San Blas Islands
The San Blas Archipelago or San Blas de Cuna Islands is a chain of tropical isles in the Caribbean Sea a few miles off the north coast of Panama. Approximately 50 of over 365 of these islands that make up the chain are inhabited. Half of the islands are within sight and easy traveling distance of the mountains and jungle of the mainland. There is no fresh water supply on the San Blas islands leaving the Indians with the daily task of traveling up the rivers of Panama to collect water. The San Blas Reservation was declared an independent state in 1925 and was legally formed in 1938.

The San Blas de Cuna Islands are the home of the Cuna, a traditional society of Native Americans. Most of these tropical islands are very small. Many are surrounded by coral reefs. The islands are part of Panama, but are primarily administered by the Cuna tribe.

Molas are one of the primary expressions of the visual arts in Cuna society. All genuine molas were created by a Cuna woman as the focal point for her own dress. The designs are always original and are an important way for a woman to express herself and demonstrate her talent and industry in this politically active and traditionally matriarchal society.

The History of the San Blas Island tokens is that "SIABIBI" company is owned by John Mann, an island impresario, who started tourist traffic there years ago. After having been a diver with the Pan Canal Co., he started trading on the islands, and naturally buys copra (dried coconut). It requires to purchase the whole coconut to obtain the copra and since the price of coconuts are shifted from day to day basis from 5 cents to 9 cents each. It was a tough job figuring out a way to make a correct accounting at the end of the day. He had to find a way to avoid carrying bags of change, or hundreds of Dollar bills. So he thought and got the idea of tokens. It become easy, as by at the end of the day the Indians are allowed to cash in the day's receipt of coconut sales from the number of token they have acquired. Each token being worth 5 times the current price of a coconut, which is payable in Dollar bills with corresponding changes.

The Design of the token is also very interesting. You will notice that the initial CQP besides the Coconut palm tree. These are the initials of "Charles Q. Peters", who has been a guide and friend of the Indians for many years. He is the one who gave an aura of assurance to the Indians that these tokens are legitimate on the bole of the palm trees of a orchid called "Brassabola Nodosa", translated as "lady of the night". The Palm tree on the coin is seen up from the ground and put in potion with albatross flying in the background indicates in Indian language "Tomorrow". So a little legend comes from the scene, which translated means "Be patient for tomorrow, you will get paid". The Indians always flow designs together and for this reason the tree, sky, water, canoe, land, etc show some message.

I purchased my San Blas token dated 1986 from Don Erickson ( This token is mentioned as SB9 in Rulau's book. On one side of the coin you can see a Palm tree with text "SIABIBI". On the other side 1986 is written on the big ear ring wore by a local woman. This token can be probably called a  souvenir from San Blas Islands. Similar token with different years also exists in brass and copper-nickel with various designs.
Chiefa Coins