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2003/40/1 Convict love token, H. Heald, 'Keep this dear Mary for my sake till the departure of thy life / The gift of a friend whose love for you will never end H Heald', copper, [convict made], Britain / Australia, 1825 - 1835. Click to enlarge.

Convict love token by H Heald

Made
Convict love tokens such as this one by H. Heald for 'Mary' have been described by Anne Schofield as the first Australian artwork. Even purely narrative tokens such as this example have their own distinctive style, but even more important is the fact that they exist at all. They were made from smoothed-down coins as mementos for wives, lovers, friends and family members (including those of the same gender). Their purpose was to comfort the recipient, and perhaps subconsciously to keep alive …

Summary

Object No.

2003/40/1

Object Statement

Convict love token, H. Heald, 'Keep this dear Mary for my sake till the departure of thy life / The gift of a friend whose love for you will never end H Heald', copper, [convict made], Britain / Australia, 1825 - 1835

Physical Description

Copper disc made from smoothed-down coin cartwheel penny of 1797 issued by George III, dedicated on both sides with inscribed capitalised lettering:
Obverse: KEEP THIS / DEAR MARY FOR / MY SAKE TILL THE / DEPARTURE OF / THY LIFE
Reverse: THE GIFT OF A / FRIEND WHOSE / LOVE FOR YOU / WILL NEVER END / H. HEALD

Marks

No marks

Dimensions

Depth

3 mm

Production

Notes

The maker is not known. The crude nature of the token suggests it was made by the convict, H. Heald or a fellow convict in the ship hulks or gaol.

The place of manufacture is not known, but probably Britain. The usual pattern was that the tokens were made in the hulks or gaols and then given to their loved ones prior to embarkation for Australia.

1820-1840 was the period when the majority of convicts were transported to New South Wales (then including Queensland and Victoria) and Tasmania - averaging five to six thousand conicts a year. As a natural consequence, most convict love tokens date to this period.

History

Notes

Made for Mary whose surname is not known.
Convict love tokens were produced by, or on behalf of the convicts to give as mementos to loved ones such as wives, lovers, friends, and family. While other items were undoubtedly given, the inscribed, commemorative and indestructible nature of the coin-based love token has ensured these remain as the best known identifiable type. They follow an already established tradition in the United Kingdom used by non-convicts of using a smoothed and engraved coin for a commemorative purpose. Such tokens similarly celebrated love and relationships, but also, death, births and christenings engraved on coins whose ease of availability made them an ideal matrix. Typically however, these tokens of the 'free' were made on silver coins, whereas the poor convict was only able to afford copper coins such as a halfpenny or cartwheel penny and twopenny pieces of King George III's reign.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased with funds donated by the Metropolitan Coin Club of Sydney, 2003

Acquisition Date

17 March 2003

Cite this Object

Harvard

Convict love token by H Heald 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 July 2021, <https://ma.as/12096>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/12096 |title=Convict love token by H Heald |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 July 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}