1821 U.S. Citizenship Certificate

Value (2014) | $3,500$5,000

I acquired the document through the WGBH auction in 1978.

Oh, my goodness.

Yes. And it was certainly before black memorabilia became...

the rage, or popular that it is today, yes.

Yes, but because it was a certificate of citizenship for a person of color, I personally felt it should belong to a person of color, so I got the high bid.

How much did you pay for this in 1978?

I paid $75, which, at the time, my mother thought was outrageous.

It was well worth it.

This is an important document that is showing George Barker, the gentleman right here, and he was born in 1788, and that he is a free person of color and a citizen of America. And it's showing descriptive information about his height-- he's 5'2"-- he has sable complexion and he has "woolly" hair.

(laughing) Yes.

Is that just not indicative of the time period, where they were describing African Americans "with woolly hair."

Right, exactly.

The other thing that's exciting is that down here, we have where it says, "for the relief and protection of American seamen, "not having made provision for persons of color to obtain certificates of citizenship."


This document is so important. You have a wonderful seal right here, it's archivally framed, it's from Massachusetts. I've never seen something like this. Scholars, collectors, museums, libraries would eat this up. How about $3,500 to $5,000 for this document?

Oh, my God, that's unbelievable.

Now, is your mom still living?

Yes, she is, and she's going to be mighty shocked.

Make sure you tell her that $75 many years ago was well spent.

Appraisal Details

Value Update (2014)
Appraised value (2000)
$3,500 Retail$5,000 Retail
Boston, MA (August 19, 2000)
19th Century

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