Manillas: slave currency
These objects look like bangles, but they’re not.
Their owner bought them in Nigeria in the 1950s and was told they were slave bangles. However, they now believe that they are a form of currency and this has been confirmed by an expert.
These manilla – named after the Portuguese or Spanish word for bangle – were a form of currency.
In various regions of Africa, they had different types of currency. You would have slabs of metal like these manillas – the size of a shield – that could be used as currency. Metal had a value in the society there.
The smaller examples were made in their millions. The patina shows that they date from the 19th century. The small examples are worth between £2 and £5 each. The large pair are worth £200.
Did you know? A typical 18th century trading ship would bring manillas and other manufactured goods from Europe to West Africa to trade for slaves.
Did you know? Over 11 million people were forcibly taken from West Africa to be enslaved in the Americas.