National Currency Collection
The well-travelled mollusc
As currency, cowry shells were a great success. They were durable, portable, universally recognizable, nearly impossible to counterfeit and remained a viable trading tool for thousands of years. At different times, they were used as mediums of exchange in Africa, Polynesia and parts of Asia - especially China. Cowry exchange value varied greatly with availability, giving it more buying power the further it was from the ocean. In China, the character for cowry forms the root symbol for many words related to money or value.