1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!
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  1. #1

    1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    I dug this servant slave tag on May 8th at a plantation in South Carolina. The tag was folded over when I dug it, so I had it straightened by a professional. My friend Mark was with me when I dug it and had recovered his own servant tag, an 1811 servant, the week before at this same place.
    This 1817 dated tag is an early date for the slave hire badges, since the earliest known date on any tag is the year 1800. The number 67 is the issue sequence for the occupation of servant which the city of Charleston, S.C. issued during that calender year. Thanks for looking!
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  2. #2
    Jan 2006
    Palm Harbor, FL
    excal / Fisher
    76 times
    Honorable Mentions (1)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Wow!!! What a wonderful discovery! Keep Searching!

  3. #3
    I Often Find Myself Killing Time Looking For What Time Has Killed!

    Feb 2009
    Morehead City / Newport NC
    Minelab E-Trac
    956 times
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    Banner Finds (3)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Batter,Batter,Swing.............Yea that's a Homerun. And a Banner !
    Take Care,
    Them Colonials​Can't Hide Nowhere Now!

  4. #4
    Mar 2009
    UpCountry, SC
    XP Deus,Teknetics T2, Fisher Goldbug, Whites 5900/ di Pro sl
    545 times
    Relic Hunting
    Banner Finds (2)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    High on my list but I think to increase my chances I need to head to Lowcountry. Many of our (Upstate) major Plantation Owners came from Charleston bringing their servants with them and they are out there but much fewer in numbers.
    Great find.


  5. #5
    Dr. of GP, MD, SA & BD

    Mar 2011
    Black Hills of South Dakota
    A lowly Bounty Hunter 202
    1 times

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Did the slaves have to wear the tags all the time or was it a record keeping system?
    Thanks for the answer in advance.
    Deadwood Dick

  6. #6
    Mar 2007
    Northwest Missouri
    ACE 250
    66 times
    Honorable Mentions (1)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    I hope my girlfriend doesn't see this, my name is Charles and she would hang that around my neck in an instant, lol. All joking aside, that is an amazing find...Congrats

    HH Charlie

  7. #7
    Nov 2008
    Pikes Peak
    Garrett Gti 2500, Garrett Gta 350, Garrett Pro-Pointer -- Whites IDX Pro, AutoMax V2 Pinpointer
    1453 times
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    Banner Finds (1)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Out here in Colorado I have no chance of finding one of those. Congrats !!! What a find

  8. #8
    May 2005
    Fisher F2
    57 times

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Amazing piece of history

  9. #9
    May 2008
    Central South Carolina
    White's Machines- Metal Detecting, Privy Digging, Arrowheads, Prospecting, Catfishing, Harley Riding
    1 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Deadwood Dick
    Did the slaves have to wear the tags all the time or was it a record keeping system?
    Thanks for the answer in advance.

    Human slavery is an unfortunate and regrettable part of American history. Slavery and slave hire were also common historical practices worldwide and date back to ancient times. A review of western civilization reveals that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans would not have been successful without the institution of slavery. The early Arabic countries also had very sophisticated slavery practices. The ancient and Arabic world saw the bondage of very skilled laborers such as physicians, accountants, lawyers, and merchants.
    Most Americans are familiar with what human chattel slavery must have been like in its southern agricultural setting. Many have read Uncle Tom's Cabin, seen television mini-series ("Roots" for example), watched "Gone with the Wind," visited antebellum historical sites or plantations, or in other ways been exposed to various aspects of plantation slavery. However, few Americans know much about the institutionalization of slavery in the some of the major southern cities.

    In the urban south, slaves were a pool of skilled and semi-skilled labor. Many slaves had learned marketable trades or had become adept at in-house roles such as personal service. A slave's value to his or her owner lay in the work the slave performed. If a slave had a skill that could be marketed outside the owner's home, then the slave's labor could be sold and the wages received would accrue directly to the owner. Receipts for plantation slave hires are relatively common today.

