These bracelets; known as money bolay, manilla, or “slave” trade bracelets; are 9” in diameter bronze or copper bracelets used for adornment and ancient money.
Circulated in the 15th century through the 20th century, they have been used for generations. As the slave trade encroached upon Africa many Europeans used them to trade for slaves, and money boley became popularly known as slave trade bracelets. In fact very small forms of money bolay known as “popo manilla” were made in manufacturing plants in Birmingham prior to 1807 for use in amassing slaves. These are much smaller than true money bolay and are also still kept in museums around the world.
Recalled in mass by western and central African governments in 1948-49 and replaced by paper money, the people were allowed to keep up to 200 pieces of the original money per family. In fact, in some remote regions the bracelets are rumored to still be in use.The larger the piece of money bolay the greater its worth. Not used for routine transactions, money bolay was used as an easily transportable reservoir of wealth and for burial and bride price. Many times these extremely heavy pieces were molded onto someone’s body so that they could display the large amount of wealth they possessed