Slave Buttons

Discussion in 'What's it Worth' started by nameless, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. nameless

    nameless Member

    I picked up a group of ten of these things. A dark history behind them but I thought they were important. Apparently these are slave buttons. Does anyone know anything about them?
    IMG_2547.jpg
     
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  3. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    No, what do you know and where did you buy them?
     
  4. Oldhoopster

    Oldhoopster It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    I have very little knowledge of this field and have never seen items like yours but do know that many numismatic/exonumia items related to slavery can be quite valuable, and numerous forgeries exist. I would be extremely suspicious of pieces found at flea markets and garage sales unless you have know what you're doing.

    Can't say if they're authentic, but IMO you need to have them verified by an expert
     
  5. David Setree Rare Coins

    David Setree Rare Coins Well-Known Member

    Slave "tags" I know a little about as they are frequent metal detector finds in the South.

    I have never heard of slave "buttons" before and those look cast.

    UI would find an expert. They are easy to search for. Joe Levin at Presidential Coin and Antique could help you. So could Russ Rulau.
     
  6. harley bissell

    harley bissell Well-Known Member

    Porters worked on riverboats and trains. Both whites and blacks did those jobs before and after the civil war. I can't call them fake but zinc buttons were more common after the civil war than before. If what looks like zinc is actually lead then they may date to before the civil war. Good Luck.
     
  7. nameless

    nameless Member

    I picked these up at a reputable auction house so I'd be very surprised if they were forgeries. I'm not sure what I will do with them. Apparently the T. Porter is Thomas Porter who was the slave trader. Maybe I'll keep one and get rid of the rest. Thanks for all the feedback!
     
  8. harley bissell

    harley bissell Well-Known Member

    OK. Additional details make the difference. Slave tags list the occupation of the slave and sometimes the city. T. Porter was a known slave dealer and I found many sales of these. The ones that showed photos look like yours. Strangely they all appear to be dug. Whether that means they came from graves I don't know. I hope not. That would be some serious bad ju ju. good luck.
     
  9. David Setree Rare Coins

    David Setree Rare Coins Well-Known Member

    Yes, additional information helps greatly.

    They do appear to be dug and if so, that would help determine their authenticity.

    Did any bones come with them? :wideyed:
     
  10. nameless

    nameless Member

    Thanks for all the information here. No bones.
     
  11. cwtokenman

    cwtokenman Coin Hoarder

    While they can and are found while metal detecting, I would be hesitant to describe them as frequent finds. Rulau's 4th edition indicates that there are only about 300 known genuine slave tags, with about 60 of those housed in museums. Prices in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for a genuine tag go along with their extreme scarcity. If my memory serves me correctly, the overwhelming majority, possibly even including all of the surviving slave tags, were issued from Charleston.
     
  12. David Setree Rare Coins

    David Setree Rare Coins Well-Known Member

    Charleston are the most common, yes.

    I think the majority of the survivors are dug though.
     
  13. cwtokenman

    cwtokenman Coin Hoarder

    All genuine slave tags shown in Rulau's 4th edition are from Charleston. I saw no reference to genuine slave tags from anywhere else. It is mentioned that there are no genuine slave tags from the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, or Virginia as none of those states had authorized the use of metal slave tags. A few other cities such as Savannah, New Orleans, Mobile, and Norfolk had authorized metal slave tag use for various periods of time, but again, there have not been any verified as being genuine from those locations.

    Here is what Rich Hartzog, likely the premier expert on slave tags before his very recent passing, said about slave tags (bold is from Rich's website, not mine):

    "SIMPLE TEST for Fantasy "slave tag"
    100% of ALL known Genuine Slave Tags are from CHARLESTON or the suburb CHARLESTON NECK. If your purported "tag" is NOT Charleston, it is guaranteed to be a FANTASY. There are no known exceptions, and Yes, I do claim to be an expert."
     
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