At the end of the 19th century, the so-called 'Kissi money' or 'Kissi penny' was introduced by the Kissi, Loma and
Bandi peoples living in the border regions of nowadays Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In practice its use was
quite extensive. Various sources mention the use of the Kissi money among and between the Bandi, Gbandia, Gola,
Kissi, Kpelle, Loma, Mandingo and Mende tribes of this region. Presumably, Kissi money was 'minted' as from the
1880s by native blacksmiths who used iron smelted from the rich ore in the region. For many decades Kissi money
circulated along with American, British and French paper money.
The shape of the Kissi money is rather odd. Its characteristic form is a twisted rod of iron with flattened ends:
a flat, hoe-like spatula at one end and a sharpened 'T' at the other. Its length varies from 9 to over 15 inches,
the longer ones representing a higher value. Larger 'denominations' also were created by twisting several pieces
together or bundling them and securing them with a cotton or leather strip. The odd shape may have its origin as a
means of protection since it was virtually impossible to tamper with the metal content of the piece without
noticing it immediately.
If an iron rod would accidentally break, it could no longer circulate and its value could only be restored in a
special ceremony performed by the Zoe, the traditional witchdoctor - often the blacksmith - who, for a fee, would
rejoin the broken pieces and reincarnate the escaped soul. Therefore, it was said that Kissi money was 'money with