101055 | UNITED STATES. Edelweiss Zither Club gold Love Token.
101055 | UNITED STATES. Edelweiss Zither Club gold Love Token. Engraved on an uncertain Quarter Eagle [$2.50 piece] (18mm, 3.04 g, 2h).
"EDELWEISS / ZITHER / CLUB / 1891" in two different scripts; scrolls between; all within octagonal star-shaped border, with cross-hatching pattern in angles / Open book with musical notes; all set upon lyre; TO K.W. around below. Edge: Reeded.
Engraving & host coin: Choice Extremely Fine. Lustrous; loop attached at one side, with the other having been removed at some point prior.
Zither emanated in the German from the Latin "cythera," referring to a plucked or strummed string instrument with a flat body (also whence the English "guitar" derives). The zithers exist in multiple forms, and became popular across the German-speaking areas of western Europe. Following migration to the United States, the practice of playing the instrument was introduced in America, with clubs dedicated to its art and performance. It is difficult to determine to which club this love token pertains, though an Edelweiss Zither Club does appear to have been active in the St. Louis area during the 1890's, so it is possible that this club contained the "K. W." for whom this piece was intended.
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.