From Manchester Museum … With Love

Today’s post is by Jennie and Michelle from the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum. We are not experts, but we are people with a passionate interest in the museum and its objects. We each bring our own insight into Manchester Museum and its collections.

For more about numismatics and archaeology, please visit the Curator’s blog, Ancient Worlds.

Valentine’s Day Special Edition: From Manchester Museum … With Love

The museum has an extensive collection of some of the most beautiful and extravagant objects which would make perfect gifts for Valentine lovers…

… from gold and jewellery, to precious gems and flowers.  However, the gifts that carry the most meaning are often those that hold personal romantic and sentimental value for the givers and receivers, and sometimes literally cost pennies.

No.: OC378. Love token on 1754 halfpenny. Money Gallery, Manchester Museum

A Love Token is a coin from normal circulation which has been smoothed on one or both sides and then transformed by the engraver with a personal message or picture for their love interest to keep. How the coins are smoothed is not clear – a jeweller’s lathe would give more clear cut edges. The majority of these tokens depict messages of affection, and usually a drawing symbolic only to the lovers, although some appear to be much cruder! Many of the coins appear to be pocket worn smooth before being painstakingly carved, giving a personal and tactile connection to the lover from whom they are apart.

Available from:

Their popularity in Britain peaked in the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Like scrimshaws (carved whale bones and teeth), the variety of individual tokens in collections throughout the world is vast. Some of the most collectible are prisoner tokens; coins engraved and inscribed by deported British convicts serving their sentences in colonial Australia.  They  often depict the date and span of their detention and a popular message was, ‘When this you see, remember me’.  The inscriptions on these ‘leaden hearts’ offer a much more personal and emotional insight into the lives of those more often only represented in official government documents. The National Museum of Australia has an entire gallery dedicated to them.

Valentine’s day is perhaps when this remembrance of an absent loved one is particularly important; a day designated by many as a day of love and romance. And here at Manchester, we love museums


… Wherever you are, whatever your passion, and however you choose to spend your day, Happy Valentine’s from all at Manchester Museum!

Jennie and Michelle

For more about numismatics and archaeology, please visit the Curator’s blog, Ancient Worlds.

More Visitor Team stories from the Money gallery:

A Closer Look at the Katanga Cross
A Fistful of Dollars

And check out our Seasonal Specials From the Museum Floor:

Not Just for Christmas
Season’s Gr-eatings from Stan
Chinese Zodiac: Part 1 – Monkey


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