101213 | UNITED STATES. Tennis engraved Nickel.
101213 | UNITED STATES. E–M, tennis rackets, and "September XXVI 1885" engraved copper-nickel 5 Cents (21mm, 4.67 g, 12h).
1883-1885 Philadelphia mint "V" nickel, with engraving upon obverse: SEPTEMBER XXVI / 1885 around ornate E–M monogram; tennis racket to left and right. Edge: Plain.
Cf. KM 112 (for host coin). Engraving: Choice Extremely Fine. Lightly toned. A great sports-related piece of coin art. $145.
The exact meaning of this interesting engraved coin is uncertain, though the tennis rackets are fairly clear, as is the reference to the date of September 26, 1885. The 1880's saw a growth in the popularity of tennis here in America, so this piece may have been created in honor of a tournament or simply for an avid participant of the lawn sport.
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.