The third edition of MEGA RED (the Deluxe Edition of the Guide Book of United States Coins) features different types of altered coins in several new appendices, including an eight-page illustrated study of love tokens. MEGA RED retails for $49.95 and is available online (including at Whitman.com) and from booksellers nationwide.
A love token is defined as a coin that has been smoothed flat on one or both sides and then hand-engraved, usually with a keepsake message for a sweetheart or family member. Typical messages included terms of endearment, anniversary dates, a lover’s initials, or a romantic symbol such as a heart, blue birds, or flowers.
The MEGA RED appendix is illustrated with photographs of more than 100 love tokens and related items, ranging from tiny half dimes and gold dollars to silver dollars and gold double eagles ($20 coins).
The popular tradition of engraving coins for sentimental or good-luck purposes goes back to Great Britain in the late 1600s. In the United States, the most commonly seen are Liberty Seated dimes (minted from the 1830s to the 1890s). Love tokens saw a resurgence in popularity during World War II, when women on the Home Front would wear “sweetheart jewelry” to honor their loved ones fighting overseas. Many examples were in the form of necklaces or bracelets of foreign coins engraved by soldiers and sailors, with silver coins of Australia being most common.
Because each love token is unique, retail values are difficult to standardize. To aid collectors, the MEGA RED appendix illustrates a catalog of pieces sold at auction in recent years, along with their auction prices. Examples include Liberty Seated and Morgan silver dollars, trade dollars, an Australian sweetheart bracelet, silver quarters and half dollars, foreign and U.S. gold coins, a Barber dime marking the death of President William McKinley, twenty-cent pieces, stick pins made from gold dollars, a so-called opium dollar, and more.
Other appendices in the third-edition MEGA RED discuss special modern gold coins (2009 to date), So-Called Dollars, hobo nickels, chopmarked coins, and modern U.S. Mint gold and silver medals.