Before you know it, Valentine's Day will be here. And lovers will be trying to find unusual ways to express their feelings. Hearts and flowers, candy and jewelry work wonders. But coin lovers can express their love with something quite original--love tokens.
Technically, love tokens aren't tokens at all. They're elaborately engraved coins. Sometimes they carry a message; more often they bear just the initials of the recipient. The engraving often resembles the style and workmanship found on antique watches. Most of the coins are silver or gold.
Experts don't entirely agree on the origin of love tokens. Some believe that the practice began in England in the early 1700s. They became popular in the United States during the Civil War and lasted into the early part of this century.
Prices for these coins range from about $5 for copper pieces to hundreds of dollars for gold pieces. As with regular coins, condition plus the skill of the engraver help determine the price. Some people collect these pieces because of the interest they evoke; others prefer to find those with the right initials for their loved one. Whatever the reason, they make interesting conversation pieces at this time of year.
Literature is not too plentiful on the subject. Probably the most definitive work is "The Standard Guide to Love Tokens" by Sol Taylor. It's a modest work, the first of its kind, and even includes a price guide. The booklet is now in its third printing and is available from the author at P. O. Box 5465, North Hollywood 91616. The price is $3.95 plus 71 cents for postage.
Today-Sunday--The sixth annual Long Beach Numismatic & Philatelic Winter Exposition will feature more than 300 dealers, an auction by Kagin's, coin booths for juniors plus meetings by specialty groups and other highlights. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has prepared a souvenir card (pictured) depicting a replica of the back of a rare Series 1865 $20 gold certificate, along with a 1948 stamp commemorating the California Gold Rush. Mint cards will sell at the show for $3. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
A new guide, "The Illustrated Coin Dating Guide for the Eastern World," is available from Krause Publications. The work offers formulas for changing Eastern dates (Chinese, Tibetan, Mohammedan, Buddhist, Chula Sakarat, Ethiopian, Jewish, Korean, Bangkok, Saka and Vikrama Samvat) to the Western (AD) system. It is priced at $9.95 and is available at some coin shops or from Krause Publications, 700 E. State St., Iola, Wis. 54900.
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.