Obverse Design The legend "SAN BLAS ISLANDS" curves along the top. The center of the token has a Kuna sailboat (cayuca) with a boatman wearing a billed cap. There are stylized waves under the boat. The entire design is done in a simplistic silhouette style. The indians always flow design elements together, and Charlie Peters who designed these tokens duplicated that style. The token has a smooth plain somewhat wide raised edge.
Reverse Design The legend "SIABIBI" starts at the bottom and curves along the right side of the token. SIABIBI means "little cousin" or "little niece" and was the name of John Mann's company. The center of the token shows a palm tree on an island. Under the palm tree are five coconuts (which is the value of the coin). On the upper-left side of the trunk of the palm tree is a small "V-shaped" design indicating an air-orchid called "Lady of the Night" in English, but "patience" in the Kuna language. This orchid is used as the main ingredient in a tea drunk by Indian women to give them patience. In the sky is an albatross flying, which in the Kuna language means tomorrow. So the symbolism means "Have patience, you will be paid tomorrow and will receive your five coconuts." To the left of the palm tree are the initials of the designer, CQP for Charles Q. Peters. Like the obverse, the entire design is done in a simplistic silhouette style. The token has a smooth plain somewhat wide raised edge.
Orientation Medallic orientation.
Metal Brass. Weight 9.1 grams Size and Shape Round, 29 mm in diameter.
Dates Issued 1971.
Issurer John A. Mann, owner of the SIABIBI company.
Mintage 5000.
Rarity Common. Manufacturer Wendell-Northwestern, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Other Catalog Numbers Asociación Numismático's F-265, Conte-Porras page # 99, Henkle's Colon #54, Plumer page #8, Rulau's SB 1.
Varieties This token comes in two similar designs. The 1971 variety is has a sailboat on the obverse with no designs in the sky. The 1977 variety has a five-point star to the right of the sail, and the initials JAM (John A. Mann) to the left of the sail.
Function This token was issued by John Mann, one of the few non-indians allowed by the Kuna (San Blas) indians to run a business on their islands. According to Coconut Money, an article which originally appeared in the October 1978 issue of The Numismatist, John Mann issued these tokens as currency in order to replace coconuts as a medium of exchange. However, the tokens had very limited circulation; the Kuna indians hoarded them at first, and then discovered tourists would pay more than the face value of five coconuts (25 cents) for them. So the indians sold them to tourists. After the initial 1971 emission, later tokens were most likely issued solely with the purpose of being sold to tourists. They were sold in BU in Panama by dealers like Dan Sander of Numismatica Ltda for many years.
Population Count Twenty-six specimens of this token in collector hands are known to me. Recent sales include:
  1. Auction sale on ebay on April 5, 2007 for $5.50 plus $6.50 shipping.
  2. Auction sale on ebay on February 23, 2007 for $8.50 plus $2.00 shipping.
  3. Auction sale on ebay on May 7, 2005 for $9.00 plus $2.00 shipping.
  4. Auction sale on ebay on April 26, 2004 for $11.50 plus $4.00 shipping.
  5. Auction sale on ebay on January 27, 2004 for $10.49 plus $4.00 shipping.
  6. Auction sale on ebay on January 15, 2004 for $6.12 plus $2.50 shipping.

According to Coconut Money, John A. Mann first came to the San Blas islands as an artillery observer during World War II. After returning to Panama in the 1950's and working as a diver for the Panama Canal Company, Mann retired in the late 1960's to live a more leisurely life in the San Blas islands. He set up a small tourist business, taking people to the tribal islands where they could see various islands, the people, the huts, the beautiful coral reefs and the "molas" which the San Blas women will sell to tourists. Mann found himself trading in coconuts for labor and handiwork, and decided a better medium of exchange was needed. Mann enlisted the artistic abilities of Charles Q. Peters, a long-time resident of the Canal Zone and the Republic of Panama, to design a coin that might be used for trade on the islands. Charlie Peters was also known as a friend and guide to the indians, so his involvement helped assure the indians that the tokens were legitimate.

The word SIABIBI means "little cousin" or "little niece" and was the name of John Mann's tourist boat and business. Mann also published a book called "SIABIBI" in 1975, with revised editions in 1981, 1983 and 1984. It is an introduction to the San Blas indian culture presented from the perspective of a young indian girl, and oriented towards tourists that might be about to tour the San Blas islands. In the book Mann describes himself as the author of many unfinished manuscripts. The book includes a reprint of an undated magazine article Mann wrote for Focus Publications. The article gives the following biography of John Mann:

Ex-marine John Mann spent 27 of the 35 years he has lived in Panama with the Kuna Indians of San Blas. In his own words, "I dedicated so much time and energy shirking normal responsibilities and avoiding hard work, I decided to make a career out of it." At present, residing in Panama City, he writes, lectures and offers tribal iason and consultant service for passenger ships making calls in the area.

The article starts with John Mann words: "I arrived in San Blas on July 1955 and felt as many have before and since that it was a new discovery..."

As late as 1997, John Mann is known to have been working with cruise ships as an expert lecturer on the San Blas indians.