World Coins

CNG auction features deported convict love token

A circa 1831 or 1832 convict love token, carved in bronze by British deportee to Australia Thomas Brownhill, is offered in Classical Numismatic Group’s online and mail bid sale ending Sept. 13.

Images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

The colonization of Australia famously received boosts through periodic arrivals of convict transportation ships.

These ships brought thousands of English criminals to Australia (and the USA, it turns out), and rare folk art survives today from this period in the form of convict love tokens.

Convicts frequently carved coins into pieces of remembrance for the family left behind, and one such piece will be offered in Classical Numismatic Group’s Sept. 13 internet and mail bid sale.

The circa 1831 to 1832 bronze token measures 35.5 millimeters in diameter and weighs 23.25 grams, smaller than a Morgan dollar, and slightly lighter than an Eisenhower dollar.

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A man named Thomas Brownhill carved the piece, which depicts on its obverse a man standing, left, on shore, doffing hat, holding irons attached to his legs.

Also appearing on this side is the ship, and the man’s name, a reference to his age at the time of his conviction and the plea to FOR GET ME NOT.


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Brownhill was tried and convicted on March 26, 1831 for housebreaking, and sentenced to desportation. He sailed from Portsmouth on the Isabella on Nov. 27, 1831, bound for Sydney.

The voyage was marked by a mutiny of the ship’s crew, with 14 being executed upon their arrival in Australia. But the convicts, Brownhill included, remained well-behaved, and are even reported to have helped the captain. Following their arrival in Australia, Brownhill was assigned to one W.T. Morris of Batemans Bay, where he died on Dec. 13, 1840.v The piece was recently discovered in an estate in Great Britain, according to the auction house, which rates the token Good Very Fine.

It has a pre-sale estimate of $2,000.

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