100953 | UNITED STATES. Anchor/Ancient Order of United Workmen Love Token.
100953 | UNITED STATES. Anchor/Ancient Order of United Workmen/T–O–B silver Love Token. Engraved on an 1853 Seated Liberty Dime (18mm, 2.05 g, 1h).
Logo of the Order: Anchor bearing shield inscribed "A. O. U. W." and "T. O. B." / Liberty seated right, head left, holding Phrygian cap on pole and resting hand upon union shield; 13 stars around. Edge: Reeded.
Cf. KM 77 (for host coin). Engraving: Choice Very Fine. Pleasing steel gray toning; Host Coin: Fine. Numerous edge scuffs.
A popular motif within the collecting of love tokens, the anchor on this piece actually has an even deeper meaning, as it is a reference to the Ancient Order of United Workmen (AOUW)—a fraternal order within the U.S. and Canada that provided assistance and support to members in the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th. An escutcheon atop a titled anchor was their logo, mimicked here on this love token.
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.