to do this, and then I said I would catalogue them.’

She adds: ‘I did this and my family tree. That was my lockdown.’

Most of the collection stems from antique shops and eBay or have been gifted from people aware of the project’s existence.

Aside from family and friends, I’m the first person to actually see the project, which James calls the first of its kind in England, and possibly the UK.

The project is a collaboration between savings bank consultant James Blower and his fiancée Tanya Burrage, who has more than a decade of experience in the museum industry

There is the Bank of England museum, and a museum about the history of savings banks in Dumfries, Scotland, where the UK’s first savings bank began in 1810, but, James says, the collection is unique, dedicated as it is to the history of the savings habit.

Arranged chronologically, Tanya begins our tour a century ago, with the creation of the first home money boxes in the UK.

‘These boxes started in the early 1900s in a bid to make saving accessible to working people’, she says, ‘before that people kept money under the mattress. Prior to 1921, when the first patent was filed in Birmingham, they were made in the US and imported.’

The collection begins in the early 20th century with home safes where the bank would hold onto the key if savers want access

The first tins are essentially that, fairly primitive metal boxes, where banks would actually keep the key and savers would need to visit to get the money out. Some of the earliest saving tins were even opened by can openers, you can see the line around the rim.

Researching the early history of these home safes ‘has been quite tricky’, Tanya says, but most of the information has been found through internet searching and ‘doing plenty of reading.’

From the 1930s onwards things get a little more sophisticated and a little more aesthetically pleasing, with book boxes displaying the crests of various banks and building societies. 

In the 1930s banks and building societies began offering savings book money boxes

Some may be defunct, others are still around in some form, Midland Bank is now HSBC, the Post Office Savings Bank now National Savings & Investments.

‘These are my favourite things’, Tanya says, ‘you get the variety of designs and covers and attempts to give them unique names. I want to know which accounts these banks gave out these money boxes for, hopefully people will be able to tell us.’

The advice hasn’t changed much in all this time, a nearly 100-year-old advert from Lloyds Bank which came with one of its home safes states: ‘Make a habit of saving a small sum weekly: you will be surprised and pleased to find how much you can accumulate’.

Although some of the language around saving hasn’t changed in nearly 100 years (top), the rates on offer (bottom) certainly have

However, the rewards on offer to savers certainly have. An advert for NS&I’s investment account from May 1982 advertises a now inconceivable 13 per cent interest rate. The same account currently pays just 0.01 per cent.

Some of these tins, like one from the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, Barclays since 1969, inviting savers to save three and then six pence, became redundant after decimalisation in 1971.

And it was after that, and in the 1980s in particular, where Tanya says the modern idea of the piggy bank first began to emerge. 

Much of the credit for that can be laid at the door of NatWest, represented on a side table by several piggies, of which one is part of a limited edition set of just 75, I am told.

NatWest was behind the dawn in the modern piggy bank in the 1980s. They were so popular they sold 200,000 in a fortnight 

‘In the 1980s banks went from attracting parents to attracting the kids’, Tanya says, ‘I think they realised the power of marketing directly to children.’

The NatWest pig was perhaps an early introduction to behavioural economics. Open an account and save £25 and you get a baby pig, then another after holding it for six months and saving a certain sum, and so on.

It proved phenomenally successful. The bank had to pivot from the original designer to someone who could mass produce them, and even then, they sold 100,000 within a fortnight.

Banks and building societies used characters from children’s books to market savings accounts to kids 

Other banks and building societies followed suit, using popular children’s characters like Paddington Bear and the Mr Men as the face of their savings accounts.

Similar, and even wackier, things populate the top of the four glass cabinets. There is Pudsey, eagles from Barclays, the Lloyds black horse, a penguin from Loughborough Building Society, and even a toy featuring Howard, the famous man from the Halifax adverts from the 2000s.

The early years of the 21st century is where the collection tails off. Tanya believes the trend of livening up banks’ savings offers died out a bit ‘because everyone lost their imagination’ after the 1980s, with unique designs replaced by identikit piggy banks.

