By Robert Machray.
ONE-QUARTER OF A 1/4d.
ONE-THIRD OF A 1/4d.
NEW SOUTH WALES 15 PENNY PIECE.
There seems to be scarcely any nation or tribe, no matter how savage
and barbarous, but has a money, or some kind of currency equivalent to
money, with which it discharges its debts and pays for the articles it
requires or covets.
Many of the specimens shown in the illustrations accompanying this
article of moneys "current with the merchant" will seem strange enough,
but it must be remembered that it was from the use of just such objects
long ago that the highly developed monetary systems of the Western
world have come.
A HALF-DALER PIECE, WHICH MEASURES THREE INCHES SQUARE.
Amongst the most civilised races gold and silver coin, or "bank-notes,"
secured by deposits of gold and silver or by Government guarantees, are
the recognised media of exchange. Modern coinages exhibit many
specimens of beautiful and artistic moneys, and the notes—bills, as
they are called in America—issued by the Bank of England, the French,
United States, and other Governments, are, if not exactly artistic,
wonderfully ingenious devices for baffling the skill of the forger. But
in savage countries the forger has no place, for the moneys there in
use could not possibly be counterfeited.
CHINAMAN BUYING EGGS, WITH THE "CASH" OVER HIS SHOULDER.
Amongst the commonest of all currencies is the shell, and at the
present time it is quite extensively used in various parts of the
world—in Africa, in the Pacific, and in parts of Asia. In Africa, the
Shell-Money is the cowry, and it is customary for the natives to adorn
their gods, fetiches, and other objects of veneration with ropes of
these shells. In British Columbia, Haikwa shells were used as money.
CHINESE SILVER WILLOW-LEAF-MONEY.
One of our illustrations shows the form shell-money takes in the
Solomon Islands, the shells being strung in ropes a fathom long.
Another picture shows a satchel belonging to a native of New Caledonia
with a quantity of shell-money in it. Sometimes the shells used are of
quite a large size; at other times again they are exceedingly minute.
Their value appears to depend on their colour and shape, the most
valuable being those which were most suitable for the adornment of the
ADZE-MONEY, THE PRICE OF A FAT MAN FOR CANNIBALS.
The next group of currencies is of a somewhat different class. In this
case feathers take the place of shells, and three examples are given of
this Feather Currency. In one example we see a specimen of what is
known as the Red Feather Currency. Over a band of vegetable fibre is
woven a material composed of red parrot feathers, held in place by two
boards placed in the middle above and below the band; the whole was
carried in a bag.
FEATHER-BRUSH-MONEY FROM THE SANDWICH ISLES.
In another instance, the feathers are arranged to form something like a
brush, the brush itself being made of the coloured tufts or portions of
birds' plumage, while the handle is composed of strands of plaited
grass. This sort of money was obtained in rather a cruel way, for the
birds who were despoiled of their brilliant feathers were not killed
before the operation; their bright plumage was plucked from their
living bodies, and then the birds were allowed to fly away again. No
doubt in the course of time the feathers grew again, when the birds
would be caught and the operation performed once more.
MONEY BY FATHOMS—A FATHOM OF SHELL-MONEY.
The particular home of the feather currency was the Sandwich Islands,
the natives of which made gorgeous robes and helmets for their chiefs
and kings out of these much-prized feathers. A third example is of what
is known as Flying-Fox-Money. The fur of the flying-fox is made into
cords, as shown in the illustration, and is very good "money" indeed in
the Loyalty Islands.
COWRY-SHELL-MONEY | FISH-HOOK-MONEY.
One of the most elementary forms of currency is Adze-Money, and the
specimen selected for presentation here comes from these same Loyalty
Islands. This adze blade is of jade, and I am told that it represents
"the price of a fat man for cannibal purposes."
How enormously valuable such adzes as these are is shown by a statement
that any native who becomes possessed of one is regarded by his fellows
as a millionaire, and in a certain tribe which possessed but one such
adze the coveted object was passed at the end of each week from one
native to another. Its lucky possessor for the time being was regarded
as the richest man in the world by all the others, who waited
impatiently to become in their turn millionaires "for one week only."
