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Convict love token

Date: 1795
Overall: 2 x 34 mm
Medium: Copper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Coins and medals
Object Name: Token
Object No: 00040474

User Terms

    For the majority of convicts sent out to Australia transportation meant separation for life from family and friends. To ease the pain of departure many convicts made or had commissioned so called 'love tokens' as gifts, a practice that continued throughout the entire period of convict transportation to the Australian colonies from 1787 to 1868.

    This 1795 Anglesea penny was engraved on both sides and features the inscribed names of the sweethearts William Moreton on the front and Hannah Gold on the reverse. It is also decorated with engravings of a rose and two hearts with an arrow.
    SignificanceThis convict love token is representative of the experiences of forced separation on convicts sent to Australia during the late 18th century. It offers an insight into what it was like to be move to a distant land away from home and family.
    HistoryTransportation of British convicts to the remote colonies of New South Wales, Moreton Bay, Norfolk Island, Van Diemen's Land and Western Australia during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century caused much human loss and anguish. For although sentences in most cases were for seven or fourteen years, the isolation of the colonies and the high cost of the passage back from or out to the colonies was prohibitive. This meant separation, except for a lucky few, was for life.

    By engraving low denomination copper coins, like this Anglesea penny, convicts under sentence of transportation, in prisons or onboard the hulks, could write of their sorrow using rhyming couplets, by engraving images of themselves in chains, by engraving signs of their life in freedom (houses, bottles, flowers, hearts, arrows, anchors and Masonic symbols) or by engraving their names or initials alongside those of their loved ones on the token. These tokens, also known as 'leaden hearts' were then left with their loved ones as mementoes.

    Their purpose was to comfort the recipient, and to keep alive the memory and relationships of a convict transported to the far side of the world. The tokens' very tangibility both as the voice and personal belonging of a convict makes them unique as a record since most other convict associated material was produced by the system that caught, tried, jailed, transported and in some cases reformed them. It is a sad fact that convict love tokens remain one of the few classes of items convicts made, or had made, purely of their own volition not as part of their punishment or sentence and as such they are unique in their humanising of a class that the convict transportation system did its best to isolate and dehumanise.

    Although some inscriptions were quite elaborate most of the messages express a simple regret at leaving their family and their homeland, and indeed many of the inscriptions are repeated on different tokens. It is probable that workshop-like conditions may have existed in the prisons or onboard the hulks where the tokens were produced in large numbers (although few survive today) by a tradesman or even a skilled fellow-convict, who filled in the names or initials as required.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Convict love token

    Primary title: William Moreton 1795 (front) Hannah Gold 1795 (verso)

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