‘Everyone lost their imagination’ in the 2000s, Tanya suggests, with the rise of identikit plastic piggy banks, Child Trust Funds and digital savings apps

The Government set up Child Trust Funds and Junior Isas, with the state in 2005 taking responsibility for child saving, while James believes ‘the focus has also shifted towards longer-term investment saving’ for younger people.

And the recent trend towards digital money management apps and piggy banks like GoHenry also raises questions for the pair, both as curators of a collection of physical savings boxes and as parents trying to teach children about money.

How do you teach the value of saving, or spending, it is often said, if money exists only as numbers on a screen?

James and Tanya are looking for a bigger space to house their collection, rather than leaving it in their attic

‘I think we will see a bit of a renaissance because of wanting to teach people about physical money’, Tanya says. ‘Things like credit cards are a bit meaningless. Kids don’t really use physical money anymore, especially with coronavirus.’

And at the very least, a collection of pocket money cards makes for less of a spectacle.

The collection, despite its impressive layout, arranged into eras and packed with information on sheets of printed paper, is in temporary premises at the moment, as I discover for myself tiptoeing around a large drum kit in the middle of the room to take a closer look at some of the cabinets.

Assorted memorabilia from what is now National Savings & Investments, including an advert for inflation-linked savings certificates, which still exist but are no longer on-sale

‘We’re definitely not keeping it up here’, Tanya exclaims. The pair are on the lookout for a larger space, perhaps a shuttered bank branch somewhere in the east of England.

The museum wouldn’t fill it by itself, but they’d be keen to find somewhere they can offer other things too, perhaps a place to get financial advice, to teach kids about money, or even a bank hub of the type being trialled elsewhere in Essex and in Scotland.

‘We’re having to think about all different ideas if we wanted to make it viable’, James says.

But the need for bigger space is certainly pressing, not least because the 400-strong collection isn’t finished just yet.

‘There’s still a wish list of we’re trying to acquire’, he adds. 

Tanya continues: ‘It would be really nice to do a pre-bank, pre-money box age and look at that, perhaps at what the Victorians did, and then bring it all up to date to where we are now.’

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Best of the Best shares tumble 30% despite tripling profits

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Shares in Best of the Best tumbled by around 30 per cent after the online competition company said it had seen a decline in customer interest recently, overshadowing its stellar annual results.

Best of the Best, which specialises in luxury sports car ‘raffles’ where people buy tickets hoping to win expensive automobiles, saw profits more than triple last year, its results show. 

Pre-tax profits rose to £14million in the year to the end of April, from £4.2million the year before, after revenues rose to £45.7million, from £17.8million.

Stellar performance: Best of the Best, which specialises in luxury sports car ‘raffles’ where people buy tickets hoping to win expensive automobile, saw profits triple last year

In light of the strong performance, the company hiked its final dividend to 5p per share from 3p, with investors also in line for a special dividend of 50p worth a total of £4.71million.  

But shares in the AIM listed company tumbled by more than 30 per cent at one point this morning. They were down by 27.8 per cent to £19 by midday on Wednesday. 

However, they still remain some 60 per cent higher than last year, and have seen their value jump by around 500 per cent over the past two years.

The massive drop comes as the company said it has seen ‘somewhat of a reduction’ in interest from customers since the lifting of lockdown restrictions in April when shops and restaurants reopened.

Chief executive William Hindmarch said: ‘We are closely monitoring this, but with our flexible model, growth strategy and plans for the year ahead, we expect customer engagement to return to normal levels before too long.’   

Best of the Best closed its last physical competition site at Birmingham airport in July 2019 after 20 years of leasing physical sites at airports and shopping centres across the country. 

These included Heathrow Airport, where its first physical site was located, as well as Gatwick, Edinburgh, Manchester and Dublin airports, and later on, Westfield Shopping Centre in London. 

Hindmarch said that with the benefit of hindsight, the online move was ‘opportune’, given the restrictions on travel that have been in place due to the pandemic. 

‘Having made the strategic decision to exit our predominantly airport-based retail estate and concentrate on a pure online strategy, we have been able to tailor our business, product and pricing specifically to a much more scalable, online only proposition,’ he added.  

BOTB was set up in 1999 and started to take off thanks to the power of social media

BOTB was set up by Hindmarch in 1999 and started to take off thanks to the power of social media. 