    Several southern cities accommodated slave owners by developing a system to hire out their slaves. In early colonial times hiring slaves was an ad hoc affair, a private arrangement between the owner and the recipient of the labor. By the second decade of the 18th century, slavery for hire became regulated by local government. While Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans, Norfolk, and Charleston regulated the practice through the passage of "badge laws," only Charleston and Charleston Neck, a small suburb of Charleston, actually issued slave hire badges. The badge allowed short term employment without written contracts or other documentation. Moreover, hired slaves, by wearing a badge, could be easily distinguished from runaways or free blacks.

    The cities instituted badge laws to provide a tax income and to regulate the slave hiring. White artisans complained as early as 1742 about slaves undercutting their prices. This was perceived as an ongoing problem, especially in the fishing industry and the selling of fresh produce. While rural blacks retained much of their homeland culture, due to the remoteness and lack of interaction with others, slavery was much different in the larger port cities. Slaves often lived apart from their owners and had a great deal of autonomy. Slaves also had contact with freed slaves, free blacks, non-white slave owners, and shop keepers who catered to black clientele. Many ministers established churches for black people. This interaction tended to undermine the control over slaves. Consequently, slave control became the responsibility of local government

    Beginning in 1712 legislative acts were passed in Charleston to limit self-hire and to require written contracts. Over the years several laws were passed with some degree of success. In 1751 slave artisans were ordered to wear badges identifying their trade and in 1783 the city of Charleston extended the requirement to slave vendors of fruits and vegetables as well as fishermen.

    While early legislation specified slaves were to wear paper tickets or badges, none have survived dated prior to 1800. After several versions, repealed acts, and new badge ordinances, badges were abolished by 1790. No genuine pre-1800 dated tags are known to exist.

    Hire badges were re-established in 1800 by a rather stiff ordinance in Charleston, partly to appease white merchants but more importantly to curb the increasing autonomy of the urban slave. An ordinance in 1789 barred slaves and free blacks from selling certain "goods, wares and merchandise" without a license. In 1796 it became unlawful for slaves to carry on a trade for themselves or to teach a trade to other slaves. Owners of slave craftsmen had to keep one white apprentice for every four slaves employed. Slave vendors were perceived to be gaining control of Charleston's internal economy. In 1848, for the first time, slaves could work for other slaves or free blacks.

    The 1800 ordinance issued a fee schedule by occupation, aiming to reduce the number of slaves involved in slave hire. It prohibited owners who were not city residents from hiring out their slaves, and limited the number of slave hires to six per resident. Slave hire ordinance also required the Charleston city marshals to construct and maintain stands for hiring porters and other day laborers, and to set allowable working hours and wage schedules. The annual fee was $1 for servants and $2 for porters, increasing in 1843 to $2 for servants and up to $7 for other skills. The slave population in Charleston was 15,354 in 1830, falling away to 14,673 in 1840.

    Records of badge license fees collected in Charleston reveal the popularity of slave hire, as $14,000 in badge fees were collected in 1848, $26,000 in 1859. A good estimate is that 12-30% of Charleston's slaves wore badges in the 1820s through the 1840s. 40% to 50% of the Charleston slaves had badges after 1840. Badges were issued in Charleston Neck during 1849 and 1850.

    A slave for hire was required by law to renew his license each year and receive a new badge with a new license number. In some cases it appears that the previous year's badge may have been reissued, the old license number and the date effaced and the new information punched into what had been the blank reverse of the badge. This expediency is known from badges dated 1862 and 1863 and probably reflects the strained circumstance in Charleston under the Union siege. Slave ordinances governed the slave hire system and other aspects of the "peculiar institution" in Charleston until the Union siege began to break down the city's social structure. The last known dated tag is 1864.

    Slave hire badges were made from thin copper sheet cut to size and shape. Most were square, about 40mm on each side. In general, early badges (issued before 1820) are larger. The Ford Collection 1817 Fruiterer's badge measures 51.9mm by 50.2mm. The 1816 tag offered below is about 50mm square. A unique round servant's badge is dated 1802. The upper corners of the rectangular Ford Collection 1811 servant's badge are scalloped and the suspension hole is in the center of the top edge, a very unusual design.

