The History Behind Love Tokens

In a world of email, instant messages and mobile phones, the humble love letter or other old fashioned ways of communicating our affection seem to be but a distant memory. Could traditional love tokens however, be about to make a comeback?

Where did love tokens come from?

Love tokens are coins which have been hand-engraved after the minting process, often with sentimental messages.

For years, love token coins have been carried for luck, but on occasion were accidentally spent. To try and prevent this from happening, various techniques were employed to more effectively mark the coins.

The practice of engraving the coins took hold during the late 1600s, with some of the coins being crafted by experienced artisans as well as individual amateurs. One of the most recognisable styles used to mark coins was “pin punching”, a technique involving pounding a series of dots using a pointed metal instrument to make an impression of an engraved finish.

As these tokens were growing in popularity, people soon started to recognise them as love tokens – primarily due to the engraved messages.

Over the course of time, love tokens became extremely popular across the globe; though appeared in a slightly different guise in the UK.

British love tokens, also sometimes referred to as ‘crooked coins’, were coins which were given by young men to the object of his affections. The suiter would bend the coin to create a wave, in a bid to prevent it from being used. If the coin was kept, it was a sign that the young man’s affections were reciprocated. If the coin was rejected on the other hand, this was a sign of rejection.

How to recognise a love token?

Love tokens were smoothed down almost ‘obliterating’ the monarch’s head, before being bent out of shape. They were also hand-engraved with special initials as well as love signs, including hearts and knots. Some love coins have been also struck with little holes, allowing the owner to attach it to a chain and wear it.  

The vast majority of love tokens seem to have been made of silver, however you can still find bronze and copper pieces.

Modern love tokens

Despite the fact that traditional love tokens had gone out of fashion by the end of the 19th century, love-inspired coins are still available from mints around the globe such as Pobjoy Mint, making a fantastic keepsake gift for any special occasion.

A great example of a contemporary love coin is A Heart of Roses – 2015 Coloured Proof $10 piece, produced on behalf of the British Virgin Islands by Pobjoy Mint with an issue limit of 10,000.

The complete design features three roses – a widely recognised symbol of love all across the world ­– put together in the shape of a heart, making the coin a powerful, love-packed addition to any numismatic collection.

Another example of the coin that honours a long-standing love is the Flowers of Love – 2017 Proof Fine Silver Tri-Colour $10 piece, which has been released on behalf of the British Virgin Islands with a limited issue of 1,947 in 2017.

This extremely rare piece has been carefully struck to commemorate the major wedding anniversaries of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Phillip, and it compromises tri-colour design made of Silver Platinum Plated, Silver Gold Plated and Proof Fine Silver circles.

The outer part of the coin features Irises (representing promise, faith and wisdom), Ivy (a symbol of wedded love) and Myrtle (a Hebrew emblem of marriage, fidelity and affection). The centre part has been embellished with roses that illustrate inner joy, happiness and true love as well as Sweet Pea and Honeysuckle – the symbol birth month flowers of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. As a celebration of the 70th Platinum Wedding Anniversary, the inner centre has been struck with an Orchid – the beautiful symbol love and long life.