Bizarre Papua New Guinea  Money


Banana leaf cash, Papua New Guinea money.

Papua New Guinea money grows on trees

Currency takes many forms in Papua New Guinea. Paper money is the Kina, named after the first form of money in PNG – pearl shells cut into crescents and worn around the neck. While travellers nowadays can pay their way with paper or plastic, local people still prefer to make substantial payments, such as a dowry or for building a house, in solid traditional style. Depending on the area they might use pigs, shell bracelets or necklaces, carved wooden bowls, stone axes, Bird of Paradise plumes, grass skirts or a root vegetable — the Yam.

Dog’s canine teeth used to be such a popular medium of exchange that pre-war German colonists had porcelain imitations made and shipped out. They still retain the same value as the real thing.

Out and around the Trobriand Islands women make their own money. Fresh banana leaves are scraped against a board that is engraved with the family seal. Strips of the impressed leaf are bundled into hundreds and are worth about one Kina/one dollar. Long hours needed, but it’s a sure way to make a buck.

PNG Money in different forms


A selection of bizarre Papua New Guinea money, including feathers and shells and dogs teeth

Some variations on cash money in Papua New Guinea include both real and false dog’s teeth (the latter were made in Germany), birds of paradise feathers and Kina shells, but not in the photo are yams, engraved banana leaves or live pigs.

Bottom centre in the photo is Kina paper money used by tourists and by locals much of the time. For special occasions such as marriage dowries, funerals or other ceremonies more exotic offerings may be made such as a feather from a Bird of Paradise (top centre), carved bowls (top left), dog’s teeth necklaces (right side) and various shells including the most expensive, the Kina shell (golden yellow at centre).