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    Auction Finds

    What’s with the love for cast iron pigs

    That will sell well, I overheard a woman say to her male companion. My back was turned to them so I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I turned slightly to see this magnificent item for myself – just in case I wanted to bid on it.

    I saw a black painted pig no more than about 8-10 inches tall near the edge of a table at the auction house. A pig? What’s so special about a pig?

    Once the couple moved on, I drew closer to the pig’s table so I could get a better look. It was cast iron, heavy, with a body painted black and  eyes, nostrils and mouth painted in whiffs of beige. It didn’t seem to have any purpose; there wasn’t even a slot on its back for coins.

    cast iron pig

    Cast iron pig ready to be auctioned. The green stickers are absentee bids.

    It also did not have a deep seam line along its back (maybe on its bottom) or nails to hold it in place. Maybe that was the allure: it was one solid piece of metal while most are piggy banks with seam lines and screws.

    The pig already had four green absentee-bid stickers on its back, and the auction was about 1 ½ hours away from starting. These auction-goers/dealers apparently recognized its worth and how much money it would bring them.

    So, that got me to wondering what this pig was. I forgot to check the bottom – which I normally do – for a manufacturer’s mark.

    cast iron pig

    Up-close view of the face of the cast iron pig.

    Googling later, I determined that a lot of folks love pigs, because there were tons of websites selling them. You can buy pigs made of all kinds of materials, in many shapes and forms, and to sit on a table or hang on a wall.

    There’s even a National Pig Day in March and a book about pigs: “Containing curious facts, anecdotes, legends and superstitions, this book aims to tell you everything you need to know about pigs and pig memorabilia. It looks at the role of the pig in history, art and literature, folklore and magic,” as noted on

    I guess love-of-pig should not be surprising since we are the third-largest in producing and consuming pork and pork products in the world.

    As for the cast iron pigs, one auction house a few years ago sold a 23-pound unpainted cast iron pig for $90. That was a big pig.

    The name Hubley turned up in one of my searches, and it was a name I was familiar with. The company was founded in Lancaster, PA, in 1894 as a manufacturer of equipment and accessories for electric trains. When that didn’t work out, the company shifted to making cast-iron toys in 1909. Could this be a Hubley pig, I wondered.

    Hubley cast iron pig

    A cast iron pig identified as a Hubley Wise pig bank. Photo from Hesse Galleries.

    Hubley made a Wise Pig cast iron bank in the 1930s that was painted cream or ivory with a coin slot on the pig’s back. Another version of the bank was made of lead with the slot between the ears. Cast-iron reproductions of the pig in pink and white were first made in 1969 by a company using Hubley molds.

    One auction house was selling what it described as an unpainted Hubley pig as a door stop or paperweight for $185. It was 5 ½” long.

    Two years ago, another sold a cast iron pig that it said was from the mid-20th century for $584. It had been painted black and white, but the paint was mottled and rust showed through it. This 16-inch long pig was also being suggested as a doorstop.

    I don’t believe the auction house pig was a Hubley.

    If pigs are your thing, I’d love to know why they are so appealing.

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