The Initial Numismatic Offerings of the Sierra Leone Company

Having its first contact with Europeans in the mid-15th century, the area that would become Sierra Leone saw use as a trading ground—for goods as well as slaves—for the next three centuries. By the late 18th century, however, the British Empire saw an opportunity to utilize this territory on the coast of western Africa as a colony for freed slaves (those who had escaped from American plantations and fought alongside the British during the Revolution) and for poor blacks in and around London. The initial foray as a settlement in 1787 suffered setbacks in the form of disease and conflict with nearby indigenous Africans. However, it was bolstered by additional settlers who emigrated from Nova Scotia in 1792, and was rebranded and re-established by the Sierra Leone Company. This company maintained its charter for the next 16 years; its end roughly coincided with the abolition of the slave trade within the British Empire in 1807. Following that, Sierra Leone existed as a British colony and served as a place to which freed slaves could settle. Independence from Britain finally came in 1961, with a Republic declared a decade later.

Numismatically, the Sierra Leone Company contributed some interesting additions to the collecting community. Matthew Boulton’s Soho mint in Birmingham was commissioned to produce a series of denominations for the initial output of coinage in 1791. This series was uniform in design, with the obverse featuring an African lion somewhat crouching toward the viewer, seemingly ready to pounce. The reverse displays two hands clasped, one of which has shading to denote the cooperation of the settlement between black and white residents. It is notable that the penny was initially used (though it was quickly cast aside in favor of the decimal system), it being the first within the British Empire to do so. There are various denominations, owing to the vast experimentation of the Soho mint, as well as hotly collected varieties, off-metal strikings, and proof issues—many of which are very rare. One such example is featured our current Collectors Choice Online (CCO) sale—a 1791 20 Cent proof issue in silver. Though bearing the 1791 date, these pieces, just 84 in total, were issued by the Soho mint between 1793 and 1798 for customers looking to obtain examples of the type. Given the scant output, the present piece, graded PCGS PROOF-62 and very attractive and well preserved, is quite scarce and desirable.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions (until May 4th) for our upcoming CCO (Collectors Choice Online) auction in June 2020. Following that, our next larger format sales will be our Official Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money and our Official Auction of the Hong Kong Show, both in August 2020. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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