Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Silver 5 mark coin
New Guinea, AD 1894
Pacific coinage from Germany
The Pacific island of New Guinea was contested by West European powers from the sixteenth century, with the Netherlands gradually gaining control of the western half and Portugal the eastern. In 1884 Germany took possession of the northern part of the eastern half of the island.
The area was given its own coinage in German denominations in 1894. The coins were minted in Berlin as silver ½, 1, 2 and 5 mark pieces. The image on one side of this 5 mark coin shows a Bird of Paradise; on the other side the denomination and date are shown within a wreath. When it was introduced by the German administration, this new Western-style money was used alongside more traditional ways of paying for goods, including pearl shells and feathers of the Bird of Paradise.
Germany lost the colony during the First World War (1914-18). The eastern half of the island was reunited after the Second World War (1939-45), and in 1975 became the independent state of Papua New Guinea.
J. Cribb, B. Cook and I. Carradice, The coin atlas (London and Sydney, Macdonald Illustrated, 1990)