Cape Verde Islands

The Tokens of Salins Du Cap Vert

    The Republic of Cape Verde is a group of 10 main islands plus several smaller ones. They are several hundred miles to the west of the most westerly part of mainland Africa i.e. the Senegalese coast.

    Cape Verde was under Portuguese rule for over 500 years, until 1975, Portuguese remains the official language. One of Cape Verde's main islands is that of Sal, in Portuguese "Sal" means "Salt". For many years large amounts of Salt were exported from the island. The island has two main areas from which common salt was first extracted, hundreds of years ago, possibly even before the Portuguese. The two locations of the salt are near Santa Maria in the south of the island and near Pedra de Lume on the western coast. The first French involvement in salt production on the island was in 1903, at Santa Maria. That particular company failed after a few years. Later on, in 1919, a French company (from Bordeaux) and a local businessman bought the established works at Pedra de Lume. The company was called "Salins du Cap Vert" (meaning "Saltworks of Cape Verde"). It would seem that this company was part of what is now "Le Groupe Salins" (( http://www.salins.com )), now based in Paris. Notable of this works at Pedra de Lume is that the main salina is a partially natural geological feature, unlike any other in the world it is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano. In the mid-1980's large-scale economical salt extraction business on Sal ceased.

    On the internet I came across images of several share certificates for Salins du Cap Vert, there were examples dated 1919 and 1925, perhaps other dates will exist too. At the top of each Salins du Cap Vert share certificate there is a drawing detailed (in French) as being a view of the main salina at Pedra de Lume. Also of note on these certificates is the fact that the head office location of the company is mentioned as being Bordeaux. These days the certificates sell for equivalent of a few tens of U.S. Dollars each.

    If you are familiar with any industry/community related tokens from Africa then perhaps the first ones you will think of will be those of the diamond mining companies in southern Africa up to 100 years or so ago. Many such tokens were used not just between mine proprietor, their general stores and the mine employees but also the rest of the people in those communities - hence these tokens counted as money.

    "Salins du Cap Vert" too issued tokens. The tokens were not only used by the company to pay its workforce much of their wage and by the workforce to spend them in the company owned general store, but also, throughout the whole community of the island. Although the exact period of the issue of the tokens is unknown, they were likely first issued whilst production for "Salins du Cap Vert" was strong and the labour force high - possibly the 1930's.

    The four different tokens are relatively unheard of - but here they are.

Salins du Cap Vert 10c Brass
The Brass 10c type at 150dpi.

    This "10c" type has on its obverse "SALINS DU CAP VERT" around central "S.A.L", then on the reverse, centrally,"10c". On both sides there is a beaded border. The token is Brass, weighs 4.9 grams, it is round with a 26.3mm diameter, has a 1.5mm planchet thickness and a plain edge. The maker of the tokens, presumably French, must have mistaken the island's name for an abbreviation when they put "S.A.L" including two dots instead of just the word "SAL".

Salins du Cap Vert 10c Bronze
The Bronze 10c type at 150dpi.

    This is the second "10c" type, it is identical to the first type except it is Copper and weighs 5.0 grams. Assumably "10c" on the "10c" tokens is for "10 Centavos". The first money, to be issued in Cape Verde, using the 1 Escudo of 100 Centavos, was dated 1914 and was a banknote issue. That series included a 10 Centavos. The first colonial coins of 10 Centavos in Cape Verde were those dated 1930.

Salins du Cap Vert Serviço Interior C
The Serviço Interior C type at 150dpi.

    The "SERVIÇO INTERIOR C" type has on its obverse "SALINS DU CAP VERT" around "SAL" and on its reverse "SERVIÇO" / "C" / "INTERIOR". The token is brass, weighs 7.9 grams, it is round with a 36.2mm diameter, has a 1.0mm thickness and a plain edge. The field of the example shown has toned greatly (blackened).

Salins du Cap Vert Serviço Interior D
The Serviço Interior D type at 150dpi.

    The "SERVIÇO INTERIOR D" type has on its obverse "SALINS DU CAP VERT" around "SAL" and on its reverse "SERVIÇO" / "D" / "INTERIOR". The token is brass, 6.8 grams, hexagonal 31.4mm across flats (equivalent to 36.2mm across corners), has a 1.0mm thickness and a plain edge. The field of the example shown has toned greatly (blackened).

    As for the meaning of the phrase "SERVIÇO INTERIOR", a typical translation for this is "FOR INTERNAL USE". The "C" and the "D" could well relate to different amounts of money or some type of goods, but I have not been able to find anything out about this, not a single clue.

    The tokens were kindly submitted by Mr. Hilmar J. Herzberg, who found them whilst researching early Cape Verdean colonial coins on Sal Island during 2005.

    Reference: "A History Of Ilha Do Sal" by Ray Almeida to be found at http://www.umassd.edu/SpecialPrograms/caboverde/salhist.html .

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    UPDATE - Some time after the “in print” publication of the above article, I came across a catalogue that listed the token of this issuer and it gave some background information on the company. The catalogue was "Fichas Coloniais Portuguesas" by Carlos Pascoal and Jaime Salgado (1990), this book is all about Portuguese colonial tokens and is in Portuguese (a German translation also being published some time later). In the Cape Verde section of this book ten tokens types are detailed, they are numbered “CV1” through “CV10” and all are “Salins du Cap Vert” issues. The 10c Brass type is listed as “CV6” with no mention of a Bronze version; five other types that show a value are listed. The “C” and “D” types as detailed in the article above are listed in the catalogue as “CV2” and “CV4” respectively; two other “lettered” types are listed. The background information for these tokens includes the fact that they were officially sanctioned for use, with the “for internal use” tokens being just for use between the issuer and their employees and the normally denominated tokens being for use by the general population on both Sal and the nearby island of Sao Nicolau. As for when these tokens were in use – that is said to have been during 1941 to 1943, the tokens having been produced in France and the type “CV4” (the “D” type detailed in my article) never having actually been issued for use.

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Article “The Tokens of Salins du Cap Vert” including updated first added here at July 2008.
My article “Tokens of Salins du Cap Vert” (without the “update”) was published in the September 2006 issued of “Coin News” (Token Publishing, UK) and in the April 2006 edition of the Numismatics International Bulletin (pages 78-80, pages numbered through the year).