Manillas Money, Bronze Or Copper, Slave Currency, Made In West Africa.

  • $89.99 CAD

Manillas were a Form Of Money, a medium Used For The Exchange Of Slaves. Originating Before The Colonial Period. A Slave Could Be Bought For 8 To 10 Manillas, Made Of Bronze Or Copper. Used In West Africa, They were Produced In Large Numbers In a Wide Range Of Designs, Sizes, and Weights. Internally, Manillas were The First True General-Purpose Currency Known In West Africa, Being Used For Ordinary Market Purchases, Bride Prices, Payment Of Fines, Compensation Of Diviners, and For The Needs Of The Next World, as Burial Money.


As the result of trade with the Portuguese Empire, Manillas continued to serve as money and decorative objects until the late 1940s and are still used as decorative objects in some contexts.

The name manilla derives from the Spanish word for ‘bracelet’ manella, the Portuguese for ‘hand-ring’ manilha, or after the Latin manus (hand) or from monilia, plural of ‘monile (necklace). The earliest use of manillas was in West Africa, as a means of exchange they originated in Calabar. Calabar was the chief city of the ancient southeast Nigerian coastal kingdom of that name. It was here in 1505 that a slave could be bought for 8 –10 manillas and an elephant’s tooth for one copper manila. They were also in use on the Benin river in 1589 and again in Calabar in 1688, where Dutch traders bought slaves against payment in rough grey copper armlets which had to be very well made or they would be quickly rejected.

Africans of each region had names for different varieties of manilla, varying locally. They were often valued differently and were notoriously particular about the types they would accept. Manillas were often differentiated and valued by the sound they made when struck.

Item Code - CUR11E859583POLZ1

Width: 2 5/8"  Height: 2 5/8"  Depth: 3/4"  Weight: 73 g

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