CORD MADE FROM FLYING-FOX USED AS CASH.
Amongst other queer kinds of money in use in the South Seas may be
mentioned the "Tabua" or whale's tooth of Fiji; the Mat-Money—small
mats made of grass, curiously woven in quaint patterns, current in
various parts of Melanesia (a somewhat similar currency is to be found
amongst the Thlinket Indians of Alaska); and rings of quartzite, of
which an illustration, taken from a specimen from the New Hebrides, is
QUARTZITE RING AND MADAGASCAR BANGLE.
It may be noticed that there is much of the artistic about these
Pacific Islands moneys; those current in Africa do not exhibit any
characteristic of the kind; they are simply barbaric. Here, for
instance, is a rough ingot of copper of cruciform shape, which was used
as money in East Central Africa, and represents what would be
equivalent to a very heavy balance at an English bank account.
SQUARE INGOT MONEY. WEIGHS 1-1/2 LBS.
INGOT OF COPPER FROM EAST CENTRAL AFRICA.
Implements of iron, such as iron spades and the heads of hoes, and so
on, were widely circulated as valuable consideration for the purchase
of ivory, and ivory itself was, and still is, one of the most valuable
of African currencies. From the spade to the spear is but a step, so we
need not be surprised to find that the shaped spear-head is equal to a
great many pounds sterling on the higher waters of the Congo.
Another form of African money is the armlet or bangle made of
metal—bronze most commonly, silver sometimes, gold very rarely; and
these are classed under the head of what is known as Ring-Money or
"Manillas." However, it must be said that the use of bracelets and
bangles as currency was quite common in ancient times before the
invention of stamped or coined money.
Everyone is probably aware that beads have played a large part as a
currency when Western merchants have been trading with savage tribes;
but few people, I imagine, can have any idea how Bead-Money was
systematised by Englishmen in their dealings with the natives of
Africa. What I am about to say seems beyond belief, but yet it is true.
There was one sort of beads used for the purchase of palm oil, a second
for ivory, a third for gold, and a fourth for slaves.
CHINESE BOAT MONEY
Our illustrations on p. 644 show the different shapes and sizes of
these beads, which were made in London, but they do not exhibit the
colours, which were an important feature. These bright and shining
baubles tickled the savage fancy, and the same love of bright objects
has been already noticed with respect to shell-money.
FEATHERS AS MONEY—RED PARROT FEATHERS.
One of the quaintest of all currencies is that known as the
Fishhook-Money, which can hardly be said to have even yet died out of
use along the shores of the Persian Gulf. It is supposed that these
Larins, as they are termed, originally came from Ceylon, and they
consist of thin pieces of silver bent into the shape of a hook about an
inch in length. In some cases copper is used instead of silver, but
each piece is stamped with its value.
A PAPER BILL FOR 4d.
CONGO SPEAR HEAD AS CASH. THE BARB IS JOINED TO THE SPEAR.
ENGLISH 2d. PIECE, WEIGHS 2 OZS.
CHINESE CASH, CARRIED ON STRINGS. 1,000 = 3s.
The great merchants of the East are the Chinese, and the different
forms of money they have brought into use do not strike us as being
particularly convenient. The commonest of all Chinese moneys is the
cash—a round metal disc with a square hole in the middle, the value
of a thousand cash not being much more than three shillings. These
cash are carried about in long strings, and the hole in the middle
receives the string. This form of currency is developed from what is
generally termed "key-money" or "knife-money."
PAPER POSTAGE-MONEY FOR BUYING STAMPS.
Silver is the great medium of exchange in China and elsewhere in the
East; and a regular feature of all cities and towns and even villages
in China is the money-changer, who in return for so much weight of
silver will hand out so many strings of cash. The silver used in
these exchanges is called Sycee silver, and is apparently of any shape
Sometimes the silver takes the bar or ingot shape, and is then termed
Nen. The specimen on page 643 is an unusually large one, and weighs
nearly a pound and a half. It was used as currency in Upper Cambodia,
and is stamped on one side with a Chinese inscription which specifies
the weight of the silver and also the name of the merchant who weighed
it and affirmed how much it was worth.
