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Imagine being sent across the globe, leaving behind your family and friends with no possibility of contact – ever. How would you farewell them? What would you leave behind as a memento?

A convict love token, made up of a coin, engraved on this side features the text 'DEAR ELIZABETH / WHEN THIS YOU SEE / REMEMBER ME / NOW I AM BOUND / TO TWO YEARS / SLAVERY / 1825' with crossed sprigs at the bottom. The token has a hole pierced in it.
Convict love token from Henry Barton, 1825

For convicts waiting to be transported from England to Australia, an engraved love token was a personal way of saying goodbye – a message of love and anguish.

Love tokens were made by smoothing the surface of a coin and engraving it with messages and pictures to leave with loved ones. The National Museum is home to 314 love tokens – the largest single collection in the world.

Sophie Jensen, Senior Curator

The stories within each token are powerful, they are individual and emotional and we are adding to them all the time. The love tokens receive a lot of interest, especially from families who have explored their ancestry and found one of the tokens is part of their own story.

The Museum's dedicated Convict love tokens website includes high resolution photographs of both sides of every token in the collection, with visitors encouraged to read transcripts, leave comments and ask questions.

Three small discs hand engraved with text that reads, 'When this you see think of me until I get my liberty', 'Far from my friends far from my home on a distant land I am to roam' and 'When this you see remember me'.

Love tokens made by convicts

One of the more decorative coins is believed to have been carved by 29-year-old shipwright Henry Barton in 1825. Made for Elizabeth, Henry entreats her to remember him as he leaves England for ‘Two Years Slavery’.

This emotive and poignant token is as a key object on the new In Canberra website, an initiative between Visit Canberra, Schwartz Media and Australia’s national cultural institutions – showcasing Canberra as the cultural capital.

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