Room 68 in the British Museum is concerned with that most important of treasures: money.
Among the vast array of objects on display, you can find two coins from the Republic of Liberia in West Africa, dating from the 1830s.
Like the rest of the items on display in this gallery, the “copper cent tokens” from Liberia tell a fascinating story.
Just 28mm in diameter, and weighing less than 12 grams, these tiny tokens are powerful reminders of the relationship between Liberia and the United States, as well as being symbols of the liberation from slavery.
The coin depicts a figure planting a palm tree with a ship in the background, with the inscription LIBERIA, and the date 1833.
Liberia was established 10 years before this coin was issued, in 1821-22, as a settlement for freed slaves from the United States of America. Initially, money in Liberia consisted of American dollars and cents. However, in 1833 the American Colonization Society started producing low-value copper tokens for use in Liberia. The coins were valued as cent pieces.
The other side of this piece of 17th-century Liberia clearly indicates that this coin was issued by the American Colonization Society.
Liberia gained independence in 1847, becoming the first republic in Africa. By 1896, Liberia issued its own official currency, continuing to use the cent, and adding silver 10, 25 and 50 cent pieces. To this day, Liberian currency is based on the US dollar.
Don’t miss this little piece of Liberia in Room 68 of the British Museum next time you visit.
Do you know of any other examples of Liberian culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.