Convict Love Token Exhibition at M.A.D.E.

21 Oct 2016 8:25 AM | Anonymous

Convict Love Token Exhibition at M.A.D.E.

An exhibition of 45 love tokens is on display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E.) in Ballarat and it runs from 7 October to the 21 January 2017. This is possibly the largest private collection of these tokens in the world.

When convicts learnt their fate of being transported some made keepsakes by scratching a message on a small piece of copper. The most common pieces of copper were the 1797 Cartwheel British pennies made at Matthew Boulton’s Soho Factory in Birmingham, as they were an ideal size being 34mm, readily available and affordable. The tokens at the time were known as ‘leaden hearts’ and were made in prison workshops. The convicts gave them to loved ones and family members prior to their transportation to Australia. We do not know how many were made as they were unofficial but they are now rare.

The Museum’s CEO, Sarah Masters, and its curator, Cash Brown, fully understood how to display these objects. They have the right lighting and numbered cards corresponding to the number given to each token. The cards have the written text that is engraved on the token and enlarged images of both sides of the keepsake. Some cards have the story of the convict on the flip side.

Not all tokens are dated but those that do range from 1791 to 1843. The youngest convict was aged just thirteen, and most were in their twenties and thirties.

Visit M.A.D.E. to see this excellent exhibition over summer and while in Ballarat have a look at the coins in the Gold Museum. It was established by the late Paul Simon, a former President of the Numismatic Association of Victoria.

The Love Token Exhibition will interest Australiana enthusiasts, numismatists, history buffs, and genealogists with a convict ancestry. Also on display at M.A.D.E. are recently made bonnets to represent the 25,566 female convicts transported to Australia.


The display of love tokens T. Brownhill love token Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka

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102 Stawell Street South, Ballarat, VIC 3350. 

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