love token


love token

Unlike in today's society where a token of love might mean a poem, flowers or chocolates, the ancient tradition for romance and bonding was to give a lady a love token or engraved coin.

Love tokens are generally defined as coins that have been engraved with some sort of personal message.

The term is a bit of a misnomer since many of the engravings on coins have nothing to do with love but actually recorded births or deaths.

However, the practice of young suitors passing a lady a token of love began to be practised widely in Britain from the late 1700s.

Indeed, it is the English 18th century milled silver coinage and engravings on old crowns or half crowns which mostly capture people's imagination.

love token

It must be remembered though that such engravings on coins were often carried out decades later than the date of the coin.

It was the custom for gentlemen from Medieval times and up until the late 16th century to bend a copper coin and give it to his beloved as a token of his love and a sign of his intention to marry her.

It was never to be spent and was hoped that it would be carried by his lady to act as a constant reminder of his love.

Other tokens popular in the Middle Ages included veils, gloves and ! handkerchiefs.

Throughout, the ages, jewellery was an important love token made from precious metals and stones.

love token
Rich man, poor man

In the 18th century, wealthy young men would use a silver or even gold coin whilst the poorer man would make his token from a copper coin.

Usually both or one side was rubbed down so a design or message could be created. The most collectable tokens today are those engraved with hearts and arrows and flowers and doves.

It must be remembered that the true numismatist (coin collector) often sees a love token as a defaced period coin though, with research, they are becoming increasingly popular.

love token

A most poignant example of a love token were those produced by British prisoners about to be transported to the penal colonies in Australia.

For collectors today, it is often difficult to differentiate between a love token or whether its original purpose were to act purely as a good luck charm.

love token
In most tokens we see both. This can be seen in the fashionable Victorian rhyme, 'There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile ... He found a crooked sixpence.'

Victorian fancies

A great variety of love tokens were created in Victorian times and were often engraved on farthings, silver threepenny pieces and sometimes even sovereigns. Some gentlemen in the 1850-80 period often had a watch in their fashionable waistcoat pockets on which hung a number of love tokens.

The fashion for love tokens migrated quickly to the United States in the 1840s where the Seated Liberty dime was a popular choice for engravers.

American tokens have also been seen on half cents and even the twenty dollar gold pieces.

love token

Factors which can affect the value of a token is the denomination of coin selected and the ornateness and romance of the overall design, as well as its subject (e.g. sport).

In some instances, the value of a token has risen rapidly because research has provided a true love story about whom the token was created.

The Love Token Society defines a true love token as one which is 'made from coins which were at some time in circulation and must be hand engraved'.

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