Wholesale Seashells: Cypraea moneta

Cypraea moneta

Also known as “The Money Cowrie”, this shell was given its name since it has been used as money since ancient times.

According to Chinese literature, the cowrie was mentioned as a form of money thousands of years ago.

The most famous example of this was in Africa, where traders brought in these shells. This cowrie is very common in the shallow waters of the Indian Ocean, where it is an herbivore that can be collected on rocks.

Many money cowries were gathered in island groups such as the Maldives and the Seychelles and then brought to Africa, and in the interior these were used as money to trade for goods.

In the 19th century, 10 money cowries could buy a chicken, and 30  could buy a bride. After only fifty years later, inflation raised prices dramatically; a chicken required 300 cowries, and a bride was an astounding 3,500.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the cowrie money shell had lost its value and was no longer used as currency in Africa. While it lasted, the Arabs and Europeans made a huge profit on cowrie shells; it is thought that in the hundred years after 1660, the Dutch alone brought in 4.7 billion money cowrie shells into Africa, which they traded for ivory, gold and slaves.

Another cowrie that was used as money was the ringer cowrie.