A tiny masterpiece the size of a penny. In fact, it IS a penny! An Indian cent, though the image of Liberty in an American Indian head dress has been rubbed out and a calligraphic form dove has been expertly engraved. Known in numismatic circles as a "love token" the technique of intricate line engraving on coins is an unusual form of amulet. There were 1,849,648,000 Indian pennies produced from 1859 to 1909. As far as I know, there was only one engraved like this, but the person who did it was most accomplished and certainly engraved for a living. As such, this is not really "folk art" since the name implies amateur status...but the folky dove is a common image in other folk art forms of the period. Calligraphic drawings, hand decorated introduction cards, school children penmanship lessons and the like are often seen with similar images, but one this small on a coin is quite unusual. Love Tokens were just that...tokens presented to a loved one. Most have initials carved on them. It is possible this is a "blank" and was done while waiting for a buyer to request it, the name of his sweetie would have been engraved below the bird, however as wear from circulation is evident on both sides, this was carried for a long time. Wealthy (or naive) suitors could present their lover a gold coin carved with initials. Less fortunate would and could impress with a simple penny enhanced such as this piece. They are often seen with a hole punched for carrying on a charm bracelet or necklace. Coins have served many purposes other than commerce. They have been placed over the eyes of the dead, used to ward off evil, passed around for good luck, turned into "pawn" jewelry and even swallowed.
Engraved Indian Cent with Calligraphy Dove c. 1859-1909 Collection Jim Linderman