Collectors are often, and rightly, concerned about the age and authenticity of the pieces they buy and study. Ethnographic monies, however, often served purposes other than monetary - such as adornment or ritual - both during their main periods of use, and afterwards. In Africa, blacksmithing certainly did not die out as iron money forms fell from use as currency. Recently I have seen a number of iron money-form pieces which are similar to known types, but more ornate or with novel features. As a class, they show little or no wear or imperfection, superficial rather than deep rust, and occasionally incorporate known forms of evident age through welding. None seem to be published in academic or gallery works earlier than the 21st century. They are quite attractive and will certainly appeal to lovers of African metal art. According to an Africanist who has travelled widely in Nigeria, these likely come from the Mandara Mountains on the Cameroun / Nigeria border region - perhaps a single maker or a village. However, I have not found any direct evidence of modern making. The most novel and beautiful of these pieces are "manform" throwing knives. Below I illustrate a number of these pieces which were offered to me by a London-based trader in 2011, though I have not seen similar pieces with American traders until 2015. I have included photos of Mumuye" torch and collars, Vere knives, and spiral objects which were offered by the same source, and similarly lack exact published prototypes.
Manform Throwing Knives These appear to be invented forms. They do not really match anything in Felix's Kipinga. Note the similarity in etchings among these various types. None of these pieces have imperfections, nor deep rust, nor any signs of wear. I have bought a few pieces for stock, as they are reasonably priced if only as art objects. Kipinga Throwing Knives These two pieces are deeply rusted, but the edges are squared rather than tapered, and have a sharp feeling, showing no wear or use. Alone they are deceptive, but comparing them to worn specimens of more conventional shape they stand out. I suspect they were cut out of some old sheet iron. Closeup of one piece
Vere Knives (?) Nicely made, but the iron shows only the most superficial of rust.
"Mumuye Torch" I am suspicious of this type of object altogether. I have handled two pieces previously and continue to offer them, but perhaps they are a pure invention? Bartolomucci's African Currency, p. 45, notes a specimen as "Gathered on site in eastern Nigeria in the Eighties," which perhaps establishes some bona fide.
Spiral Objects The spirals appear identical from piece to piece. The bottom specimen incorporates a common noisemaker anklet of obvious age, though the rest of the piece looks new.
Mumuye Collars Are these also pure inventions? Can such amazing objects have escaped the notice of travelers and scholars until now? Some of the specimens I have handled had end pieces with arrows, twists, sockets and the like (one damaged) found on Idoma or "Lobi snakes", but these could be welded to modern-made collars.