(or engraved coins)


by GUY DE LA BEDOYERE (revised September 2015)


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A love token is the name often given to coins that have been engraved with some sort of personal message or information. The term ‘love token’ is a bit of a misnomer as many of the engravings have nothing to do with ‘love’ but instead recorded births or deaths.


Coin collectors and dealers regard such pieces as spoiled or damaged, with the result that ‘love tokens’ used to be very much cheaper than another example of the same coin in original condition. But in fact ‘love tokens’ can often be very interesting pieces, especially when the names on the coin turn out to be traceable. They have started to get a lot more expensive, perhaps in part due to the current interest in genealogy.


The love tokens I’m especially interested in here are the English seventeenth century coins engraved in the eighteenth century. Other so-called ‘love tokens’ include the ‘benders’ which were coins bent and then exchanged as keepsakes. These pieces inevitably were shillings or sixpences because these could be bent, but they have no inscriptions and are of no interest here.


Between 1696 and 1816 English circulating money consisted mainly of milled coinage struck between early 1663 and 1816. Many of these pieces were silver crowns (5 shillings, equal to 25 pence), halfcrowns, shillings (12 old pennies, but equal to 5 pence today) and sixpences. A popular habit was to take a coin, usually a crown or halfcrown, and engrave on it some special piece of information like a birth date or the commemoration of a death. Sometimes the engraving is detailed and tells you the name of the person, the exact date, and sometimes the event. The engraving is usually many decades later than the coin, often around 90-120 years.


In 1816 the silver coinage was replaced with new issues at a lower level of silver purity. From then on the new silver coins were worth more as coins, than as melted down bullion of the same weight. The idea was to make silver coinage affordable to produce, and to discourage people from melting down coins. With the new coinage available, the old silver coins disappeared from circulation, or were withdrawn for reuse in the new coins. Coins already used as ‘love tokens’ often survived this process. Of course the habit continued, but after 1816 only the new coins were easily available. Victorian engravings are often far more elaborate and professionally done, with the host coin’s identity completely polished away.


What did a coin like this mean in terms of cost? As a very rough rule of thumb, based on bullion price and inflation, you need to multiply by about 60-70 to get a comparison. A silver crown was worth 5 shillings (25 pence) then and was worth a little more than a silver dollar of the period. At today’s values an engraved crown cost the equivalent of £15-17.50, or at present exchange rates US$27-30. Obviously, people only used what they could afford: poorer people used sixpences or even copper halfpennies and farthings. They weren’t even always engraved – sometimes the coins were just bent. See Values for how the system worked and its equivalents.


The coins that recorded deaths were probably linked to the well-established custom of providing ‘mourning rings’ for those invited to the funeral. For example, Samuel Pepys (who died in 1703) allocated money in his will to provide rings valued at 20, 15 and 10 shillings, for the various mourners. Each ring was engraved with the name of the deceased. Giving a ‘mourning coin’ like no. 2 below was obviously rather cheaper.



Good question and there isn’t an obvious answer. However, from the seventeenth century onwards it became fashionable to wear jewellery that commemorated a cherished person. Often such jewellery was symbolic, such as Georgian ‘heart’-shaped brooches. Sometimes they contained locks of hair. It was also customary for the wealthier to leave money for rings to be handed out to esteemed mourners at their funerals. Samuel Pepys had forty-five £1 ‘mourning rings’ handed out at his funeral – around £2700-worth in today’s money.


By the late 1700s a new type of commemorative brooch had become very fashionable. These had miniature paintings depicting people grieving for a loved one, or a representation of a lover. Usually some sort of abbreviated message was added to the picture, perhaps initials, a slogan, or a date.


I believe the engraved coins represent a cheaper option for those who could not afford a bespoke brooch or mourning rings, especially as it is clear the engraved coin were often converted into brooches by soldering on pins. The custom became established after c. 1780, just when the brooch paintings were becoming popular. By then no crowns or half-crowns had been made since 1751. Even shillings were scarce, and just one tiny issue in 1763 and a large issue in 1787 would fill a gap between 1758 and 1816. So until George III’s recoinage of 1816, surviving silver coins had become high-value items that were rarely used as money. Moreover, most of the available coins were quite worn. This helped the process of engraving because the smoother surfaces were easier to negotiate with a cutting tool.


In the 19th century love tokens became more elaborate and often involved enamelling and/or completely erasing one face (or sometimes both sides) of the coin so that a message, name, date or initials could replace it. Occasionally the coin then had a pin soldered to it, so that it could be worn as a brooch. Engraving coins became widespread – many US coins of the 1800s were engraved in some way. This coin dealer’s website has a page devoted to a range of examples for sale:


TYPICAL FEATURES OF A ‘LOVE TOKEN’ COIN OF THE 1600S, ENGRAVED c. 1780-1820 (none of these are hard and fast0


a) The coins of choice are usually worn crowns or halfcrowns dated between 1662 and 1714

b) the engraving, if dated, generally belongs to c. 1780-1820

c) the engraving is usually in the form of initials plus date

d) every engraving is unique in style and content e.g. the date may include day and month and year, or only the year

e) it may include initials or the whole name

f) it may or may not specify the event.

g) some engravings have clearly been produced by professionals or experienced engravers, and others by amateurs





1. A grandmother’s gift: Charles II crown of 1664 with engraving of 1783


This love token proved exceptionally easy to trace because the name is unusual, and the date precise.


