In the world of money, birds of paradise have not only featured in the flesh as a form of currency in certain cultural contexts but also as a motif on banknotes and coins. In 1894 the German Neu-Guinea Compagnie (New Guinea Company), which governed the German New Guinea protectorate at that time, was awarded the right to mint coins for the colony.
In 1894 it issued bronze 1, 2 and 10 Pfennig and silver ½, 1, 2 and 5 Mark coins, followed by gold 10 and 20 Mark pieces in 1895; the reverse sides of the 10 pfennig, half, one, two, five, ten and 20 Mark coins all bore the image of a bird of paradise.
The Neu-Guinea Compagnie was a Chartered Company which had been formed in 1884 in Berlin to colonise and profit from north-eastern New Guinea. It had found it necessary to import workers from Java (who wanted payment in Dutch guilders), China and Japan (who wanted payment in Mexican dollars, a standard trade coin in Asia at that time). German, and to a lesser extent British coins was also in use in the area.
To simplify this situation the Company sought permission to strike its own coins in 1891. Permission was not granted until 1894 with the stipulation that each denomination (excluding the bronze) was to match its German Imperial equivalent. The coins were not however to bear the head of the German Emperor nor the German Eagle - they were the issue of the Company. The dies were prepared (engraved by Emil Weigand) and coins struck at the Berlin Mint.
When they arrived in New Guinea all non German coins were withdrawn from circulation (the German 3 Mark and 20 Pfennig denominations were also excluded from circulation). No further production of coins was required as administration of the region was handed to the German Imperial Government in 1899, with German Imperial coins being imported.
The Company coins ceased to be legal tender after 15 April 1911.