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 at the bottom of the earring. The number "979" (for 1979) appears on the earring above the 78, and the number "80" (for 1980) appears above that. The woman's face has wrinkles by her eye, nose and on her cheek giving her a late middle-aged appearance. As well there is added detail to the head covering compared to the similar tokens issued in 1978 and 1979. 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 7.2 grams Size and Shape Round, 26 mm in diameter.
Dates Issued 1980.
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-269, Henkle's Colon #58, Rulau's SB 7.
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 Nineteen specimens of this token in collector hands are known to me. Recent sales include:
  1. Auction sale on ebay on January 3, 2007 for $6.73 plus $1.00 shipping.
  2. Auction sale on ebay on October 28, 2006 for $9.99 plus $5.50 shipping.
  3. Auction sale on ebay on September 30, 2001 for $4.25 plus $2.00 shipping.
  4. Auction sale on ebay on September 26, 2001 for $10.50 plus $2.00 shipping.
  5. Auction sale on ebay on September 6, 2001 for $3.00 plus $3.00 shipping.
  6. Auction sale on ebay on August 25, 2001 for $10.00 plus $2.00 shipping.