The African nation of Sierra Leone in the late 18th century became a
haven for freed slaves from the British Empire, runaway slaves from
the United States, and Africans discharged from the British armed forces.
After disease and warfare wiped out the early settlers, the Sierra
Leone Company took control of the country, and eventually transferred
the lands to the United Kingdom in 1807.
Before the company ceded control, it commissioned a series of coins
to be struck by Matthew Boulton and James Watt’s Soho Mint in
One piece in that series was the silver 100-cent or dollar coin. A
Proof presentation example of the “1791” 100-cent coin — one of 40
struck between 1793 and 1799 — highlighted Morton & Eden’s Dec. 7
and 8 auction in London. The coin realized £18,000 ($24,130 U.S.),
including the 20 percent buyer’s fee, during the Dec. 8 portion of the auction.
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The coin was among a small selection of pieces once owned by
abolitionist Granville Sharp, and is part of a larger collection from
the Archbishop Sharp family collection sold by Morton & Eden.
Designs in the series are similar, showing a crouching lion on the
obverse of the coin.
The reverse shows an inter-racial handshake, with one hand unshaded
to represent the white man, and one hand shaded to represent the black man.
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Boulton’s appreciation for the design manifest itself in a series of
presentation pieces he struck, with various mintage figures for
The example sold by Morton & Eden is among those rare pieces.
The auction house classified the coin as “choice mint state, lightly
toned, very rare.”