It’s the time of year for giving gifts to the ones that we love. In honor of this special time of year, I would like to share another interesting artifact that I found while processing the Carr/Botsford/Brewster Family Collection for the Yellow Springs Historical Society. While I was preparing some of the clothing from the collection for storage, I began pulling some old tissue paper out of the box to ensure that all of the artifacts had been removed, before discarding the box. In the middle of the tissue paper was a small octagonal piece of jewelry. On the front, the initials S.C. are engraved. Since many of the artifacts in this collection originated with the Carr family I am guessing that the initials stand for Sophronia Carr. I turned the piece of jewelry over and could see that the mechanism remains showing that it had once been used as a pin….but when you look at the image on the back, it is a quarter dollar.
I was looking at a piece of jewelry that had once, clearly, been a coin that was once in circulation here in the United States. I began my research by trying to determine a date when this quarter dollar might have been in circulation. The coin was a silver, quarter dollar with an eagle, shield, and arrows on the back side. It did not take very long to find out that this was the back side of a silver, Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar which were in circulation from 1838 to 1891. Of course, if the face of the coin were still intact, it would be very easy to date it, however, the face of the coin has been altered, so I have to rely on the back of the coin to try to come up with a date.
According to some of the coin collector’s resources that I found, the artwork on the back side of this coin varied over time. Some of the designs included rays (as in sun rays), behind the eagle along with the eagle grasping arrowheads. Other designs included the motto, in ‘God We Trust’. This particular coin did not have the rays or the motto and therefore appears to date anywhere from 1838 to 1865. The lack of mint mark on the back of the coin indicates that it was minted in Philadelphia.
Another piece of history that I discovered in regards to silver coins what that in 1853, Congress passed the Mint Act of 1853 which reduced the amount of sliver in coins by almost seven percent. Up until this time the value of the melted silver was worth more than the face value of the coin which eventually caused a coin shortage (from people melting their coins to take advantage of the increased value). This shortage was remedied by the passage of the Mint Act. By 1854, a million dollars worth of coins were being stored in the vaults of the Mint waiting to be purchased. What Congress had not anticipated was that there was now an oversupply of coins. Retail stores and even banks began to refuse to accept silver coins. My initial thought about the piece was that since the coin became worthless around 1854, perhaps that is why it had been turned into a piece of lovely jewelry.
I was not really satisfied with my theory on why this coin had been converted to a piece of jewelry, so I continued my research. Then I found it! When I Googled, “silver Seated Quarter Dollar Pin”, up popped an Ebay listing for a silver Seated Quarter Dollar Love Token. The image on Ebay looked very similar to the pin that I had in front of me. Exactly what was a love token? (I have to add here that once I found out this was a “love token”, the 1959 song “Love Potion No. 9” began playing over and over in my head! Of course the words have been changed to “love token number nine!) Knowing that there was such an artifact as a love token led me to the Love Token Society’s webpage. This is when I knew I had figured out what I was looking at!
According to the Love Token Society, love tokens, just as the name implies were a token of love given to another person. In order for an item to qualify as a love token, the item must be engraved by hand on an actual circulating coin. These coins were engraved on one side and usually turned into some type of jewelry (pin, bracelet, necklace). The peak of the love token phase occurred around the Civil War here in the United States. Interestingly enough, most U.S. love tokens were engraved on the Liberty Seated dime. The Liberty Seated quarter was popular among the wealthier gift givers. Did William Carr engrave this love token for his wife Sophronia? I love that a simple coin was turned into a token of love and is still here to share that love story about one hundred and fifty years later!