Slavery was one of the many root causes of the Civil War, and is still a stain on our nation's history. The effects of slavery can still be felt today, and it is still a relevant topic of conversation in the halls of Congress. Some have found a way to make ill-gotten profit from the sweat and blood of the slaves. In the grand scale you have the Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharpton's that use the legacy of slavery and all the problems that followed as a bludgeon to rape corporate America. And you have a select few congressmen led by John Conyers that want to fleece the nation as a whole with "reparations" for slavery, even though all the former slaves are looooong dead. On the smaller scale, however, there are the slimy sellers of fake slave memorabilia on e-bay and other places online that prey on the unsuspecting collector and line their pockets. This guide is a 101 course in not being burned by fakes.
First things first: SLAVE TAGS ONLY EXISTED IN CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. A slave tag from ANY other city or place is bogus right off the bat. Below is a junk "Savannah" tag:
Not only is the city wrong, but so is the shape, and the lettering. In the image below, note the letter style used in the manafacture of this total clunker. The letter style is inconsistant with ANY lettering used in the time:
Shape is another clue to a real or junk tag. From 1814 to 1849 slave tags made in even years were four-sided squares, and tags made in odd years were diamond shapes. Below is an example of wrong shape for wrong year:
Again note the style of modern die used to stamp the number "223" in the center. This is always a dead giveaway no matter how convincing the rest may be. An original 1817 tag would be diamond-shaped, and the letters "No." would be in front of the number 223. Can you see how much detail this can be to know??? My advice is if you wish to collect slave tags, buy the best reference book on the subject and make yourself an expert. The book is:
SLAVE BADGES and the SLAVE HIRE SYSTEM IN CHARLESTON
By Harlan Greene, Harry S. Hutchins Jr., and Brian E. Hutchins
Here are some more illustrations of common fake slave tags:
Here is another style junk tag that get included with the junk slave tags:
And then we get into all the other fake slave related items. One of my favorites is the "Plantation Police" badge which is TOTAL fantasy junk:
And these are the famed, "Slave Shackles." You will see any number of old and reproduction handcuffs get this label. Why? Being a slave item makes it MUCH more valuable:
Not to mention the many, many sites online that sell these aged items as reproductions. It is okay to sell a reproduction, even an aged one. It is NOT okay for the buyer then to sell them as real which happens all too often on e-bay.
Beware too of fantasy items like this "sympathy for slaves" medal some joker thought up:
And also beware of all the images of supposed black Civil War soldiers. Many images are ink-jetted, cut and aged, then glued to a card and some fake stamp added to the back. Below is an example:
The stamp on the back is as recent as the day it was listed, and the photo is a copy.
At the end of the day, you have to always keep yourself on guard when buying on e-bay. Always scan the category an item is listed in. If it is listed in REENACTMENT/REPRO, it is a fake from the word go. If it is in BLACK AMERICANA, it is most likely being hidden from the folks that police e-bay looking for the fakes. Sellers of real items will always have some sort of provenenace or history of the item. This would include whom they bought it from, and any receipts of that transaction. Never buy a story at face value. Demand gurantees IN WRITING that include street addresses, and phone numbers (NOT CELL PHONES!) Research the address and number to insure it corresponds with your seller. Be sure you have AT LEAST a 1 year guarantee to verify a item. That way you can't get the shaft if 6 months down the road you find out you were had. Paypal sucks in many ways, but they DO help retrieve money if you get hosed. Go online and google The American Relic Hunters, and check out the e-bay Fakes Forum on their homepage. The experts that post there also post fake slave related items. The main thing is to be careful, think before you buy, and verify, Verify, VERIFY!