Badge System in Charleston up to Civil War
badges were used in Charleston, SC, for a number of
years in the eighteen hundreds as a type of annual license
that permitted slaves to hire out their time for money,
which was then shared with the slaves' owners. The badges
were made of metal with the year, number of the badge,
and a job category (such as Servant, Porter, or Mechanic)
stamped in the metal. The earliest badges that have
been found were made in 1800, and they were created
every year after that up to 1865, when the result of
the American Civil War ended the practice of slavery.
Over the years there were a variety of styles of badges
by different craftsmen that were contracted to make
them each year. The number of badges created every year
fluctuated, depending on the strength of the economy
as well as changes in laws and regulation practices
affecting the use of the badges.
Badges Rare and Collectible
called slave tags, slave badges are very rare and considerably
valuable to collectors. One badge from 1803 sold for
$26,450 at an auction. Since slave badges were usually
discarded after their use, there are very few that have
been passed down over the years. Most slave badges have
been uncovered by metal detectors, though because the
badges have been scattered or destroyed, there are still
quite limited numbers of these badges in existence.
It is important to beware of the forgeries that claim
to be real slave badges, as there are quite a few of
those floating around.