Premium Bonds stand the test of time and celebrate their 60th birthday today

Oliver Gill
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Premium Bonds
It is not known whether Harold Macmillan actually knew the code that would guarantee a Premium Bond win (Source: Getty)

There aren't many government initiatives that go pretty much untouched for 60 years. But the iconic Premium Bond celebrates its diamond anniversary today and while some elements may have changed, the central idea remains the same.

Harold Macmillan launched Premium Bonds in 1956 as part of a government initiative to encourage post-war Britons to save more. The lord mayor of London, Alderman Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, snapped up the first ticket and by the end of the day the Post Office – then the only place you could buy them – £5m worth of Premium Bonds had been sold.

Read more: Two lucky people just won £1m on Premium Bonds

National Savings & Investment (NS&I), who issue the bonds said that the bonds had "become a part of the fabric of British life". Jill Waters, a retail director at NS&I said that almost a third of Britons have Premium Bonds.

"When they were first introduced in 1956 they changed how the nation saved and, over time, have increasingly become a part of many savers’ portfolio," said Waters.

Despite making 350 millionaires since their inception, Premium Bonds have recently come under attack from consumer champions after odds were cut.

What else happened in 1956?

London's first Routemaster bus enters service
Manchester United become the first English football club to compete in the European Cup
Robin Turton, the minister for health, said that there were no proven ill-effects from smoking tobacco
PG Tips launched its advertising campaign that featured a chimpanzees' tea party
Double yellow lines were first introduced in Slough, paving the way for a national roll-out in 1960

Personal finance guru Martin Lewis analysed Premium Bonds as an investment opportunity and concluded: "Even though their rates are dropping, the top bank savings accounts will all still smash the pants off Premium Bonds, unless you've extremely good luck."

Read more: NS&I is messing with Premium Bond prizes again

Nevertheless, tax-free Premium Bonds will have a special place in the heart of many Britons. They invoke memories of days gone by, while also having adapted over the years.

"Like anything that has remained popular for so long, Premium Bonds have moved with the times, offering customers what they want and now being easier to manage through our online and phone service, as well as over a million of our customers now choosing to have their tax-free prizes paid directly into their designated account,” said Waters.

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