Money is a holder of value and medium of exchange which doesn't need to be paper money, gold coins, or Bitcoin. Perhaps the most unusual form of money was the rai or fei stones of Micronesia. Today one can visa Yap in Micronesia and see these incredible types of money. Many people are blown away by the size of the largest stones and how money can be very different from the paper one thinks of today.
Micronesia is also filled with stunning tropical beaches and they are some of the best tropical islands to visit in the Pacific. Even though Micronesia is spread out over thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean, it is also one of the tiniest countries one can visit. The whole country only has a population of around 100,000 people.
Micronesia and The Rai Stones
The Federated States of Micronesia is an island nation in the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean and is made up of four states, Yap, Chuuk (famous for scuba diving the sunken Japanese fleet there), Pohnpei, and Kosrae. While these islands are all small, they cover a vast distance over the ocean just north of the equator.
- Where: Yap In The Federated States of Micronesia
- Yap Population: Around 11,000
The famous stone money is found on the island group of Yap in the Caroline Islands. This group of islands has a population of around 11,000 and is famous for its stone money called Rai or Fei.
The Rei Stones are large doughnut-shaped, carved disks that are normally made of calcite. Many of these were brought from other islands as far away as New Guinea with most coming from Palau from ancient times.
The Size And Use Of The Rei Stones
The largest of these items of stone money is up to 4 meters or 12 feet in diameter - although most are much smaller (the smallest are around 3.5 cm or 1.4 inches). The largest stone is found on Rumung Island near the Riy village.
- Largest: 4 Meters or 12 Feet In Diameter
- Smallest: 3.5 cm or 1.4 Inches
Size of Largest Stone:
- Diameter: 3.6 Meters or 12 Feet
- Width: 50 cm or 20 Inches
- Weight: 4 Tons or 8,800 lbs.
The value of the stone is based on its size. The background is the Yapese valued the disks because the material looks like quartz and they were the shiniest objects available to them. Eventually, they became the medium of exchange on the islands.
The stones were able to keep their value because it was very difficult and hazardous to bring them to the island. The stones had to be quarried on far-off islands in places where the locals were often hostile.
Today no more disks are produced and so the money supply is fixed. When exchanging the Rai Stones, one doesn't necessarily need to move them around (the largest require some 20 men to carry) and everyone on the islands knows who owns what.
The stones are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchanges (like marriages or compensation for damages). Don't worry, one will be using US Dollars to pay for a taxi or beer in Micronesia.
- Used Today: For Traditional or Ceremonial Exchange
- Everyday Currency: US Dollar In Micronesia
Today there are around 6,000 large rai stones on the island and some can be found in museums around the world.
Visiting The Rai Stones And Yap In Micronesia
Today Yap is a great choice for a laid-back tropical island holiday. There are numerous stunning resorts in the island group and there are plenty of activities to keep one entertained. Visiting Yap is not all about the famous Rai Stones, while there relax on the beach, go scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, cycle around the islands on bicycles, go kayaking and traditional canoeing, and learn about the island's World War Two heritage.
Visit Yap is a website with a comprehensive list of the island's attractions, activities, tours, accommodations, and a calendar with all the important festive days for the islands.
No countries require a visa to visit Micronesia. They are visa-free for American Passport holders for 365 days, 90 days for the European Union & Schengen Area, and 30 days visa-free for everyone else.
Visa Policy of Micronesia:
- US Passport: Visa-Free 365 Days
- European Union & Schengen Area: 90 Days
- Everyone Else (inc. Canadian): 30 Days