101786 | UNITED STATES. "Always Ahead" silver Love Token.
101786 | UNITED STATES. "Always Ahead" silver Love Token. Engraved on an 1884 Seated Liberty Dime (18mm, 2.12 g, 12h).
Facing male head with papakha-style fur cap and Eastern European-style facial hair; –: ALWAYS AHEAD :– / 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 & host coin: Extremely Fine. Lightly toned.
Ex Chris Dempsey Collection.
This imagery evokes the concept of a magician's coin, at least in the idea of it being two-headed. When flipped, either side could be considered "heads," clearly giving the decision to the person who called "heads." This aspect would be reinforced by the phrase "always ahead," in that the caller of heads would undoubtedly be ahead, and as a reference to the flip "always a head."
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.
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