A Token of my Love?

19th March 2015 — 19 Comments

fictionHistory thrives on stories and telling them is one of the things I do. I interpret the evidence available, then present to detectorists a comprehendible – and hopefully interesting – interpretation of the past. Often I use artefacts they have discovered as a catalyst for my writings. I am not an archeologist or historian. I am just that – a storyteller.

I often employ fiction in my scribblings to create a plausible past. The worry is that many readers regard me as some kind of expert, which I’m not. My status as a writer in a national magazine somehow lends credibility to any tale, and I often receive artefacts to identify and questions I can’t answer. Am I just a fraud or just one of those ‘snake oil salesmen’ I’ve written about on a previous occasion?

I must admit that I sometimes manage a wry smile when I read about the earliest recorded zombie attack or that a ring found in Sweden links the Vikings to ancient Islam. I could go on, but you get the picture. These tales are the result of an archaeological storyteller who has relied on research and vivid imagination to come to those conclusions. Sometimes I cannot help but admire the story-telling skills and panache of the various authors.

The Time Capsule. There was a vogue at one time to bury time capsules, but I don’t think it still happens? The intention was, I guess, that the artefacts and information would be studied at a future date and help archaeologists to interpret life at that time.

I cannot help but wonder that these assemblages came about as a result of people’s desire to present a picture of the past that would be difficult to misinterpret. Anyone putting together a capsule today is advised to include some coinage as future detectorist finding any will discover that they are unrecognisable. Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to the point of this blog post.

In July last year I resurrected a piece on bent love tokens and regurgitated the accepted theory why detectorists find so many. Somebody sometime had come up with a feasible explanation and it has, in the main, become accepted. Original article HERE.

Love Token

James II half guinea dated 1686. Coin made into a ’love token’ by forming it into a shallow ’S’ shape. © UKDFD 884 Thanks to John Mills

But not everyone agrees. I was contacted by one of my subscribers who accused me of perpetuating a myth … and perhaps he was right. What do you think? I subsequently added the following to the blog:

Truth or Conjecture?I have already said that the custom of making love tokens was at its height during the reign of William III and the coin was always rubbed smooth (some say) and then bent. Indeed, It is said that a young man would prove his love to his young lady by physically bending a coin in front on her. With a thin hammered coin this wouldn’t be too difficult.

Other commentators say that that a number of bent coins were not love tokens at all. The reason for them being that way relates to conditions prevailing at the time, when counterfeiting was rife. Copper fakes were often dipped in silver and passed off as a higher denomination coin.  To check whether they were fakes they were bent to check if they were genuine. Counterfeit coins would be revealed as the worn thinner edges of silver would split as the copper pushed through. Fascinating this hobby … innit!

Some FLO’s will tell you that bowed coins are thought to be love tokens but there is no contemporary evidence to confirm this, no recorded references from the time relating to them. I beg to differ.

If you click on this link you will see a quote from Robert Green’s book of 1592, showing a use of the bowed money as a love token sent from an uncle and aunt to their niece …

In a future post I hope be examining another item that perhaps should be looked at again …


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19 responses to A Token of my Love?

  1. I always presumed that the reason the love token was bent was so it identified the coin against others in the pocket or purse, so it wasn’t spent.

  2. Hi, I’m a new subscriber to your blog as of yesterday , and thought I would add my two penny’s worth on this subject. I’m not sure if I agree with the idea of coins being bent to prove whether they were counterfeit or not as I have a George II copper halfpenny bent in the traditional s shape . I’m affraid I have no answer as to why they were bent in the first place though. As to why they were worn flat , that is something that would take ages to do, endless hours of rubbing, and for what purpose, another mystery.

  3. I was led to believe that once a coin had been in such a way as a token of love, that this would always be carried until such time the relationship ended and the token discarded. The reason that the tokens were so worn was likely the constant rubbing or touching as a form of touchpiece.

  4. I believe that these coins were deliberately given as Love tokens to sweethearts and there was a real fad for this practice in the 18th century.

    Thats why so many of William III coins were used once they were getting very worn from extensive circulation.

    There we’re of course some lads who thought their lady friends were worth a little more than a worn copper or silver coin and so we occasionally see the gold ones.

    I have found the rare spendable hammered love token.

    A Charles I Halfgroat or Tuppence.

    Well thats my take on the subject.

    PS I wonder if that is where the old saying from young girls mothers came from (Keep your hand on your tuppence)

    Sorry John its coffee time. Jerry.

  5. Love your stories John so just thought I would let you know as a token gesture 😉

  6. I’ve got a William sixpence somewhere which is bent like a tri-corn hat and I’ve heard of other shapes that have been found . I’ve read somewhere that so-called love tokens are often found near churches.. This maybe that, according to Thomas Cobbett in Rural Rides, that going to church was the only place that single people could meet without a Chaperone being present and tokens “were oft exchanged “.

  7. Not a clue I’m afraid John. I read the unabridged version some years back but I’ll try to find it again but may be sometime as it’s hard going!

  8. Another interesting read John that I remember from last year as not long after I found my first one after 25 years of trying ! Then yesterday I found another partifact of a purse bar, again not long after you had written about them, I’m now hoping your scribblings will include either Leopards, Angels, Ryals or even Staters in the coming weeks and third time will be very lucky !

  9. Going slightly off piste for the moment, I noted that the best place to see the AWESOME eclipse was on the summit of Mt Barford, where stupidity completely blocked out rationality, manners, and veracity.

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