Author Topic: Primitive  (Read 375 times)

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« on: July 08, 2009, 09:23:09 PM »
One of my recent acquisitions is "An Ethnographic Study of Traditional Money" by Charles J. Opitz.  It was obtained as part of a bulk deal by another NZ collector whose enthusiasm for the field led him to take his family on a trip to Yap to view stone coins in situ a couple of years ago.  I don't have much in this field myself, apart from some "borderline" examples of Chinese knife and spade money, "ant-nose" money and metal cowries, but since I enjoy numismatic books as much as I enjoy the coins ... :-)

The RNSNZ also received a review copy of a CD produced by the Regina Coin Club in Canada some time ago.  I reviewed it for the RNSNZ Newsletter, and since the Newsletter itself is available on-line I see no harm in reproducing it here, for anyone who may be interested:

Review - The Jack Shinske Collection of Odd & Curious Money (on CD-ROM)
produced by The Regina Coin Club, PO BOX 174, Regina SK S4P 2Z6, Canada,, e-mail
Reviewed by Martin Purdy

Price (details taken from the RCC website): C$5 to members of the RCC, C$10 to non-members and C$20 to clubs and organisations.

Jack Shinske was a member of the Regina Coin Club, a collector over a period of some fifty years of Canadian and Ancient coins, also “odd and curious money”.  A strong believer in “buy the book before the coin”, he also built up a comprehensive numismatic library.  His collection was sold after his death in 2004, the odd and curious items being subsequently donated to the University of Calgary.

This CD is devoted to the “odd and curious” material, and consists of a 166-page PowerPoint presentation with fully illustrated slides, saved in PDF format.  Examples range from bird feathers woven into coils (ten coils would have bought you a wife on Santa Cruz in the Solomon Islands, or 100 coils a concubine from a different island, until the practice was stopped in the 1930s) to “rat’s dung money”, whale’s teeth, processed beads, metallic “ant nose” and “ghost face” money from China, etc., etc., - I’m not going to reveal the entire contents!  I will simply say that the collection has a world-wide ambit, featuring items predominantly from the Pacific Islands, North America, Africa and Asia.

Compiling a document like this is not easy work, and the editors/compilers deserve praise for their efforts in documenting the collection and making it available in this way.  The material is mostly very interesting and unusual, and certainly rarely seen in such quantity in one place.  I would definitely recommend it for those with an interest in “odd and curious money” as the title states.

There are always points about which one might quibble, and the following comments are intended positively - one advantage with modern technology is that amendments can be made during a production run, and I would hope that some of the minor slips - the odd spelling error and typographical problem (e.g. overlaid letters, slides 117-118, 125, 166) can be ironed out as more copies of the disk are produced.  I also noticed that a couple of porcelain gambling tokens were illustrated upside down (slides 73 and 74, right-hand item), which again I hope would not be too hard to remedy.

The choice of PDF format rather than leaving the PowerPoint presentation intact does make the document a little hard on the hand and eye - I would have liked an automated slide show rather than having to use the Page Down button to move from page to page, for instance. 

Some African masks included at the end are interesting, but their link to the overall topic is questionable without further detail regarding their relevance.  There did not seem to be much geographical logic to the order of items, which are instead grouped by physical origin (animal, mineral, vegetable), and thus tend to jump from continent to continent, and I found the inclusion of the collector’s handwritten labels in the photographs a distraction rather than adding to the overall appeal.  Slightly more detail on the background of many of the items would have been welcome from my point of view - I was left wanting more information than the captions and labels provided.

All of that said, the disk is hardly overpriced: C$10 for those outside the Regina Coin Club makes it a very nice low-cost item of both education and entertainment that I would be very happy to have on my reference shelf.