People taking part in the competition have to place a marker where they think a football was in a photograph before it was cleverly edited out.  

Its ‘Dream Car’ competition allows customers to buy tickets from £1.60 to win supercars like Jaguars and Tesla, while tickets for its ‘Midweek Car Competition’ start at just 80p.

Customers can also take part in ‘Weekly Lifestyle Competition’ to win luxury watches, motorbikes, holidays and other gadgets. 

Stellar rise: BOTB shares tumbled today, but they are still about 60% higher than last year and have risen by about 500% over the past two years

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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ONS: Average UK house price dropped £5k in April but boom isn’t over

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House prices dipped in April as buyers lowered their offers in anticipation of the stamp duty holiday ending, official figures have shown.  

The average property value fell 1.9 per cent between March and April according to the Office for National Statistics’ April House Price Index. 

This meant the average house price fell back around £5,000 to £250,772 – although it was still up £20,000 compared to April 2020, delivering an annual property inflation rate of almost 9 per cent.

The average UK house price has risen 8.9 per cent over the past year, says the ONS

The average house price peaked in March at £256,000, according to the ONS report

Year-on-year, the typical home has increased in value by 8.9 per cent to reach £250,772 since last April, the index revealed. 

However, the rate of growth slowed compared to the previous month when prices rose 9.9 per cent annually.

Housing market experts have said the monthly dip in house prices was a result of buyers putting in lower offers in February and March, when they believed the Government’s stamp duty holiday was going to end on 31 March.

Buyers sought to make up for the fact that they would no longer be making the tax saving, which is up to £15,000 –  although it was later extended at the start of that month.  

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘House prices dropped in April, which is bound to unsettle homeowners after almost a year of accelerating price rises. 

‘However, this isn’t necessarily the beginning of the end for house price growth, it’s more likely to be a sign of what an arbitrary deadline can do to a market.

‘At this stage we’re not expecting this to be the ultimate turning point for the market, but it’s a useful wake-up call for buyers, and a reminder that house prices aren’t a one-way street.’

The stamp duty holiday was introduced in July 2020 and means that home buyers do not pay the tax on the proportion of a property purchase under £500,000. 

This will continue until 1 July, when the threshold will decrease to £250,000. It will return to the usual level of £125,000 on 1 October.  

This four-bed home in Bath was developed from a folly built in the 1820s. It is listed on Rightmove at £1million, and agents say it has ‘far-reaching views and extensive gardens’

In Staveley near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, this two-bed property complete with sun deck is listed on Rightmove with a guide price of £250,000

Buyers in Chichester, West Sussex, can snap up this four-bed, three bath property which has a guide price of £815,000. It comes with a detached, self-contained garden studio

Downsizers might consider this two-bed bungalow in Bridlington in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which is listed on Rightmove with an asking price of £180,000

In Pembury near Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, this four-bed, two bath semi detached home is on the market with an asking price of £625,000. It comes with a large detached outbuilding

Another reason for the recent price growth is high levels of demand for moving house compared to relatively little supply, which was noted in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ April 2021 UK Residential Market Survey.

Some experts say that this could help to maintain house price momentum throughout the summer months, even after the incentive of the stamp duty holiday is reduced.  

Paul Stockwell, chief commercial officer at Gatehouse Bank, said: ‘The original stamp duty discount deadline of March has made itself felt with a monthly dip in house prices, but annual growth is still remarkable.

‘There remains a shortage properties coming onto the market in many areas, resulting in intense competition in some cases, and this factor is likely to keep prices pushing upwards throughout the summer.’

Rise and fall: A graph showing house price changes by country since 2017

The UK Property Transactions Statistics showed that in April 2021, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the estimated number of transactions of residential properties with a value of £40,000 or greater was 117,860. 

This is 179.6 per cent higher than a year ago. Between March and April 2021, UK transactions decreased by 35.7 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

House price growth was strongest in the North East where prices increased by 16.9 per cent in the year to April 2021, according to the ONS. 

The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices increased by 3.3 per cent. 

House prices in London are still the highest in the UK, but they dropped from an average of £500,000 in March to an average of £492,000 in April.

