Love Tokens
Last Updated: 02/13/2013
A love token (or ‘token of affection’) can be defined as a coin which has been altered by hand-engraving to commemorate an event or loved one.  Dating back as early as the 1600s, these engraved coins became popular during the Victorian era, first in Britain and following later in North America. Early English tokens displayed simple linear drawings, and were referred to as simply ‘Engraved Coins’, while the term ‘Love Token’ was popularized in America, where skilled engraver created more intricate designs.

Coins from around the world were used as host coins for love tokens, however, silver coins appeared to be the most popular as the metal was easier to work with than readily available copper coins. Smaller denomination coins, like 10 cents or 25 cents, were favoured as the ‘cost’ was relatively low. Larger coins, such as 50 cents and one dollar were scarce, and today are sought out by collectors. Gold love tokens were especially scarce. Popular motifs that appeared on love tokens included names and monograms of a loved one, along with hearts, flowers, birds or clasped hands, showing one’s love for another through a union or marriage. Although not as common, landscape imagery can often be found, and skillful examples can be more valuable due to their rarity. Love tokens were most notably made into jewellery including pins, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and cuff links, but could also be found as pocket piece tokens and treasured mementos.

The value of love tokens is based upon two distinct features – the quality of the host coin and the intricacy of the design. Value also increases with higher denomination coins and the metal composition of the host coin.

While love tokens fell out of fashion around the end of the 19th century, the art form saw resurgence during the world wars, with Trench Art in World War I and Sweetheart Jewellery during World War II.  Soldiers would engrave local coins while stationed overseas, sending the tokens of affection to their loved ones back home.  Today, love tokens add variety and interest as a unique offshoot that adds a human touch to the hobby of coin collecting.

Examples of Love Token Varieties:

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