What is a convict love token?

Smoothing and engraving a coin with a message of affection was one of the few ways a convict could leave a memento behind with loved ones in England before being transported. These small tokens are also known as 'leaden hearts'. They record personal and emotional responses from convicts whose lives are more often represented by official government records.

The tokens often include the names of the convict and their loved one, the length of the convict's sentence and popular phrases and rhymes of separation. They were frequently engraved around the time of conviction for a prisoner's loved one or family. The tokens were engraved or stippled, which involves making marks with a series of small pin pricks. They were crafted by professionals and amateurs.

The National Museum of Australia holds the world's largest collection of convict love tokens, with more than 310 in the collection.

Also see:

About the collection