At the country level, the largest annual house price growth in the year to April 2021 was recorded in Wales, where house prices increased by 15.6 per cent.

Given the dramatic house price increases of the last year, buyers are being urged to consider whether they are paying over the odds for their homes. 

Miles Robinson, head of mortgages at online mortgage broker Trussle, said: ‘House prices are continuing to grow due to extremely high demand caused by the rush to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline. 

‘While this is great news for those selling a home, buyers are likely paying over the odds when compared with previous years. 

‘As such, any savings from the Stamp Duty Holiday might well be absorbed by the current high cost of homes. 

‘Buyers should look beyond the headline savings and really consider if this is the right choice for them.’

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Average UK house price drops £5k in April – but experts say property boom not over

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UK house prices dipped in April as buyers lowered their offers in anticipation of the stamp duty holiday ending, official figures have shown.  

Prices fell 1.9 per cent between March and April according to the Office for National Statistics’ April House Price Index. 

This meant the average house price fell back around £5,000 to £250,772 – although it was still up £20,000 compared to April 2020.

The average UK house price is now more than £250,000, according to official data 

Year on year, the typical home has increased in value by 8.9 per cent to reach £250,772 since last April, the index revealed. 

However, the rate of growth slowed compared to the previous month when prices rose 9.9 per cent annually.

Housing market experts have said the monthly dip in house prices was a result of buyers putting in lower offers in February and March, when they believed the Government’s stamp duty holiday was going to end on 31 March.

Buyers sought to make up for the fact that they would no longer be making the tax saving, which is up to £15,000 –  although it was later extended at the start of that month.  

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘House prices dropped in April, which is bound to unsettle homeowners after almost a year of accelerating price rises. 

‘However, this isn’t necessarily the beginning of the end for house price growth, it’s more likely to be a sign of what an arbitrary deadline can do to a market.

‘At this stage we’re not expecting this to be the ultimate turning point for the market, but it’s a useful wake-up call for buyers, and a reminder that house prices aren’t a one-way street.’

The stamp duty holiday was introduced in July 2020 and means that home buyers do not pay the tax on the proportion of a property purchase under £500,000. 

This will continue until 1 July, when the threshold will decrease to £250,000. It will return to the usual level of £125,000 on 1 October.  

Another reason for the recent price growth is high levels of demand for moving house compared to relatively little supply, which was noted in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ April 2021 UK Residential Market Survey.

Some experts say that this could help to maintain house price momentum throughout the summer months, even after the incentive of the stamp duty holiday is reduced.  

Paul Stockwell, chief commercial officer at Gatehouse Bank, said: ‘The original stamp duty discount deadline of March has made itself felt with a monthly dip in house prices, but annual growth is still remarkable.

Rise and fall: A graph showing house price changes by country since 2017

‘There remains a shortage properties coming onto the market in many areas, resulting in intense competition in some cases, and this factor is likely to keep prices pushing upwards throughout the summer.’

The UK Property Transactions Statistics showed that in April 2021, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the estimated number of transactions of residential properties with a value of £40,000 or greater was 117,860. 

This is 179.6 per cent higher than a year ago. Between March and April 2021, UK transactions decreased by 35.7 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

House price growth was strongest in the North East where prices increased by 16.9 per cent in the year to April 2021, according to the ONS. 

The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices increased by 3.3 per cent. 

House prices in London are still the highest in the UK, but they dropped from an average of £500,000 in March to an average of £492,000 in April.

At the country level, the largest annual house price growth in the year to April 2021 was recorded in Wales, where house prices increased by 15.6 per cent.

Given the dramatic house price increases of the last year, buyers are being urged to consider whether they are paying over the odds for their homes. 

Miles Robinson, head of mortgages at online mortgage broker Trussle, said: ‘House prices are continuing to grow due to extremely high demand caused by the rush to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline. 

‘While this is great news for those selling a home, buyers are likely paying over the odds when compared with previous years. 

‘As such, any savings from the Stamp Duty Holiday might well be absorbed by the current high cost of homes. 

‘Buyers should look beyond the headline savings and really consider if this is the right choice for them.’

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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