Internet searches can turn up numismatic references in the strangest places. I was surprised to come across a reference to tokens of the Belgian Congo on the site of the Harvard Business School. I was looking forward to discovering a paper of interest unknown to numismatists, but it turned out to be a reference to something already in the numismatic literature domain.Heart of Darkness: Business Tokens of the Congo (Part 1)
The HBS working Knowledge e-mail newsletter "... summarizes new working papers, case studies, and publications produced by Harvard Business School faculty." In this case, the newsletter highlighted an article in the April 2008 journal of the Token and Medal Society. Author Louis Wells is a faculty member. -Editor
Authors: Louis T. Wells
Publication: TAMS Journal 48 (April 2008): 36-42.
Few numismatic fields are as unexplored as the tokens of what was once the Belgian Congo. Although the head (and "extra-wife") tokens have been thoroughly cataloged, I have found only one very early and incomplete attempt, by Mahieu in the 1920s, to report other tokens from this vast territory. Most of the tokens in this article that have not been previously listed were obtained in markets in Kinshasa between 2000 and 2005. Given the poor communications and regional violence, tokens from the eastern and even central part of the Congo were unlikely to appear in this western-located city. Probably many more tokens were issued in association with the Congo's important mines and plantations. This "Part I" article should serve as a start for the development of a "Part II" with a more complete list and history of issuing companies. Until then, the tokens of the former Belgian Congo and its independent successor states remain largely in darkness.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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