The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 51, November 30, 2003, Article 9


  Regarding last week's item about Charleston, S.C. slave tags,
  Rich Hartzog writes: 'Not to detract from the Wake Forest
  web site, but the 5 Tags listed are those he purchased from
  me in my 1999 World Exonumia mail bid sale.  He doubled
  the price,  was unable to sell them, and ended up consigning
  them to (as I recall) B&M a few years back.  I am constantly
  fighting a battle against the fakers of Slave Tags, and maintain
  two main pages on Tags, and fakes at "

  [I'm sorry I missed Rich's page in last week's note.  The
  Wake Forest page was included because it had some good
  illustrations of the tags - we don't normally reference
  commercial pages.  -Editor]

  John Kraljevich writes: "I'd love to hear from anyone who
  has additional information or listings of Charleston slave hire
  badges. I've been compiling a database of these things for
  awhile. I might add that the B+M sales of the LaRiviere
  Collection Part II and the Flannagan/Logan Collections
  contain a number of important slave hire badges and some
  of my research up to those dates are included therein.

  Did anyone notice how horribly the Charleston Museum
  has buffed the slave badge that the curator was holding
  with cotton gloves??  Seems like misplaced priorities to me --
  dig it out of the dirt, buff the everlovin' crap out of it, then
  hold it in a gloved hand?"

  [I experienced the same sickening feeling when viewing
  a traveling blockbuster exhibit of early american silver at
  the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh many years ago.  One
  of the first cases contained coins, including a New England
  shilling, which had been buffed within an inch of its life.

  Alan V. Weinberg writes: "I was a serious collector of
  Charleston slave tags until approx. 25 years ago. I'd guess
  at the time I had the finest and most diverse "occupation"
  collection.  I decided not to continue collecting them as
  they were being offered to me "hot and heavy" and I soon
  determined they were not rare & easily acquired - all you
  needed was the funds.  There was no challenge.  So I
  disposed of my collection, the best piece being a round
  1802 Servant tag in EX F condition for the highest price
  then of $900.

  Since then my decision has been vindicated, although not
  in price appreciation.  Hundreds of Charleston slave tags
  have been excavated around the Charleston area and I'll
  wager the population had doubled in the past decade. A
  recent conversation with a foremost Americana cataloguer
  agreed with my assessment - that there were now over
  1,000 genuine Charleston slave tags extant.

  Not to speak of the huge number of diestruck Charleston
  tags that have been counterfeited since the inception of eBay.
  They are quite deceptive except to the experienced collector
  of tags.

  My definition of "rare" has always been the extreme
  difficulty in locating a piece for your collection despite having
  the necessary funds.  For example, a decent 1792 Birch cent
  which I have pursued for over 35 years."

  ["Rare" is a relative term, and slave badges are certainly more
  rare than the shiny Morgan dollars Ford was discussing as
  being offered up as "rare" coins.   But I appreciate Alan's
  definition of rarity - being unable to find a desired item for
  years on end is the type of challenge I enjoy too, and
  suspect many of our E-Sylum readers do as well.  One of my
  specialties is U.S. Encased Postage Stamps, and anytime I
  search a bourse floor for pieces I need for my collection, I
  usually come up empty-handed.   Numismatic literature can
  present the same type of challenge.  Recently I purchased a
  book relating to my EPS collection that I'd been seeking
  for nearly twenty years.  The last time I saw a copy in person
  was at the rare book room of the New York Public Library.
  "The Reminiscences of Frederick Ayer" was privately printed
  in Boston in 1923.  Frederick was the brother of J.C. Ayer.
  Together they ran the J.C. Ayer company which was such a
  prolific advertiser and issuer of encased postage stamps during
  the Civil War.  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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