Among the most intriguing lots in Heritage Auctions
' Ethnographic Art : American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Signature Auction June 26 in Dallas, Texas, will be a rare piece of feather money from the Southwest Pacific.
Solomon Islands Feather Money, Tevau, Santa Cruz (est. $8,000-12,000) 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.
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. Through natural deterioration and wear from handling, the coils gradually lost their color and eventually turned black, decreasing their value.