100843 | UNITED STATES. Berwanger & Rosenthal silver Friendship Token.

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    100843 | UNITED STATES. Berwanger & Rosenthal silver Friendship Token. Engraved 1872 on a Seated Liberty Half Dollar (30mm, 11.30 g, 12h).

     

    "A. Berwanger / TO / Seligman Rosenthal / 1872" in four lines in script; light scrolls around / UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / HALF DOL., eagle with union shield, olive branch, and arrows; banner above. Edge: Reeded.

     

    Cf. KM 99 or A99 (for host coin). Engraving & host coin: Choice Extremely Fine. Pleasingly toned, with some underlying brilliance and a few light marks on the obverse.

     

    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 interesting piece appears to commemorate a friendship between two individuals—A. (likely Abraham) Berwanger and Seligman Rosenthal—possibly cohorts in the clothing and mercantile trade in the latter third of 19th-century Washington, D.C. The use of a half dollar, as opposed to the much more commonly encountered dime, would indicate that the individuals involved were likely of elevated economic status owing to the purchasing power of the half dollar at that time.

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