Reader Douglas Epstein suggests that with Valentine's Day at hand, it might be appropriate to discuss love tokens. His aunt Esta, who was born on Valentine's Day, gave him a love token recently that is ornately engraved with the letters MAC intertwined. "I wonder," he pondered, "whether she is aware of the significance of this coin."
What Epstein no doubt means is that each love token has a story to tell. Love tokens were popular primarily in the 19th Century. All manner of coins--silver, gold and copper--were engraved with initials, scenes or symbols. They often were given as gifts to show affection, and many were holed so they could be worn on a chain around the neck.
It's interesting to note that love tokens were never very popular in Europe or elsewhere, and they are distinctly American and Canadian in character. Love tokens are highly collectible and relatively inexpensive when compared to numismatic material. The reason is that these coins have been defaced and altered.
Still, if you can find the proper initials or design, they make wonderful gifts. There is even a Love Token Society (c/o Joseph Lowry, 1832 North 77th Ave., Elmwood Park, Ill. 60635). The Tokens and Medals Society (c/o Dorothy Baber, 611 Oakwood Way, El Cajon, Calif. 92021) also occasionally deals with the subject.
Some dealers specialize in love tokens, but most carry them as they come along. You'll have to shop for just the right one, but the prize might make it worthwhile.
Q: Could you please tell me the worth of a $5 United States note? Where the Federal Bank stamp usually is, it states: "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private." It has red ink instead of green; Series 1963 signed by C. Douglas Dillon, Secretary of the Treasury. I have 10 of these notes.--S.G.R.
A: Your bills are just worth face value.
Q: Can you tell me the value of the following: 1897 Islas Filipinas one peso; 1885 Spain one-half peso; and 1794, one side reads "Vtraque Vnum", the other side says "Ferdnd VI Hispan et Ind Rex."--R.C.
A: Your Philippine peso is worth $25, the Spanish half peso is $10 and the earlier piece is $5 and up.
Early American and state coinage will be featured in the Frederick B. Taylor Collection sale March 26-28 at the Vista International Hotel in New York's World Trade Center in conjunction with the New York Metropolitan Convention. It is believed by Auctions by Bowers & Merena that the early American and state coinage will be the most complete ever offered publicly. An uncirculated 1795 half dollar (pictured) is in the sale along with state copper coins of 1785-1788, the period of Taylor's greatest interest. Catalogues are $20 from Auctions by Bowers & Merena, Box 1224-NR, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894; telephone (603) 569-5095.
The first gold coins celebrating the Grammy-winning Record of the Year have been authorized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. One thousand individually numbered coins honoring "We Are the World" will be issued with the academy's 7,000 members having first purchase rights. Any remaining 1-ounce coins will be available to the public after Sunday. For information, contact Solid Gold Mint, (213) 456-2547.
Coins from the Livingston Manor Collection, a private collection from Upstate New York, are being catalogued and will be offered for sale by Bowers & Merena Galleries. Items from half cents to double eagles are included in the vast collection. Coins may be obtained by submitting a want list of United States date and mint mark varieties to Elizabeth Arlin at Bowers & Merena. The firm's Rare Coin Review No. 64, due this month or early March, will include detailed information. It's available for $5 from Bowers & Merena Galleries, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, N.H. 03894.
Today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday--The ninth annual Long Beach Numismatic & Philatelic Winter Exposition will feature 410 coin and stamp dealers at the Long Beach Convention Center. Kagin's will conduct an auction while various educational programs have been planned. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call (213) 436-3636.
Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.