Coin Collecting -

Primitive Money - African Kissi Penny

This unusual iron currency was produced in the Kissi region of Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa. It was used by various African peoples (including the Kissi) in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Conakry from the late Nineteenth Century until the later Twentieth Century. Kissi Pennies were reportedly used in Sierra Leone as late as 1940 and in Liberia until the 1980's.


Kissi Pennies consist of a long, twisted iron rod with a sharpened "T"-like structure at one end ("nling" or "ear") and a flattened blade ("kodo" or "foot") at the other. They range in size from six to sixteen inches. The longer ones were considered to have a higher value, although individually, Kissi Pennies had limited buying power. For this reason, bundles of Kissi Pennies (usually twenty per bundle) were created for larger transactions.


In addition to serving as currency, Kissi Pennies were also used in religious ceremonies and placed on the graves of the departed. They were believed to channel souls and, thus, are sometimes described as "having a soul." If broken, the Kissi Penny immediately lost its value, which could only be restored by a Zoe, or traditional Witchdoctor, during a special ceremony in which the Penny would be repaired.