The practice of the ‘hire badge’ harkens back to that period of American history prior to the end of the Civil War. Slave hire badges were worn by slaves who were hired out by their owners. Badge laws were first passed in order to identify slaves, tax the practice, and to limit this type of labor from competing with white tradesmen in urban areas. The tags are about 3” in diameter, made of thin copper and etched with a number, city, occupation, and year. Of the many thousands that were issued, only about 100 still exist, and therefore are extremely valuable. They evoke the heartbreak of slavery in America, from which a profit is still made. Today slave badges are valued at over $30,000.


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