Bent sixpence "love tokens".

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Saffron
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Having found a bent sixpence love token the other day close to where I had previously found another it did make me wonder if these were actually love tokens, and the farmers daughter or the milk maid was atrractive with several suitors, or if there were other reasons for finding the coins in this condition.

I suspect that most detectorists believe in this theory -
"In times gone by, it was common practice to give a coin to your sweetheart as a token of love. The coins were usually smoothed down almost obliterating the monarch’s head and then bowed. Sometimes they would be engraved with initials or love signs such as hearts or knots. If she kept the token it meant that his affection was reciprocated, but if she had no feelings for him, it was thrown away. And that’s perhaps why metal detectorists find so many – especially at the site of old fairs.
The custom of making love tokens was at its height during the reign of William III and the coin was always rubbed smooth (some say) and then bent. Indeed, It is said that a young man would prove his love to his young lady by physically bending a coin in front on her. With a thin hammered/silver coin this wouldn’t be too difficult".


But is that really the case? Others say that that a number of bent coins were not love tokens at all, here are just 3 of many options
Option 1 "The reason for them being that way relates to conditions prevailing a the time, when counterfeiting was rife. Copper fakes were often dipped in silver and passed off as a higher denomination coin. To check whether they were fakes they were bent to check if they were genuine. Counterfeit coins would be revealed as the worn thinner edges of silver would split as the copper pushed through."
Option 2 "William III (which most bent sixpence 'love tokens' are assumed to be) was unpopular with a large part of the population due to being a 'foreigner' and being a staunch protestant and his hatred of catholics so it was simply a way to remove his face from the coins and show peoples dislike"
Option 3. "The great recoinage around 1696 led to sixpence coins that were made of very thin silver and were easily bent, becoming "crooked" and badly worn, so what we find are in fact normal sixpences that have suffered from lots of use."

Any thoughts?.

Evan
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figgis
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Didn't I read/hear about a hoard of them found a few years ago? Or a hoard which contained a fair number of them, perhaps. Either way, it immediately cast doubt in my mind as to their accepted use that there must have been reasons for bending them other than to profess undying lust for the milkmaid(s).

I don't doubt that some were, but obviously not all.
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Oxgirl
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I too am of the opinion most were not a token of love but a protest of the crooked Royal system that had a Dutch man in our Royal House. He wasn’t popular so removing his face and wiping out his details and bending a symbol of his rule seems like a fitting protest to me.

Either that or there were blokes who were doling out far too many tokens of love to the ladies!

One other theory I heard was a ‘luck’ one. You are meant to put a silver sixpence in your shoe on your wedding day so your union will always be blessed with riches. If you spent the sixpence you’d give that luck away. However then why remove the king’s image? Bending it to stop you spending I understand but not the smoothing of the coin.

Surely there must be more written on this from the time? I’ll go look :thumbsup:
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Bors
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Well the most popular believed version of their meaning to my knowledge is they were a substitute for a betrothal ring as the bent coin was used around the William 111 era. But I guess we`ll never ever know for sure what they're exact meaning was, because no one as far as I know has ever left any recorded documentation to prove either way what the actual meaning was. So I suppose, you can take the various beliefs as to what they were meant to represent ,and choose your favourite out the options available but in General I would think the favourite ,is a betrothal token.
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Saffron
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Oxgirl wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 3:36 pm I too am of the opinion most were not a token of love but a protest of the crooked Royal system that had a Dutch man in our Royal House. He wasn’t popular so removing his face and wiping out his details and bending a symbol of his rule seems like a fitting protest to me.
Could be, but 1) why nearly always sixpences?, 2) having defaced the portrait of William III why spent time and effort on the back of the coin and bending it?.
Either that or there were blokes who were doling out far too many tokens of love to the ladies!
Sorry but that is a sexist comment, what about the ladies that were leading the poor men on by collecting the love tokens then just disregarding them?. (yes that could be considered equally sexist, but its one each way so means its allowed).
One other theory I heard was a ‘luck’ one. You are meant to put a silver sixpence in your shoe on your wedding day so your union will always be blessed with riches. If you spent the sixpence you’d give that luck away. However then why remove the king’s image? Bending it to stop you spending I understand but not the smoothing of the coin.
I read that 3 times and failed to understand it. Then eventually realised it said "union", I had read it as "onion" :oops: :oops:
Surely there must be more written on this from the time? I’ll go look :thumbsup:
I found a fair bit written on it, BUT, its all been modern and saying what people think was the reason rather than from the time. Good luck looking.

Evan
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Maybe some entrepreneur had a good business plan of bending said coins and selling them onto the poor folk to give to their loved ones, for a small profit of course

In all seriousness you have to think that whatever the reason, it was a widespread reason or superstition, as they are found all over our country
Being as though word of mouth of travellers was about the only way news could spread across the whole country then it must have been a solid reason

The crooked sixpence rhyme holds a little water, and as Cath mentions a good luck token charm, being a superstitious bunch back then it would have spread from village to village

Its possible it was started by the rich and elite
Only reason i say that is due to them having enough wealth to be able to spoil a silver coin in such a way, and then show off by giving a silver coin as a token of love or luck, more than likely love though and some of those elite would have needed more than 1 coin :shock:
When this ritual filtered down to the poorer members of society, maybe they added their own twist by rubbing the elite royalties faces away as a sign of defiance
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Bors
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Quote,....." Sorry but that is a sexist comment, what about the ladies that were leading the poor men on by collecting the love tokens then just disregarding them?. (yes that could be considered equally sexist).

