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HomeMedals and TokensLove Tokens Were Once Popular Valentine's Day Gifts

Love Tokens Were Once Popular Valentine’s Day Gifts

By CoinWeek …..
 

Love tokens are a class of numismatic collectible, where one or sometimes both sides of a coin have been smoothed down and engraved with initials, names, phrases, or scenes. These were often given to young ladies as “tokens of love” by suitors and were popular Valentine’s Day gifts.

The manufacture and practice of giving a love token date back to the early 1800s in Great Britain, and with the influx of British immigrants, the practice came to the United States in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Americans used all manner of coins to engrave messages of love. The Liberty Seated dime is the most popular coin used to create these mementos (likely because of its smaller size and silver content). Still, love tokens are known to have been produced using all denominations of U.S. coins, from half-cent to 20-dollar gold pieces, as well as numerous world coins and denominations.

This is an image of a token with an engraved reverse.

Those interested in collecting these amorous artifacts should familiarize themselves with the field by checking out Lloyd L. Entenmann’s standard reference work, Love Tokens as Engraved Coins (1991). You may have to search for a copy, but they are available.

Being personalized items from a wide variety of creators, each love tokens has its own personality and story. Each one represents a love shared between two people. It’s always great when these love stories pass from generation to generation, but often they are lost to time.

One might split hairs and say that these items are not tokens. A love token is a coin defaced by planning down and engraving one or both sides. If applying a more technical definition, one would categorize these objects as “engraved coins”. Collectors prefer to refer to them by their sentimental name.

The golden age of the love token in America was the 1860s to the 1880s. During the Civil War, with so many families separated and homesick, love tokens were meaningful keepsakes. One can imagine a young soldier keeping one in their pocket as they carried on far away from their loved ones. By the end of the 19th century, other keepsakes replaced the love token.

New Book on Tokens of Love, Loss and Disrespect
An assortment of British Love Tokens

Most American love tokens you’ll encounter will have the initials of a person, sometimes a name or a message. A few will have an ornate depiction of some object or symbol, such as a bird or a heart.

Although the modern metals used to strike coins today do not have the allure (or softness) of classic gold and silver, there is nothing to stop someone from making love tokens now.
However, modern versions would likely have to be machine engraved. The collectible 19th-century U.S. tokens are all engraved by hand.

How Much Are Love Tokens Worth?

One factor in the desirability of the piece is the denomination selected for the token. Gold and silver host coins will imbue the piece with a base metal value. Another critical factor is the ornateness of the artwork involved—the more detailed and fancy the engraving, the more desirable and expensive the token.

 

In the video above, collector Richard Burdick shares his impressive collection of hand-engraved 19th century tokens and mementos.

Some people collect tokens with specific names, specific initials, or just by whatever happens to catch their eye or hold special meaning for them.

This collectible category is typically not expensive. Most that were made from a Seated Liberty dime sell for $20-30 each. The more ornate coins and gold coins will cost significantly more.

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CoinWeek
CoinWeek
Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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