Malaya Perak Animal Tin Currency 

Animal tin currency developed in Perak and Selangor  around  the 18th Century.The origin of this form of animal tin currency were greatly influenced by folklore and magic. To appease the spirits,the pawang (traditional medicine man), who also doubled as an unofficial mint master, cast the tin ingots in the shape of various animals or insects to offer as sacrifice to the spirits.

Tin miners, both Malays and Chinese,employed pawangs to supervise the smelting of the tin ore so as to achieve harmony with the local spirits and demons. The metal itself was considered to be possessed of a soul spirit that could be influenced by magical ceremonies and incantations. It was believed that movement of grains of ore could be controlled by the pawang and made to assemble at the site of a new mine, thus assuring an abundance of metal.

Traditionally the first ore obtained from a newly opened tin mine was smelted and cast into a pair of shell-back ingots, each of which often bore a 'mantra' or magic prayer in relief on it's rounded surface. Great supernatural power was attributed to these ingots and they were often used symbolically in place of animal sacrifices.

Over the years the shell-backed ingot acquired a head and front legs which gave it the superficial appearance  of a tortoise. Gradually,other animals and insects were added and these sacrificial substitutes became an essential part of many magical ceremonies.Their widespread popularity eventually led to their acceptance as a form of currency in limited use in Perak, Selangor and even Ngri sembilan as well as the border regions of the other neighbouring  Malay States.

These animal type tin ingots are known to exist in the following forms: 

 1) Tortoise (kura-kura)
2) Elephant (gajah)
3) Crocodile (buaya)
4) Cockerel (ayam)
5) Grasshoppers (belalang)
6) Fish (ikan)
7) Goat (kambing)

However,if this was so,then one might reasonably have expected these blocks of tin should have been cast with each weight denomination represented by a different animal or insect.Unfortunately,this was not the case the one kati (605gm) tin ingots have been recorded in the shape of the elephant, the tortoise and the crocodile.Furthermore,each of the animals appears in a number of different sizes and a variety of weights.

To make matters more complicated, no true pattern or logical scale of weight values is apparent when the known specimens of all types are listed.If,however,these animals are considered as currency,then their failure to accord with the weight denominations of the 'pagoda' tin ingots could mean that they were accepted as tokens !, that is with a nominal value higher than the intrinsic value of the tin they contained. This would have had to be necessary to offset the higher cost of their manufacture.However,thr use of these animal tin ingots as a form of currency was limited.
Source: Saran Singh.


  1. Nice post bro.., well written.
    I knew the ingots are for offering to the spirit but I don't know that it is exactly for the spirit at the tin mining site. I gain another new knowledge today.

  2. Thank you Bro.
    My father used to tell me story about the 'head hunter' for building new bridges and mega projects in those day! They even sacrifice human .