    Early badges were issued in lesser numbers and may have been 'custom made". Later badges were issued annually in larger numbers and have a "mass produced" look to them. Most square-shaped badges were trimmed to eliminate the sharp corner points. Since the badge laws required the badge to be worn in open view, all tags bear a hole for the suspension cord in one corner. When worn, the badge hung with one point down, in the shape of a diamond, and the badge's inscription was to be legible horizontally across its face.

    Early tags were usually countermarked with a punch by the issuing silversmith, such as the Lafar 1816 tag offered below. In 1800 Ralph Atmar Jr. marked tags "ATMAR." From 1801 to about 1810, tags were marked "C PRINCE." John J. Lafar marked them with his punch "LAFAR" from 1811 to 1828. Lafar lived from 1781 to 1849, and was a well known Charleston silversmith and city marshall. Tags are not known to have been hallmarked by the manufacturer after 1828. In accordance with the badge ordinances of 1800 and 1806 almost all tags are also stamped with the city, the date, a serial number and the occupation, such as servant or porter, the two most common. The 1812 Servant's badge in the Bowers and Merena 1990 sale had a hand engraved license number.

    The "commonest" occupation found on Charleston slave hire badges is that of servant. An estimated three out of every five surviving badges were issued to servants. Porter badges follow next in rarity, roughly one in five. These were the semi-skilled trades. About one in ten known were issued to mechanics. The rarest occupations found on slave hire badges are those of fruiterer, carpenter, and fisherman. Slave hire badges were also worn by chimney sweeps, bread carters, and dog handlers. Badges for the latter three occupations are not known to have survived.

    Slave badges remain the only slave item that can be positively guaranteed to have been made for and worn by a slave. With the added guarantee of an exact date and occupation, it is no wonder the tags are extremely popular with medal, black history, and other collectors.

    A word on fakes and fantasy slave tags is in order. There are NO known genuine slave tags from anywhere except Charleston and Charleston Neck. All such tags seen to date are fantasy/fake pieces. All fully hand engraved tags are fakes. There are some fake tags that are highly deceptive, struck from dies in close imitation to these shown here. I have seen some on eBay. Be sure to get a written bill of sale and guarantee of authenticity when buying any slave tag. All tags offered by Wake Forest Coins come with a full lifetime guarantee and are unconditionally guaranteed to be genuine pieces, without exception.

    The American Numismatic Association no longer issues photographic certificates for authenticated items. The ANA is a federally chartered non-profit organization for coin, token and medal collectors. Please write them and request they answer to the needs of the hobby and authenticate tags and other collectibles as they have done in the past. Also, the ANA should take a leading role in the removal of the the copies and junk from eBay and other internet venues. Not only tags but all spurious numismatic items as well. Overall the ANA is an excellent organization. I am a member. Their web address......http://www.money.org/index.shtml

  10. #10
    Aug 2009
    The Ozarks, Missouri
    Teknetics Alpha 2000
    105 times
    Relic Hunting

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Great find! I vote banner for sure!


  11. #11

    Jul 2004
    Shelbyville or any yard where the owner will let me detect!
    ace 250
    191 times
    Metal Detecting
    Banner Finds (1)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    What a great find and im voting banner !

  12. #12
    Mark Dayton

    Jan 2008
    Gold Country (California)
    Minelab CTX 3030, Garrett AT Pro, Makro Racer 2, Garrett Pro-Pointer, Detector Pro Grey Ghost headphones, Lesche diggers, Apex picks.
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    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!

    Incrediablebly rare find

    Your expert did a great job flattening it out.

    Huge congratulations on the find of a lifetime

    HH, Mark
    California Relic Adventures

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  13. #13

    Aug 2006
    564 times

    Congrats on a very nice tag.

    Remains high on my wish list. That site has been a good one.

  14. #14
    Jan 2011
    Huntingdon County Pa.
    Whites Spectrum XLT
    124 times
    Honorable Mentions (1)

    Re: Congrats on a very nice tag.

    Quote Originally Posted by metalev4
    Remains high on my wish list. That site has been a good one.
    That's a find of a lifetime! Banner material for sure! You got my vote. DD.

  15. #15
    Jul 2005
    Garrett GTAx 1000 and Garrett AT Pro
    92 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Honorable Mentions (1)

    Re: 1817 Servant Slave Tag from the Plantation!!


    How deep was the tag when you found it?



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