100827 | UNITED STATES. "Snug as a Bug"/I–W–M silver Love Token.

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    100827 | UNITED STATES. "Snug as a Bug"/I–W–M silver Love Token. Engraved on an 1875 Seated Liberty Dime (18mm, 1.99 g, 12h).

     

    "SNUG AS A" above bug left; "I. W. M." below; all within ornate serrated border / UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Liberty seated right, head left, holding Phrygian cap on pole and resting hand upon union shield. Edge: Reeded.

     

    Cf. KM A92 (for host coin). Engraving: About Uncirculated. Deeply toned, with a shimmering, underlying brilliance; Host coin: Near Very Fine. Offering exceptional detail, this piece presents a charming pun along with a pictorial scene not often encountered on love tokens.

     

    Being borrowed from the early 18th century practice in Great Britain, and being related to even earlier forms of engraving on European coinage, "love tokens" were an extremely popular form of sentimental art that saw their high point in the United States in the mid-to-late-19th century, whereby coinage was smoothed down on one or both sides, and some form of initials, a message, and/or imagery was engraved so that it may be presented to a loved one. The most commonly encountered 'canvas' in the United States was the dime, and usually one from the Seated Liberty series. At their height, the U.S. Mint blamed an alleged shortage of dimes—a staple of most late-19th century transactions—on this craze. Rising again in the early-mid 20th century during the depths of despair that were the world wars, this form of coin art, usually referred to in this context as "trench art," would see another revival, offering soldiers a brief chance at escapism through sentimental creativity.

     

    This charming piece offers two aspects seldom encountered with love tokens—the use of a witty saying (snug as a bug [in a rug]), and the use of an insect as a visual. The saying likely dates back to the time of Shakespear, though its first appearance in print dates to the late 18th century. A rather cute portrayal of a bug contributes to the partial completion of the saying for this rather unusual entomologist's dream of a love token.

     

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