Artefacts and machines

In addition to means of payment, medals, paintings and engravings, books and archives, the National Bank Museum also keeps a series of artefacts and machines.

The range is very diverse: from small money boxes and clips to large, heavy machines originating from the main cash office or the Bank’s Printing Works.


A4 ship

This maquette of the A4 ship  is displayed in Room 3 of the Museum and illustrates a notable episode of the history of the National Bank. The A4 played a leading role in the last evacuation of the Bank’s money and other securities, from Ostend to England in 1940.

Hubert Ansiaux, then still an Inspector of the Bank and subsequently Governor (1957-1971), was entrusted with the task of organising the transport. His figure can be glimpsed on the bridge of the ship.


moneychanger’s table

This is the mother of all banks, an Italian moneychanger’s table or “banco”. This 16th century item of furniture already had an ingenious security system: secret compartments and a drawer which can be locked with an impressive key.

Such tables were sometimes the object of popular rage, especially when their owners no longer met their financial obligations. A smashed moneychanger’s table is a “banco rotto”, signifying that its owner has gone bankrupt.



There are moneyboxes of all shapes and materials. Traditionally the most popular is the piggy bank.

In Room 15 of the Museum the following explanation of this is given: up until the Industrial Revolution, the population was predominantly rural. In this context, fattening up one or more pigs was for many farmers by far the best way of building up a reserve as a safeguard against the risk of leaner times.


coin-weight box

For a long time, coins had an intrinsic value, i.e. that of their weight in precious metal. They therefore had to be weighed.

Traders and moneychangers never, or hardly ever, travelled without their scales and weights, which they kept in a specially designed box. Some of these coin-weight boxes, such as this example from Antwerp from 1730, were stamped inside the lid with a printed vignette consisting of instructive texts and illustrations.


Burroughs calculator

Prior to the start of the data-processing era, bank employees chiefly used pen and paper. But they, too, already had machines which made their lives a little easier: calculating machines and typewriters.

A number of these long obsolete machines, such as this Burroughs calculator, are now housed in the Museum.


guilloche machine

Guilloches are drawings which are composed of a large interlinking pattern of lines, circles and ellipses. Because they are difficult to imitate, they are highly suitable as security motifs for banknotes.

The designers at the National Bank’s Printing Works made full use of this and devised the most ingenious constructions, using this machine. The guilloche machine has now become obsolete and has been replaced by the computer.