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Love Tokens: How Victorians Fell in Love With Pocket Change

Back when war, ocean travel, or prison sentences meant lovers would be separated for a long time, they left each other with love tokens -real coins sanded down and engraved with names and sentimental messages and symbols. The engravings had different meanings, and could in domes cases be used as a marriage proposal. The custom started hundreds of years ago, but reached it apex in the 1800s. Collectors Weekly talked to Sid Gale of the Love Token Society about the history and popularity of love tokens.

Gale explains that as chromolithography became more affordable and started to replace the letterpress in the late 1800s, wood-type engravers turned to hand-engraving coins as a way to survive. By 1870s, their elaborate, beautifully engraved love tokens became a full-on obsession for Victorians, in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

“If you went to a fair in Victorian England, someone would be scraping off the side of a coin and selling love tokens,” Rosin says. “A fellow walking arm-in-arm with his girlfriend would take her to buy a little love token. I don’t know if it necessarily meant their love would last, but it was a big thing with young people.”

Read the rest, and see a great variety of these types of tokens that have survived, at Collectors Weekly.

(Image credit: The Love Token Society)


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