But besides the ingot shape, this Chinese silver currency is found in
many forms, not only in China, but in Singapore, in Ceylon, and
wherever the Chinese trader is found, such as Hat-Money, Shoe-Money,
Boat-Money, Snailshell-Money, Willow-leaf-Money—terms which are all
derived from the actual form the silver has taken after it has come out
of the mould and received the stamp of the particular Chinese merchant
who makes himself responsible for its quality and weight. Some of these
pieces are very small, and consequently are of little value.
THESE SHELLS WERE USED AS MONEY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA.
The oddest of them is certainly the Snailshell-Money, which is really a
bubble of silver solidified into the shape of a shell. It is
characteristic of this sort of money that the silver shows the marks of
the crucible in which it was melted on the side opposite to that which
has received the inscription. To the same class of currency belongs the
Bullet-Money of Siam—lumps of silver of various sizes stamped on one
side. This currency is generally about an ounce in weight, but there
are in existence specimens of it as small as fine shot.
BURMESE GAMBLERS' PORCELAIN-MONEY.
BAR-MONEY USED IN CHINA.
One of our illustrations exhibits what is probably the least valuable
currency in the world—the porcelain currency used among the gamblers
of Burmah and Siam. Originally intended as nothing more than counters,
they have come to be regarded as money, but of very small value. They
are of various shapes and sizes, with a figure or emblem of some sort
on one side, and on the other an inscription in Chinese, stating how
much such and such a merchant will give for them. I fancy it takes
about a barrelful of them to make a "trade."
Probably the largest pieces of money that have ever been brought into
existence are those known as "Money of Necessity." During the Stuart
wars Charles I. and James II. both coined money of this sort out of
silver plate, gun metal, or anything else that came handy. You will
find such pieces in any museum, and they are of all shapes and sizes.
SIAMESE BULLET-MONEY—WEIGHING AN OUNCE DOWNWARDS.
The most remarkable specimens which I have been able to find of Money
of Necessity are Swedish in their origin. The half-daler piece on page
639 is a mere baby, although it is three inches square. A four-daler
piece was rather more than a foot square, and weighed nearly seven
pounds. There is a specimen of an eight-daler piece in the British
Museum, which is nearly a yard long and a foot broad. Just fancy
carrying a few such pieces about in one's purse! Perhaps the largest
piece of money in circulation in this country in recent years was the
two-penny copper piece known as the "cartwheel," issued in 1797. It was
quite a chunk of metal, and weighed exactly two ounces. A few years ago
a gentleman collected a very large number of these two-penny pieces,
and paved the floor of his smoking-room with them. No doubt they made
better bricks than coins.
BEADS TO BUY PALMS.
The smallest pieces of British money have been issued for Malta and
Ceylon, and are of such microscopic values as one-third and one-fourth
of a farthing. The illustrations show the full size of the coins.
BEADS TO BUY IVORY.
The history of the fifteen-penny piece illustrated at the top of this
article is certainly curious. It was good money in New South Wales some
seventy years ago. In those days there was a great scarcity of "change"
in the colony, and the piece of money in general circulation was the
Spanish dollar. To make it go further, the centre of the dollar was
punched out, and the bit of silver thus obtained was christened
"fifteen pence," and put into circulation as of that value. The
mutilated dollar still retained its original value, and was known as
the "Holy Dollar"—from the round hole in it.
BEADS IN EXCHANGE FOR SLAVES.
NEW CALEDONIA PURSE COVERED WITH SHELLS.
Amongst other examples of small currencies I have selected the
Groat-Bill issued in the States before the Revolution, and also a
specimen of the small postage-currency in use in the States immediately
after the Civil War.
For the loan of all the Queer Cash which illustrate this article, we
are indebted jointly to Messrs. Spink, of Piccadilly, and to the
authorities of the British Museum.
They are not a tithe of those which we might have published, but they
are among the most interesting, and show that the money instinct is
prevalent the world over. "Hard" cash it can scarcely be called, for
the feather currency at least is deliciously soft.
BEADS TO GET GOLD.