We pursue our general interest in exploring the changes that have led Karavarans and their neighbors to become preoccupied about their own identity and worth in the nation of Papua New Guinea by examining in this chapter one instance of a political process increasingly engaged in by indigenous and minority groups throughout the world. These groups have begun to promote and defend their own representations of identity by invoking images and other embodiments of tradition, history, and ethnicity. 1 Here we describe such a politicization of culture in East New Britain, one that centered on a recent phase in a history of contrast between native and introduced currencies. As part of an ongoing struggle to determine the representation of self and other, both certain East New Britains and their colonizers had long invoked contrasting sets of essentialisms—powerfully and dramatically simplified contrasts—about the nature of shell money and (for want of a better term) money. 2 In the case we consider, locally generated essentialisms had also become part of the efforts by these East New Britains to define and validate themselves in the contemporary world of Papua New Guinea: They sought to portray a set of their activities centering on shell money as national cultural property and, moreover, as a matter of special national concern—as constitutive of national identity. In our discussion, we explore a range of different his 50torical factors at work in the emergence of these politically significant essentialisms, in this case those focusing on currency. In so doing, we stress the importance of these essentialisms as they contributed to the self-representations that were asserted as constituting national identity.