Oh dear :lol:
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Just to add my two-penneth (or should it be 2 1/2d). I have one William III bent sixpence token that has virtually no detail and one made from a toasted coin with no sign of silver.
I also have a normal William III shilling with reasonable detail on the obverse and virtually nothing on the reverse. And somewhere I have a load of big old pennies (240 = £1) and many have little, if any, detail and are worn smooth from general use.

The above makes me wonder whether the supposedly "rubbed smooth" silver tokens were just coins that had become well worn with circulation and then made in to tokens or whatevers.

And from left field, if you put a bent "token" on the desk and tap the raised up edge you can spin the coin - mark one side and maybe a game of chance or "she loves me, she loves me not".

Just a thought.
Blackadder43
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Extremely interesting wiki page here
Read down lower to see what it says about love tokens, or the art of bending a coin
Could explain the wear on said coin too, as if they believed it was to cure an ailment they would have been rubbing that coin like crazy over the affected area :shock:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touch_piece
muddy mick
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Saffron wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 12:39 pm But is that really the case? Others say that that a number of bent coins were not love tokens at all, here are just 3 of many options
Option 1 "The reason for them being that way relates to conditions prevailing a the time, when counterfeiting was rife. Copper fakes were often dipped in silver and passed off as a higher denomination coin. To check whether they were fakes they were bent to check if they were genuine. Counterfeit coins would be revealed as the worn thinner edges of silver would split as the copper pushed through."

Any thoughts?.
Evan
There has been a lot of debate on this recently on FB, Also John Winter wrote a very interesting story on his blog about it, but i cant find it now, but a lot of people were leaning towards what is said above,
For years i was always on the love token bit, ie they resemble a S for sweetheart, and many a lover who had a tiff / fell out the the lady would throw them away as such, bit like giving a engagement ring back
All the ones i mainly saw were more often than not William the III Sixpences, though over the years i have seen hammered with the same bend in them, a mate found a early milled gold many years ago and 2 years ago i found a George the 1st Half Guinea, at the time of finding it i thought who in their right mind would throw that away :lol:
As the Figgis pointed out above they have been found in quite a few hoards, not sure whether a actual hoard of them were found though ?
No doubt the debate will rage on as we may never know the truth, heres mine for your perusal
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TheFenTiger
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There must be something in the crooked sixpence rhyme or they were used as love tokens later on as I bought these for curiosity value a couple of years ago at a car boot sale.

I do wonder about the crooked part as crooked can mean dodgy as well as bent so I can see the bending to test for counterfeiting but then why bend it twice?

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Bors
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:D I think the "crooked" definitely is in reference to the bent part of the Coin. But I can`t say about the dodginess of the guy finding it in the nursery rhyme . :lol: I think the bending on each end was to make sure they were distinguishable from the useable coinage . Like say the guy had just given her a "love Token coin and it wasn`t bent, and she put it in her pocket where there was other similar coins , he didn`t want her spending his love token he`d given to her ,so it was bent to know the coin which was the "gift token "from being just another coin in her purse..
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Muddy Mick, its hard to tell from the photos but the with respect I do wonder if that George 1st 1/2 guinea (which would have been 5 days wages for a skilled tradesman and equate to over £60 now) was actually bent on purpose or if that is just due to damage while in the ground. Firstly it would require a very rich person to give it as a love token and rich person then to throw it way (why not flatten it and spend it?), secondly the bend looks to be limited, and thirdly no sign of it been smoothed as is normally the case. But you also say about a mate finding a milled gold so it well could be.

FenTiger, that is interesting to see such relatively modern (George III and Victoria) sixpences bent like that, by then had people decided bending them was enough and smoothing them was too much like hard work?.

Regarding the "Crooked sixpence" rhyme this is one possible origin, which puts it before the time of William III where the "sixpence love tokens" seem most common. But MM said about hammered bent "love tokens" and I have found a William and Mary that had been smoothed so that it was totally blank (only able to ID it when the light caught it one way and you could just make out the portrait of two heads) so maybe they do date from the time of the Union and just became more popular in the time of William III.

The crooked man is reputed to be the Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie, who signed a covenant securing religious and political freedom for Scotland. The "crooked stile" in the poem was the alliance between the parliaments of England and Scotland or the border between the two, depending on the source. "They all lived together in a little crooked house" refers to the fact that the English and Scots had at last come to an agreement, despite the continuing great animosity between the two peoples, who nonetheless had to live with each other due to their common border.

Evan
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The gold does look to be double bent which would be difficult to achieve in the ground. I have found a lot of bent coins but a double bend is pretty deliberate. Lets not forget there were a lot of rich landowners for whom a weeks wages would not have been out of the way.

Whether it was purposely discarded (unlikely) or lost is another matter. After all, silver and gold were still valued for their bullion rate so would still have had a value which I doubt someone would throw away. Like throwing away a £10 note that someone had written their love for you on. I can't see spurned lovers doing that in quantity. Unless they were wealthy enough that the money didn't matter. Again, unlikely.

I think that the William coins were around for a long time and I do have an obviously straightened and counter-marked coin which would suggested it was assayed and put back into circulation.
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Saffron wrote: Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:22 pm Muddy Mick, its hard to tell from the photos but the with respect I do wonder if that George 1st 1/2 guinea (which would have been 5 days wages for a skilled tradesman and equate to over £60 now) was actually bent on purpose or if that is just due to damage while in the ground. Firstly it would require a very rich person to give it as a love token and rich person then to throw it way (why not flatten it and spend it?), secondly the bend looks to be limited, and thirdly no sign of it been smoothed as is normally the case. But you also say about a mate finding a milled gold so it well could
Evan
Its hard to tell i will admit from those pictures, though maybe when i took those pictures id flattened it a bit :mrgreen: it was deffo the S shape, as all will testify when i found it, also not all of these so called love tokens are smoothed as you put it, Id take more pictures but alas i sold it :lol:
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