101895 | UNITED STATES & GERMANY. New York Penny-Verein silver Token.
101895 | UNITED STATES & GERMANY. New York Penny-Verein silver Token. Engraved on an 1854 Seated Liberty Dime (18mm, 2.00 g, 12h).
"N. Y. PENNY VEREIN" around "GEGRd / 18 FEB / 1869" in three lines; two hands shaking below / Liberty seated right, head left, holding Phrygian cap on pole and resting hand upon union shield. Edge: Reeded.
Cf. KM 77 (for host coin). Engraving: Extremely Fine. Host Coin: Good. Some evidence of clasp removal. Deeply Toned.
The "New Yorker Penny-Verein" (social club) was founded (gegründet, hence "GEGRd") on 18 February 1869, and served as a benefit society in New York City for lower/middle class female youth of German heritage. Functions, such as masquerade balls and dances, were held in order to provide an outlet for "working girls and their beaus," according to a 21 March 1887 article in the New York Times. Tokens such as this, of which two others of the same engraving style are known, appear to commemorate the origins of this society. Unfortunately, relating back to the cited article, one such ball ended in tragedy. On 19 March 1887, the Penny-Verein held a ball in the rear of a saloon located at 335 W 39th St in what is now the Garment District of Manhattan, with the beaus and other men in attendance being best described in the article as "rough but hard-working young fellows—and some members of the Tenth-avenue and "Modoc" "gangs"." Just after midnight, a fight broke out and the man who attempted to quell the dispute, Adam Fernbach, ultimately died as a result of stab wounds. The man responsible for the act was later brought before a judge on murder charges on 31 March.
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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