Obverse Design The legend "SAN BLAS PANAMA" curves along the right edge of the token. The center of the token has a three-quarters profile of a San Blas indian woman's head wearing a typical head covering and a very large gold earring. The number "78" (for 1978) appears on the earring. The woman's face is young-looking and her head covering is plain without detail. The design is simplistic, but has more relief than the sailboat design it replaced. The token has a narrow, plain low 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 7.0 grams. Size and Shape Round, 26 mm in diameter.
Dates Issued 1978.
Issurer John A. Mann, owner of the SIABIBI company.
Mintage Unknown, probably somewhere between 1000 and 5000.
Rarity Common. Manufacturer Wendell-Northwestern, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Other Catalog Numbers Asociación Numismático's F-267, Conte-Porras page # 99, Henkle's Colon #56, Rulau's SB 5.
Varieties This token comes in four nearly identical designs. The 1978, 1979 and 1980 issues were made of brass and the 1986 issue was made of a white metal, nickel-silver per one report. Apparently the same dies were used each year but with changes. With each issue the new date was added on the earring above the old date. The date 1978 appears as "78", 1979 as "979" (very unusual), 1980 as "80" and 1986 as the full year "1986". The indian woman's face is shown with more lines and wrinkles each year. As well, the details increase on the head covering.
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 Fifteen specimens of this token in collector hands are known to me. Recent sales include:
  1. Auction sale on ebay on February 25, 2007 for $19.99.
  2. Auction sale on ebay on February 25, 2007 for $10.50 plus $1.00 shipping for both PT-610.2 (San Blas 1977) and PT-610.3 (San Blas 1978).
  3. Auction sale on ebay on January 25, 2004 for $9.99 plus $1.50 shipping.
  4. Auction sale on ebay on December 2, 2002 for $7.53 plus $.80 shipping.
  5. Auction sale on ebay on November 11, 2002 for $2.95 plus $1.00 shipping.
  6. Auction sale on ebay on August 26, 2002 for $3.75 plus $1.00 shipping.
  7. Auction sale on ebay on June 26, 2001 for $2.50 plus $2.00 shipping.
  8. Auction sale on ebay on February 22, 2001 for $6.00.