Copper penny token issued by Sir Philip Gibbs (or Gibbes)


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Token coins have often been issued when official coinage has been in short supply. In Britain in the late eighteenth century local entrepreneurs produced copper token coins to allow small payments to be paid and received. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, no official currency was issued for Barbados, although by the late eighteenth century Spanish silver coins cut into segments served as low value coins down to a few pennies. Token coins such as this one, issued by Philip Gibbs, provided lower denominations of a penny and halfpenny. The African slave trade was a major source of labour on sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The obverse (front) of Gibbs' token shows the head of an African, wearing a plumed head-dress. Below him the legend reads 'I serve'. The seemingly proud African actually symbolizes the slave worker, made subservient to the European colonizing power, represented by the British king, George III. The king is shown on the reverse of the coin as Neptune riding a chariot pulled by the mythological hippocamp, a beast with the front quarters of a horse and the tail of a fish. The image derives from the Great Seal of the colony, which was granted by Charles II in 1663, thirty-six years after the first British settlements had been created in Barbados.


  • Title: Copper penny token issued by Sir Philip Gibbs (or Gibbes)
  • Date Created: 1792/1792
  • Physical Dimensions: Weight: 15.910g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: king/queen; allegory/personification
  • Registration number: 1935,0401.9125
  • Production place: Issued in Barbados
  • Material: alloy
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Clarke-Thornhill, T B

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