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Yap Island. Stone Money "Fei" & Banana Fiber and Hibiscus Fiber Mat, ND (ca. Late 19th Century or Earlier). Pre O'Keefe Type.
Approximately 19 x 15 x 4 in; Approximately 74 lbs. Opitz-pg. 316/21; Quiggin-pg. 144, pl#12; Sigler-P.19. Yap Island produced the world's largest and heaviest coinage, most commonly referred to as "Fei" or "Rai", considered sacred amongst the local people. The largest examples are in excess of 12 feet in diameter, weighing about 2 tons. Due to their excessive size, the larger stones often traded ownership without physically being moved and would remain in place as it became common knowledge among the inhabitants that it now belonged to a new owner. As there is no large source of stone on Yap, the stones were quarried and shaped on the island of Malakal in Palau, then shipped back to Yap on native boats. The stones are made of calcite, which is abundant on Malakal. Some of the larger stones took as long as two years to quarry and shape using axes made from giant clams. The trip from Malakal to Yap via boat was a hazardous voyage that claimed many lives. Often the value placed on a stone directly related to the amount of human lives lost in order to quarry it and deliver to Yap. Although there are many sizes and shapes of Yap stones, they can be classified into two basic types: pre and post O'Keefe. The earliest stones were produced by the locals using axe heads made from segments of the giant clam. Later stones or "O'Keefe stones" were produced in the late 1800's using metal tools. David O'Keefe was American of Irish heritage who came to Yap with tools and a junk boat acquired in Hong Kong, which he used to quarry and transport "Fei" from Malakal to Yap, and through this process set himself up as the King of Yap Island. The 1954 motion picture "His Majesty O'Keefe" starring Burt Lancaster, although somewhat dramatized and engrossed, fairly accurately portrays this series of events. The stone offered here is the pre O'Keefe type. Seldom are larger stones available for sale as removing them from the island was extremely hard due to their size and weight. This example is quite nice to behold and was quite well produced considering it was hewn by hand. In color it is a lovely milky golden tan. Simply a delight to behold. Often referred to as the key or "Holy Grail" to assembling a collection of primitive money the chance to obtain one of these pieces should not be missed.
Also, included is a finely woven fiber mat (approximately 10 ft x 17.5 in) with intricate geometric shapes and designs, the wavy lines at both ends are supposed to depict ocean waves. Supposedly produced on the neighboring island of Fais to be given to a chief on the island of Yap. The ends of the mat are loose and wavy. An attractive and substantial pair sure to excite the specialist. Due to the nature and size of this lot, additional shipping charges will apply. We encourage interested bidders to contact us for more information.
From an Advanced Collection of Primitive Monies.
Estimate: $7000.00- $10000.00
Starting Price: 4200 USD
Price realized: 23 000 USD
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