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87/1494 Convict love token, First Fleet, copper, Thomas Tilley, New South Wales/Great Britain, 1786-1787. Click to enlarge.

Convict love token engraved by Thomas Tilley

Made
This love token, a numismatic artefact of the highest importance to Australia, relates to the First Fleet transportee, Thomas Tilley who was sentenced to seven years transportation for theft with force. To achieve a more gracious immortality, Thomas Tilley was untruthful on the token he left for his loved one. On one side is a bird chained from its neck to the ground, and on the obverse is inscribed, 'Thomas Tilley TRANSPORTED 29 July 1785 for signing a note sent the hulks Jan 24 1786'. Vanity perhaps led him to ascribe his own crime to fraud rather than theft with force - a detail suitably sanitised for immortality on a token of love. After languishing in the hulks, Tilley was put on the transport 'Alexander' in 1777, bound for Botany Bay, after which the ship went to Port Jackson and laid anchor in January 1788 at the place that was soon to be called Sydney.

The token was possibly made by an itinerant engraver in England as facilities for traders to visit the prisons and hulks for commerce were readily available. There they would have found a ready market for these trinkets, manufacturing the ever popular love tokens to order from smoothed-down coins, the tokens then being left behind in England with loved ones.

H P Bolond, 1987

Summary

Object No.

87/1494

Object Statement

Convict love token, First Fleet, copper, Thomas Tilley, New South Wales/Great Britain, 1786-1787

Physical Description

Circular copper disc, fully hand engraved. Obverse: inscription "Thomas / Tilley TR / ANSPORTED / 29 July 1785 / for signing / a note sent / the hulks / Jan 24 1786". Reverse: shows a bird with a chain around its neck [Jail Bird]

Dimensions

Height

1 mm

Production

Made

Notes

Probably Portsmouth, England

Note on blue file says 1786 - 1787 (May)

History

Source

Credit Line

Purchased, 1987

Acquisition Date

3 December 1987

Cite this Object

Harvard

Convict love token engraved by Thomas Tilley 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 September 2020, <https://ma.as/73510>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/73510 |title=Convict love token engraved by Thomas Tilley |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=26 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.