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Civil War era Slave Tags

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Civil War era Slave Tags
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An original Civil War era Slave Tag

One of the most heavily reproduced items of historical black memorabilia is a "slave tag."  Most people do not realize that actual authentic tags were ONLY issued in the city of Charleston, South Carolina.  The tags were used as a form of registration for taxation slaves who worked within the city in assorted occupations including Porter, Mechanic, Fisher, Fruiterer, Carpenter, and Servant (which is the most common).  Few other occupation tags exist.  The tags are struck in alloyed copper and generally are less than 2" across.  They are deeply impressed with the city name, issue number, date and occupation.  Many are concave.  Most are square or diamond shaped and have a small hole near the top so the tag could be worn around the neck.  The vast majority of all original tags are excavated (dug up) in the Charleston area.  Beware items advertised as slave tags which name specific plantations or odd occupations such as "Cook", "Mistress", "Singer", or "Boss."  Again, the majority of all tags have only the occupations listed in the first part of this guide.  When in doubt, consult with the Charleston Museum or a recognized historical authority.

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