ca. 1600-1880 AFRICAN BRONZE MONEY BRACELETS OR
“MANILLAS” – INTERESTING PIECES TO DISPLAY WITH BRITISH
COLONIAL ARMS: A little far different from the
usual militaria related offerings, but these unusual
pieces would be an interesting addition to display with
a collection of 19th Century British Colonial
arms such as a Snider or Henry-Martini Rifle. These are
antique (ca. 1600-1880’s) African bronze currency or
money bracelets, also known commonly as “manillas”.
Quite old, these heavy cast bracelets were first made in
varying sizes by the indigenous cultures on the African
continent, and later produced in several European
countries and used by their trading concerns in exchange
for ivory, slaves and even gold.
These bracelets were a means of storing and displaying
the wealth of the wearer before the Europeans’ arrival
in Africa and they continued in common use up through
the end of the 19th Century as a currency or a medium
for barter and trade.
After the Europeans
established their trading operations in Africa, a series
of advancements of the British brass industry in the
late 1600’s gradually gave them the edge in the Africa
brass trade during the next century. The term
"Birmingham manilla" is applied to the type of bracelet
offered here - a crescent-shaped brass piece with flared
ends, weighing under 300 grams, but more commonly seen
in even smaller piece weighing under 90 grams.
As shown in the photographs below, the larger of the two
with the green patina weighs just over 3 ounces (87.7
grams) and the other weighs 2.7 ounces (76.5 grams),
both measuring just over 2 ¼” across.
As noted above, included in a display of arms focused on
any of the 19th Century British Colonial
conflicts such as the Zulu or Boer Wars, these manillas
would add the dimension of the sort of native pieces the
private soldier would seek out as souvenirs of his
service across the Empire. $50 each