pair of Charleston, S.C., slave badges highlights Numismatic Auctions
LLC’s Dec. 1 sale.
badges are for servants, with one issued in 1840 and the other in 1856.
badges harken to an era when enslaved African-Americans who were
rented out for their skill were required to carry badges. Each badge
represented a license to ply a trade, and each license was valid for
one year only. Once expired, the license number became invalid and the
badge were “nothing more than a small piece of copper or brass,”
according to an auction catalog from a Jan. 16, 2006, sale by Stack’s.
auction of 65 pieces has been declared the “single most important
collection ever auctioned,” the Stack’s catalog said.
slaves-for-hire were regulated in New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston
(and the Charleston Neck area adjacent), badges survive for only
Charleston and Charleston Neck.
to the 2006 catalog, “Charleston’s system of slavery for hire
represented the most institutionalized form of this ‘peculiar
pieces in the Dec. 1 auction were purchased from the 2006 sale. In
that sale, Paul West’s collection of Charleston and Charleston Neck,
S.C., included slave badges for all but five years from 1800 to 1865,
and include multiple rarities.
badges also identified the slaves’ occupation, like porter, carpenter,
or servant, and the role often dictated the size of the badge,
according to the 2006 auction catalog.
Porter’s badge seems to have been the largest, perhaps because the
occupation took the wearer onto the city’s streets where his
unsupervised presence might otherwise have been contested,” according
to the catalog.
discovered most of his badges through metal detecting, and these
pieces exhibit the roughness and patina indicative of many years in
1840 badge, with the serial No. 1502 on the obverse or face, is graded
Very Fine, and has a dark olive green and brown patina. It is
diamond-shaped but has clipped corners.
1856 badge, also diamond-shaped but with complete corners, carries
serial No. 781.
badges are estimated to realize between $1,500 and $2,000 in the Dec.
1 sale. When they sold in 2006, the 1840 badge realized $1,495, and
the 1856 badge sold for $1,725, with both prices including a 15
percent buyer’s fee.
learn more about the sale, telephone the firm at 517-394-4443 or visit
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