Hawaiian Coinage

It’s a little known fact outside the collector’s world that the Hawaiian Islands had their own coinage.  Five official coins were issued for the Kingdom of Hawai’i before it became a territory of the United States.  All of these Silver pieces were designed by Charles Barber and were minted in San Francisco.  Serving as legal tender in Hawai’i, Hawaiian coinage includes the 1847 cent issued by King Kamehameha III and the 1883 silver dimes, quarters, halves and dollars, which bare the portrait of King Kalakaua.

Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

The element that makes these coins so collectible can be found in their uniquity.  After Hawai’i became a United States territory in 1900 these coins were no longer accepted as legal tender and lost their initial value.  At that time, most of these coins were withdrawn and melted down.  As a result, they are more rare and of higher value.

Aside from their limited number, they are unique in the many hands they passed through during a specific time and locale in history.  Initially 100,000 of these Hawaiian coins were issued and were used for the remainder of the century alongside a plethora of foreign coins circulated through plantation work and trade.  Because the Hawaiian Kingdom did not have the means necessary to mint their own coins, commerce relied on a medley of currency from Spanish American colonies, Asia and the United States.  Alongside foreign coins, plantations such as Wailuku, Thomas Horton, Waterhouse and Haiku distributed tokens to serve as minor coinage.

By The original uploader was Ianwatts at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By The original uploader was Ianwatts at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Each of the coins might have been the daily bread of a migrant plantation worker or a means of cultural trade.  Even today Hawai’i is referred to as a “melting pot”.  It’s fascinating that from the beginnings of currency and language, Hawai’i has demonstrated a blending of cultures which can be seen through their limited currency and the story each coin tells.

The Bloody Background of Barber Poles

Warning: Barber poles have a bloody history.

What today represents a simple haircut once represented something very different.

Barbers used to do much more than a haircut and shave. Customers would come to them for such services as surgery, picking out lice and setting bones, all services that physicians considered beneath them.

The main service of the barber was bloodletting. Bloodletting was a common medical practice until the 19th century, even practiced in the early 20th century, as it was believed to let out bad humors. Taking out enough blood to make the patient faint was considered beneficial.

Of course, today the practice seems ridiculous; bloodletting really only helps a very limited number of medical conditions.

People regularly went in to a barber to have their blood let, much like a regular dentist appointment today.

Drapers Barber Shop in Martinsville, Virginia.

Drapers Barber Shop in Martinsville, Virginia.

Barbers in Medieval London simply put bowls of blood in the windows to remind passersby to get their regular bloodletting service. But in 1307 the city realized that bowls of old blood were actually quite disgusting (took them long enough). It ruled for extra blood to be thrown in the Thames.

The ‘World’s Tallest Barber Shop Pole’ in Forest Grove, Oregon is 70 feet tall!

Barbers (sometimes called barber-surgeons) needed some way to advertise their services. They chose a pole with symbolic colors.

When barbers hung bloodied bandages outside their shop, the bandages would twist around the rod in the wind. The spiraling barber pole represents the twisted bandages, with red spiraling downward to represent the flow of blood and white for the bandages. Some suggest that the blue on the poles represent veins.

A 1540 law required barbers and surgeons to distinguish services by color. Barbers used blue and white, surgeons red and white.

Today’s barber poles mix the colors together to make the universal barber shop symbol.

Don’t go rushing to your barber for medical help, but now you can take a moment to appreciate a barber pole the next time you get your hair cut — and be glad that’s all you’re doing.