Slaves in BarbadoesThere exists very little documentation about the 1788 Barbadoes [sic] copper penny emissions.  What does exist is scant, and from a diagnostic perspective, it is quite difficult to casually and easily attribute a specific variety of the 1788 Barbadoes copper.

It is postulated that the Barbadoes pennies were commissioned by a local Bajan plantation owner by the name of Phillip Gibbs.  Gibbs chose a bust of an African woman wearing a crown, with the motto “I Serve” below.  On its reverse, he chose the national symbol of Barbados — the pineapple.

Research has shown that the dies for the copper pieces were engraved by John Milton of Birmingham England. Milton’s records indicate that the coppers were struck beginning in October 1788.

There exists 10 different known varieties of the Barbadoes penny. Some of the varieties are quite commonly encountered, while others are extremely rare. With the ever increasing popularity of North American Colonial emissions, including those from the Caribbean, it is paramount that collectors can readily distinguish the varietal differences.

Presentation of Specimens

Each of the 10 different known varieties is illustrated below. Some of the images are courtesy of Notre Dame University.

1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 1 Reverse A
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 3 Reverse C
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 3 Reverse D
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 4 Reverse E
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 4 Reverse F
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 4 Reverse G
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 5 Reverse H
1788 Barbadoes Penny Obverse 5.1 Reverse H.1

Rarities & Values

Below is table that lists all known 1788 Barbadoes pennies.  Many were first documented by Pridmore in his 1965 book.  The remaining were identified later.

The 4-F is the most frequently encountered variety and the number of surviving specimens is quite prolific. Extra Fine examples for the type can be readily obtained with ease in the numismatic marketplace.

1788 Barbadoes Table of Varieties and PricingGary Trudgen in 2009 wrote a more exhaustive analysis of the Barbadoes pennies, and a summary of his analysis can be found on Notre Dame’s Colonial Coins site.

However, even with Trudgen’s study, collectors still find attributing their pieces quite difficult.  This attribution guide is an attempt to remedy this challenge.

Fortunately, while there are multiple reverses of the Barbadoes penny that marry to a single obverse, there exist no known reverses that marry to more than one obverse.

This phenomena lessens the difficulty of attribution, and thereby, if one can identify a specific reverse variety, they can quickly infer its obverse.

To get started with the attribution, perform the following diagnostics to begin narrowing the variety:

Obverse Attributions

Step 1. Looking at the Obverse crown, at the top of the center feather, does its vein distinctly hook to the right as shown immediately below?

If YES the specimen is a 2-B.  You are done attributing your Barbadoes copper penny!

If NO, go to step 2.


Step 2. Looking at the Obverse “I SERVE”, is the ‘R’ distinctly crooked to the left as shown in the two examples below?

If YES, go to step 3.

If NO, go to step 4.


Step 3. Looking at the Obverse crown as shown in the below examples, at the top of the center cross, does its center circle have a holed middle or a solid middle?

If the center circle has a holed middle, it is an Obverse 4. Perform diagnostics for a Reverse E, or Reverse F, or Reverse G.

If the center circle has a solid middle, it is an Obverse 1. Perform diagnostics for a Reverse A or a Reverse B.

You are done with Obverse attribution.  Notate the derived Obverse number and go to Reverse Attributions.


Step 4. As illustrated below, drawing an imaginary line starting from the center bead of the crown, following downward along the back of the neck to about 5 o’clock on the obverse’s rim, does the right edge of ‘E’ in “I. SERVE’ border the line, or is its right edge distinctly to the left of the line?

If the right edge of ‘E’ borders the imaginary line, it is an Obverse 3. Perform diagnostics for a Reverse C or a Reverse D.

If there is distinct space between the ‘E’ and the imaginary line, it is an Obverse 5 or 5.1. Perform diagnostics for a Reverse H or a Reverse H.1.

You are done with Obverse attribution.  Notate the derived Obverse number and go to Reverse Attributions.


Reverse Attributions

After the obverse has been derived by following the steps above, find the corresponding obverse chart below and use it to determine its reverse pairing.

To effectively perform the attribution, orient the reverse of the penny so that the date is centered at bottom.




Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

  1. The Barbados Coppers 1788, 1792: Introduction, Notre Dame University
  2. 1788 Barbados Original Penny Dies, Gary A. Trudgen, ©2009
  3. The Coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations to the End of the Reign of George VI 1952, Part 3: Bermuda, British Guiana, British Honduras and the West Indies, F. Pridmore, London: Spink and Son, ©1965, pgs.75-90
  4. History of Currency in the British Colonies, Robert Chalmers, 1893, pgs.46-59
  5. Standard Catalog of World Coins, Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler, Krause Publications, ©1991, vol. 1, pgs.240-241
  6. Catalogue of British Colonial and Commonwealth Coins, Andre Clermont and John Wheeler, Spink, ©1986 pgs.72-74
Aaron Packard

1 Comment

  1. Aaron

    Nice work, I like how you and Gary have added to Pridmore. These are my favorite coppers of all time! Would you be interested in collaborating further on die states of some of these 10 varieties? Specifically Obverses 3 and 5. I also have some proof versions, errors and the 1792 issues.


    Gregg Wilson
    Bellevue, WA

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