The Kina Shell, a ceremonial object and payment in Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya
Ruddy colored Kina Shell from the Foi tribe. The carrying suspension is red inked and spreads approx. 55 mm. The fastening ends are decorated with cowry shells. Rests of naming the Kina Shell can be recognized on the rear side. Dimensions of the shell (BxH): 185x205 mm. Carrying suspension length: approx. 540 mm.

Total weight: 438 g


The Kina Shell is manufactured from the shell of the Gold lip shell (Pinctada maximums) and was part of the traditional payment and medium of exchange in Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya. She gave the modern currency the name "Kina" in Papua New Guinea.

Fundamental is the polished, crescent-shaped shell with 2 drillings at the ends, the real object of value. Some Kina Shells have a broad carrying suspension, some have a simple cord with pulled up seed capsules, or just a simple carrying cord.

The Kina Shells of the Foi tribe will be ruddy coloured and are additionally decorated with scratch and/or point decorations. Particular large and beautiful Kina Shells were often provided with an own name, kept in richly decorated bags and were given together with the bag to others.

Use and Value:

The Kina Shell was an object of value and an essential part of the bride price. The value is guided from the condition of shell, the size and the colour. Most valued were the ruddy coloured Kina Shells. They had the highest valency and acceptance in the Mount Hagen area.

In the Sepik area the carrying suspension of the Kina Shell near the drillings were decorated with Nassa Shells.

In the past, 8 Kina Shells were worth a fully-grown pig, for one shell one could get 1 small pig. The value of the Kina Shell surely varied from region to region. Until the 1960`s it had a fixed exchange rate of 12 shillings per pair.

Apart from the men also women carried it as ornament and sign of the prosperity.

At feasts or bride negotiations, together with other bride presents, a corresponding number of Kina Shells were presented on a tray like underlay.

With the arrival of the white men around the turn of the century the increasing import of Kina Shells increasingly expired their value. After this, they were only used mainly as ornament and at feasts.

Ruddy coloured Kina Shell of the Foi tribe, with point and scratch decoration at the rims. The carrying suspension is inked brown and spreads approx. 30 mm.

Dimensions of shell (BxH): 205x175 mm.

Carrying suspension length:

approx. 420 mm

Total weight: 314 g

Kina Shell, the carrying suspension consisting of a simple cord with pulled up seed capsules. Surface and rear side are left naturally.

Shell dimensions (BxH): 172x167 mm.

Total weight: 197 g

Kina Shell without carrying suspension from the Foi tribe, showing point decoration at the upper edge. The front side is ruddy colored, the rear side is left naturally and shows sticking remnants, which shows, that it once was presented on a tray like underlay. Shell dimensions (BxH): 205x175 mm.

Total weight: 314 g

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