This crown bears the inscription:

The Gift of

Christiana Baugh

To Margaret Baugh

February 25th









Although the occasion is not stated, there is no doubt what that was. Christiana Baugh was Margaret’s grandmother. She took the coin from her own savings and had it engraved to commemorate her granddaughter’s birth. The family descent works like this:


1. Robert (i) Baugh married CHRISTIANA (maiden name unknown but born c. 1726), in about 1748


2. Robert (i) and Christiana Baugh’s son, also Robert (ii) (b. 1749), married Catherine Edwards on 25 May 1782 at Llanymynech, Shropshire. I am extremely grateful to Joan Zorn for informing me that this younger Robert Baugh can be identified as the map maker and engraver ROBERT BAUGH (1749-1832) of Llanymynech. It is her opinion, which I share, that this Robert was almost certainly responsible for engraving the coin (his signature on a will of 1785 shows the word Baugh written very similarly to how it is on the coin). She has provided this quote from the local parish registers and the following links:


Robert Baugh was a copper-plate engraver and a map-maker of considerable genius. He worked in conjunction with the great engineers, Telford and Stevenson, and assisted in the Surveys for the Holyhead Road, and the Aqueduct at Pontcysylltau, across the Dee. He did not neglect local responsibilities, or opportunities. He filled the office of Parish Clerk, and for some years was Church-Warden.”


More can be read about Robert Baugh in the Gentleman's Magazine and his obituary


See also


3. Robert and Catherine Baugh’s eldest daughter, and first child, MARGARET BAUGH was born exactly nine months later (to the day!) on 25 February 1783 at Llwyntidman, Llanymynech, Shropshire (found on Family Search).


4. Margaret Baugh also turns up on a webpage devoted to Caernarfon traders. She married a draper called Richard Owen on 12 December 1805 at Llanymynech, and produced two sons: Richard, and Robert (iii; the third of that Christian name), and a daughter who later became Mrs C.B. Parry.


5. Unfortunately, Margaret died on 2 March 1811. Richard Owen married again and had more children but was dead himself by 1828.


6. Margaret’s son Richard, born about 1807, is probably the man of this name who turns up in the 1851 Census, now a coachman, living at 117 Park Road, Llanelly, with his wife Lucy and their sons John and William.  Robert (iii) Owen is not in the Census. Her daughter is not readily identifiable either but might be the widow Ann Parry, aged 44 and born at Oswestry, living in Chirk, Denbighshire in 1851.


Marks on the coin’s obverse show that the coin was made into a brooch which Margerat presumably wore. The pin and clasp have long since been removed and only traces of the solder remain. The love token might have been passed on to any of these descendants, or none. Who knows? It turned up on Ebay in November 2005 where I bought it.



2. Charles II, crown of 1673












The reverse is engraved:




beneath an ear of corn


Unfortunately, the engraving only features the initials so there’s not the slightest chance of identifying whoever ‘AE’ was. But the engraving is very elegant. This coin cost me £3 from a rummage tray on a coin dealer’s table back in c. 1981.


3. Charles II, crown of 1680


















This coin is engraved:

Tho[mas] Drury

Died 8th Feb[ruar]y



Using websites like Family Search I found that only one Thomas Drury is recorded as having died on February 8th 1805. A little more searching about pinned him down as the man christened on 31 May 1719 (0r 1729) at St Clement Danes in London. His parents were Robert and Susanna. He married a woman called Elizabeth Hilton and was a great friend of John Wesley. Their son Joseph Drury (1750-1834) became a famous headmaster of Harrow School. This is all on a webpage I found. You can read it here. I imagine that a number of these engraved coins were prepared and perhaps handed out at the funeral. Who knows?


4. James II, crown of 1688



The inscription here reads:



Born August

23 1796








My thanks to Christopher Whittell for allowing me to use the picture of this 1688 crown. Unfortunately this one can’t be easily traced. Here we have the birth of a girl called Mercy on 23rd August 1796. The inscription is ambiguous. Does it mean ‘Mercy Corke’ or does it mean ‘Mercy, born in Cork(e)’ in Ireland. Since place-names don’t seem usually to appear on love tokens I suspect Corke is indeed her surname. There is no record of this individual on



5. William III, crown of 1696


















A very sad story. This coin was purchased on Ebay in September 2015. Unfortunately, although it was posted to me by recorded delivery it was ‘lost’ in the post and never arrived to join my collection. It’s a standard 1696 crown but the reverse has been engraved for a woman called Elizabeth Mallison in 1772. There are two possible candidates. It could be an Elizabeth Mallison born in 1772 in Pontefract; she married a man called Benjamin Marshall in 1793. Another woman of the same name was buried at St Anne’s Soho in London in 1800. She was twenty-eight so was born in or around 1772 also. It is not possible now to determine which woman owned the coin.


