Home > Uncategorized > Yap stone money as an example of a blockchain kind of technology

Yap stone money as an example of a blockchain kind of technology

I’m reading up on the famous stone money from Yap (Cora Lee Gillilland, The stone money of Yap. A numismatic survey. Washington, 1975). About this:

1) This was a kind of blockchain money avant-la-lettre
2) And not your typical western kind of individual owned money. Because of its blockchain character it could serve as ‘ritual’, ‘gidigen’ gift-money (compare our wedding rings) as well as ‘normal’ money. Fascinating. From the link:

Local Interpretation of Value. A Judicial Account

The rai monetary system has been subjected to the influence of foreign monetary values, resulting in a conflict between traditional and modern concepts within the Yapese society. These changing concepts are exemplified in the landmark case known in Micronesia as Civil Action No. 25 ….The action commenced in the spring of 1960, when the National Bank of Detroit acquired a Yapese stone disk measuring 152.5 centimeters (5 ft) in diameter. On 20 January 1961, a local civil action suit was filed with the District Court of Yap District, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In ‘this case, the plaintiff, Choo, charged that the defendant, Pong, had received 125 dollars for the sale of a stone to the National Bank of Detroit. That stone, Choo maintained, rightly belonged to him. Therefore, he demanded in compensation the total sum of 125 dollars or return of the same stone. On 10 April 1961, the Yap District Court requested that this action be transferred to the trial division of the Trust Territory High Court. This was done and the case became Civil Action No. 25 on the High Court docket. The court’s pre-trial order provides an invaluable account of the history of this piece of rai.

The following portion of the history of the stone money is agreed upon.
a. Urun and Tamangiro, from Af Village, in Tamil Municipality,went to the Palau Islands and obtained three pieces of stone money. They gave the larger piece to the people of Af Village. By agreement between them, Urun retained one of the smaller ones and Tamangiro the other smaller one. The piece in question in this action is the one retained by Urun in this division.

b. Urun’s house burned down and the people of Af Village helped him rebuild it. In payment of this assistance, Urun gave the stone money now in question to the people of Af Village.

c. During a “tarn” celebration given by Af Village, the people of Dechumui Village put on a dance about people going on a trip and, in appreciation for this dance, the people of Af Village gave the stone money in question, among other things, to the people of Dechumur Village and the stone money was removed to Dechumur Village and remained there until about January 15, 1960.

d. Some people from Dechumur Village made a trip to Palau and brought more stone money of various sizes. The piece brought in on this trip by Tamag was the same size as that given by Af Village to Dechumur Village, and this piece brought in by Tamag was given to Af Village and the piece now in question given to Tamag in exchange for the one he brought in.

e. Tamag gave the piece now in question to his brother Fazagol when the latter was about to build a house. Fazagol gave this stone money to Puguu in payment for some tin roofing for the house.

f. On or about January 15, 1960, the defendant Pong, with a group of men gathered by him, removed the stone money in question from Dechumur Village over the protests of the plaintiff Choo who was present during part of the removal, protested that the stone money belonged to him, and told them not to remove it. Later, on Pong’s authorization, the stone money was shipped to the Money Museum of the National Bank of Detroit, Michigan, in accordance with the agreement of sale with Pong under which he received $125.00 for the stone money. Choo, the plaintiff, claimed that the stone was given to him by Puguu as “gidigen,” or a type of marriage gift, in return for Choo’s guarantee to care for three children, which Choo’s wife brought into his home at the time of their marriage. The defendant, Pong, claimed that Puguu had given the stone money in question to him in an exchange for alcohol, two pieces of shell money, and assistance. The Chief Justice of the High Court, E. P. Furber, ruled in favor of the plaintiff Choo and ordered that he be repaid by Pong. Judge Furber’s decision reads in part:

1. Puguu’s transfer of the stone money to Choo entirely cut off Puguu’s rights in the stone money, and any effort he may have made thereafter either to transfer the stone money to the defendant Pong or to confirm or establish Pong’s ownership thereof was of no legal effect.

2. Inasmuch as this stone money was given to Choo as “gidigen” under Yapese custom his rights in it axe presumably held in common with certain of his relatives and not by him alone. It is believed, however, that, as against the defendant Pong, the plaintiff Choo is entitled to speak for his entire group and that Pong is accountable to Choo for the entire sum which he received for the stone money regardless of what obligations Choo may have to other members of his group.

  1. Nick Pudar
    March 24, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    I just ran across this post, and appreciate the reminder of this story. As I live in the Detroit area, I have always wondered what ever became of the stone Rai that was in the National Bank of Detroit Money Museum. I’m wondering if anyone reading this might know any further details?

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