The Article of the Week in the October 29, 2015 issue of CoinsWeekly offers an interesting view into the 18th century African
slave trade. Here's a short excerpt; be sure to read the complete article online. The medal was sold yesterday (October 30) by the
Künker auction house (lot 227). -Editor
At the beginning of the year 1681, the small expedition reached the Guinean coast. They were welcomed by native tradesmen with great
friendliness. This was due to the fact that the lucrative slave trade was strictly separated into two different businesses: Native traders
took captives in the mainland and sold them to Western tradesmen, who in turn took responsibility for the transport over the Atlantic, on
the coast. Accordingly, it was in the interest of those native traders that as many different buyers as possible were in competition with
each other and thus kept up the prices. Against this background, Brandenburg was nothing but a new customer and welcomed with open
Of course the competition, the Dutch trading company, showed a very different reaction. An aggressive exchange of letters between the
company and the elector ensued, in which the Dutch insisted that trade with Guinea remain their sole right. And when the elector argued
with that, they did not hesitate long but captured one of the two ships sailing along the Guinean coast under the Brandenburg flag.
The other ship was more fortunate. It returned home with 100 pounds of gold and 10,000 pounds of ivory as well as a contract with three
local rulers on board. The contract obliged Brandenburg to build a fort as a trading post. The locals were willing to support the
construction and asked for a Brandenburg flag to show off their alliance visible for other traders. This treaty led to the founding of Fort
Groß Friedrichsburg and of the Brandenburg African Company.
The gold that the expedition had brought back was minted into medals on behalf of Frederick William. Their obverse shows a ship –
probably the returned Morian – accompanied by a Latin circumscription (in translation): Under the guidance of God and the auspices of his
Highness the Elector of Brandenburg. The reverse is dedicated to the real matter of the expedition: We see a slave against a coastal
landscape, offering grains of gold and ivory tusks on a large platter. Several trade ships are visible in the background. The
circumscription reads (in translation): The voyage to the coasts of Guinea fortunately embarked on in the year 1681.
On behalf of the elector, the medal continued to be minted in Emden, the home port of the Brandenburg African Company, later on. And the
Deo Duce – under the guidance of God – is also repeated on the later Guinea ducats, minted at the Berlin mint.
To read the complete article, see:
gold, and sugar: The Elector of Brandenburg as entrepreneur
Wayne Homren, Editor
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