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Scarce feather money on offer

Among the most intriguing lots in Heritage Auctions’ Ethnographic Art: American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Signature Auction June 26 will be a rare piece of feather money from the Southwest Pacific.

This unique example of primitive currency includes bird feathers and carries an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 into the June 26 auction. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions.)

Solomon Islands Feather Money, Tevau, Santa Cruz, is from the Santa Cruz Islands, which now is part of the modern Solomon Islands, an independent nation in the southwest Pacific, northeast of Australia. Classed in the numismatic world as “primitive money,” it had all the monetary characteristics of today’s modern coins from the world’s high-tech mints: a means of accumulating wealth, a medium of exchange, a regulated value and a regulated supply.

The currency, which is wrapped into coils with a diameter of about 13 inches, was made from the feathers of a small, scarlet honeyeater bird found in the rain forest. Each piece of the currency incorporated the feathers of about 300 birds, the bark of a tree from the rain forest, colored seeds for decoration, and pieces of turtle shell. Three specialists invested a combined 500-600 hours to create each piece.

Provenance of this piece includes one of the most storied legacies in numismatics. At one point, it was part of the collection of Chet Krause (1923-2016), founder of this magazine and the hobbyist publishing empire, Krause Publications. For many years, the feather money piece was displayed in Krause Publications’ offices.

The value of an individual piece of the currency was determined by the size and the richness of its color – the newer the feathers, the richer the color, and therefore the higher the value.

For more information, visit www.ha.com or call 877-HERITAGE (437-4824).


This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.


More Collecting Resources

• If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you’ll want to check out our Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins eBook.

• Check out the newly-updated Standard Catalog of World Coins, 2001-Date that provides accurate identification, listing and pricing information for the latest coin releases.

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