Saturday, March 30, 2013

From Morocco to Chiclayo in just 113 Years


History and all things historical have always held a fascination for me. Over my lifetime probably 75% of my reading has been directly or indirectly about history. Occasionally when I feel the urge to change directions for awhile I pick up a Stephen King novel. Anyway, this is a story about two spoons. It’s an incomplete story because there are huge gaps of time between known events, and because the story of the spoons will continue on to whatever their ultimate end may be long after I and anyone reading this has finished our journey.

The spoons were sent to me some years ago by a friend in Poland. The friend knew nothing about them other than that her mother had owned them for many years. I kept them in a curio cabinet alongside other artifacts that only I and a relative handful of people on this planet would appreciate. I know this because I could see people’s eyes glaze over as I explained what I knew about the history of each piece. It’s hard for me to understand why people don’t get excited when holding, for example an original nail from Andy Jackson’s Hermitage, or a minie ball from the Gettysburg battlefield, or an Egyptian coin minted in 256 BC. I mean…it’s not like I was showing them a stamp or plate collection…that kind of stuff would bore anybody!

Other than posting inquires on a couple of antique forums that resulted in no information I didn’t make any serious effort to identify the spoons, but every time I picked them up I was intrigued by two things…one, the design appeared to be either Arabic symbols or writing, and two, the numbers 1320 and 1321. Was it possible that the spoons were from the middle-east, and from medieval times?  

It seems that information on the internet grows daily. I know that in my genealogy research I find church and cemetery records that weren’t available only two years ago. That may have been the case with my spoons when I sat down at the computer one recent morning determined to make an all-out effort to identify them. I started my search with the term ‘snuff spoons’, simply because I thought that’s what they might be. The resulting search images showed lots of small spoons, including a collection of coin-bowl spoons which closely resembled my spoons. Next I searched specifically for coin-bowl spoons and added the number 1321. Bingo!...in under 5 minutes a mystery that had intrigued me for years had been solved.

What I have are two Moroccan souvenir coin-bowl spoons manufactured probably by an artesian by hand from Moroccan coins minted during or after 1903. The larger coins are the Moroccan AH 1321 BE ¼ Rial. AH 1321 is a date that translates to 1903. The coins were minted during the reign of Abdul al-Aziz in Paris, London and Berlin. Apparently Morocco did not mint its own coins. The smaller coins are Moroccan AH 1321 BE 1/10 Rial. The coins are 0.835 silver. The spoon’s stems are hard wound wire of unknown material.

My spoons began their lives as coins minted in Berlin Germany. At some point the coins were shipped to Morocco where an artesian made spoons of them. Then they were either purchased by a tourist in Morocco, or exported to another country for sale. Either way they somehow found themselves in Poland. What other countries and continents they may have visited before arriving in Poland is unknown but it is probable there were several. From Poland they made their way to the United States where they rested for a few years before continuing on to their current address in Chiclayo Peru.

During my search I found that many other countries have impressive examples of antique coin bowl spoons including Peru. The example in this photo is of .925 silver. The bowl is a 1908 Peruvian ½ Sol.    

That my spoons have no monetary value is of no concern. That they don’t date back to medieval times is only slightly disappointing. As with all my artifacts they provide pleasure to me in thinking about what they’ve seen, where they’ve been and speculating about where they’ll go to next. 

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