World Coins

Possible convict love token offered in London auction

An engraved halfpenny created for a Moses Robus apparently circa 1776 is being offered at auction Feb. 1 in London.

Images courtesy of Baldwin’s of St. James’s.

Numismatics is as full of mystery as it is of known facts, and one piece in an upcoming auction poses as many questions as those it answers. 

The item is an engraved halfpenny from Great Britain, date of issue unknown. The coin is being offered by Baldwin’s of St. James’s in its Feb. 1 Argentum sale in London, in conjunction with the London Coin Fair.

The Argentum auction generally offers items that are more affordable, but that does not mean these items lack interesting tales. 

The engraving on this coin names a man, Moses Robus, and the date 1776. 

The other side (really, what constitutes obverse and reverse in absence of traditional design details?) depicts a heart on crossed arrows, with crossed pistols, sword and keys around.

Little is known about the man so honored on this piece, which might be considered a “convict love token,” except for the fact that court records available today record two “not guilty” verdicts. 

According to the auction firm, Robus was recorded as being 5 feet, 7 inches in height, with dark hair, gray eyes and sound complexion when he was indicted before the Lord Mayor at the Old Bailey on Sept. 17, 1794, “for feloniously making an assault on the King’s highway, on John Glenfield (Wine Merchant), on the 18th of June, putting him in fear, and feloniously taking from his person and against his will, a metal watch, value £2; a silk watch string, value 1d; a cornelion stone seal set in metal, value 2s; and a metal watch key, value 1d - the goods of the said John Glanfield.” He was found not guilty. 

He had also been found not guilty of stealing “one large hair trunk, value 2s” and its contents from Margaret Mitchel, “spinster,” in January 1773. 

The name also appears on the justices’ working documents for the Middlesex Sessions in July 1781, and elsewhere, but the catalogers have been unable to link him to any crimes in 1776, or any for which he was found to be guilty.

Old Bailey is the name given to the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, after the London street on which it stands. 

Whatever crime he may have committed — or event that may be memorialized on this piece — is unknown to today. But this “neat engraving” piece is in Very Fine condition, the auction house said. 

It carries an estimate of £80 to £120 ($104 to $156 U.S.).

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