This coin may well surface once more if it was stolen. If so, I’d be grateful to hear where it is. In the meantime I’d like to thank the dealer John Newman who lost out as a result of the coin’s disappearance and who kindly let me use his original photos for this webpage.


Crowns of William III are the commonest English silver coins from the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1696 vast numbers of new milled coins were struck to replace the old hammered coinage that had been circulating for centuries. Consequently, crowns of 1696 are probably the most frequently found type used for engraving. This 1696 crown was 98 years old when it was selected for this purpose, and was clearly quite worn.


7. William III, crown of 1696














One of the most explicit love tokens I’ve seen, this example popped up on eBay in July 2005. It sold for more than $200. The inscription, which has wiped out the reverse of this crown of William III, reads:










Nanny May’s birthday can be found on She was born in Falmouth, Cornwall, on the day the coin states, and her parents were Walter May and Margaret Hodge. They married 26 April 1791 at Falmouth. It seems Nanny May never married. I found her on - apparently she died in December 1867 at the age of 70 in Barnstaple, Devon. Presumably then her effects were dispersed after her death, perhaps amongst relatives, but if she had no children of her own there’d have been no-one to cherish the love token.


I’m grateful to Geoff Yates and his assistant Gaye, who sold the coin, for supplying me with high-res images to use on this website.


8. Anne, crown of 1707 (Edinburgh)


The engraving on this coin is incomplete but it turned out to be possible to trace a likely candidate. The engraving was probably not made after 1816 for the reasons outlined above. So, here we have a John Maughan, 2 No…….. Assuming this is a birthday, which is more likely than anything else, I started a search for a John Maughan, born on 2 November. As it turns out, there is only one: John Maughan, born 2 November 1802, at New Burn, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to Thomas Maughan and Dorothy Atkinson.


9. George I, crown of 1726















This is the most tantalizing yet. The obverse is engraved:

Sarah Mellor 1791.

The reverse is engraved:

I   M

17  88


The Mellors were concentrated in Derbyshire and also near Oldham in Lancashire. What I’ve found is that (amongst others) a Sarah Mellor was christened on 17 March 1791 at St Mary’s, Oldham, in Lancashire. She was the child of James and Lucretia (or Lucreatia) Mellor. On the reverse are the initials IM and the date 1788.  I now believe that the ‘I’ and ‘M’ mean a James and Mary who were married in 1788. Sarah must be their daughter. And indeed, it turns out that a James Mellor married Mary Howarth at St Mary’s, Oldham, Lancashire on 3 January 1788, the very same place that three years later saw the christening of a Sarah Mellor.


Sadly, of course, her mother is recorded as Lucreatia [sic] Mellor. Moreover, there were several other little girls christened in England that year with the name Sarah Mellor. Without an exact day and month on the coin I can’t pin her down. I suspect that the Oldham individuals are the solution but with some other factor I am unaware of that would explain the discrepancy between Lucreatia and Mary. Sadly, I can’t find any other information about Lucreatia such as a marriage or even death.


But the frustrating experience of this coin did lead me down another route, which you can read about here.



10. US $1 ‘draped bust/heraldic eagle’ type 1798














This is an early US silver $1, dating from 1798 at the beginning of the presidency of John Adam, second president of the United States (1797-1801). It’s a rare coin, and was struck in the young US mint at Philadelphia, one of only 327,536 silver dollars made that year. Without the hole and the engraving it would have been far more expensive, and it wasn’t cheap to begin with. An exceptionally crude engraving, that seems to read CRC or CHC, has been cut right across Liberty’s neck. I’d like to think it was done by some wildly exciting pioneer in Wyoming Territory in the early 1800s. But there’s a much more interesting possibility. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Tom is given a pierced silver dollar by his master’s son George. If Harriet Beecher Stowe was describing a common practice, then is it possible this coin with its crude engraving was once the property of a slave too? Here’s the passage:


"Can't help it! I say it's a shame! Look here, Uncle Tom," said he, turning his back to the shop, and speaking in a mysterious tone, "I've brought you my dollar!"

"O! I couldn't think o' takin' on 't, Mas'r George, no ways in the world!" said Tom, quite moved.

"But you shall take it!" said George; "look here—I told Aunt Chloe I'd do it, and she advised me just to make a hole in it, and put a string through, so you could hang it round your neck, and keep it out of sight; else this mean scamp would take it away. I tell ye, Tom, I want to blow him up! it would do me good!"

"No, don't Mas'r George, for it won't do me any good."

"Well, I won't, for your sake," said George, busily tying his dollar round Tom's neck; "but there, now, button your coat tight over it, and keep it, and remember, every time you see it, that I'll come down after you, and bring you back. Aunt Chloe and I have been talking about it. I told her not to fear; I'll see to it, and I'll tease father's life out, if he don't do it."



Guy de la Bédoyère


Other links on love tokens:


Love Tokens  - but watch out, this link also generates advertisements - this page lists metal-detector finds of milled coins, and includes some ‘love tokens’


It’s also worth looking on eBay at and putting ‘love token’ or ‘engraved’ into the search box to see what comes up.


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