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Antique West African Hoe Currency

For this month’s Fine Sale, we are delighted to be offering this fascinating collection of Antique West African objects. Although they may initially appear to be an array of tools or weapons, in actuality, these items were highly valuable currency.

As iron smelting and forging may have existed in Africa as long ago as 1000 BC, it is unsurprising that the material would become involved in important exchanges across the continent. The control of iron would secure a King’s rule or provide a family their fortune. The tools and weapons forged from iron would enable communities to hunt and forage, as well as protect themselves. Thus, these iron objects would become commodities themselves, and evolved into a currency.

Found across West Africa, in the shape of agricultural implements – such as hoes, paddles, spades and trowels - as well as throwing knives and blades, iron currency varied in value but could be involved in highly important transactions. They would be used in litigation, ransom deals, and in the purchase of horses and other prized commodities. In some cases, one throwing knife could be exchanged for a bride.

Additionally, the very thin and flat shapes, often with intricate designs, represented a technical challenge for blacksmiths, requiring considerable craftsmanship. As such, the items would also be signifiers of wealth and skill, and would be worn in ceremonies or passed down as heirlooms through generations.

The collection now up for auction in Lots Road encompasses an array of shapes and sizes, included flat paddles, a long spade with a snake decoration at the handle, and a sickle. Our Fine Sale will be on the 17th November 2019.

African Currency
African Currency

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