British anti-slavery halfpenny token in Davisson’s auction

Famous image by Josiah Wedgewood used in United Kingdom, United States
By , Coin World
Published : 07/06/15
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The anti-slavery movement in Britain adopted campaign techniques that sound familiar today, distributing pamphlets and creating objects with imagery intended to evoke the struggle.

The famous “supplicant slave” image of a chained, kneeling slave, created by Josiah Wedgewood for cameos, soon spread to other media, including tokens.

A late 18th century bronze halfpenny token bearing the famous image and the now familiar question — AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER? — is offered in Davisson’s Ltd.’s E-auction No. 11, ending July 22. 

The token, from Middlesex, features the legend MAY SLAVERY & OPPRESSION CEASE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD on the reverse, surrounding two clasped hands, one with manacled  wrist, the other with cuffed wrist. The token is marked on the edge PAYABLE AT DUBLIN CORK OR BELFAST. 

The image was adopted by the abolition cause, which in 1807 was ultimately successful in Great Britain. The same image and one showing a woman with revised legend also circulated in the United States as symbols of the abolition movement.

The example in the Davisson’s auction is graded About Uncirculated 55 by Professional Coin Grading Service and exhibits an “even brown tone over smooth surfaces,” according to the firm.

It is estimated to realize $250.

For more information about the auction, or to bid, visit the firm's website.

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