Engraved coins shed light on personal lives of WWII soldiers

Sarasota, Fla. (WFLA) On this Veterans Day, it’s important to remember that during World War II; most of our servicemen were young. They were right out of high school with mothers and loved ones waiting for their return. So the soldiers used whatever they could find to make gifts to send home.

Many created ‘love tokens.’ These are coins that the soldiers made into gifts. During their downtime, the soldiers would sand down the coins and carve messages for their loved ones.

Carol Bastable has spent years collecting these love tokens. She said, “It’s mostly messages of love to mothers at home, sisters, girlfriends, wives, and it was a time in this country that had one of the largest patriotic outpourings in support of soldiers at home.”coin2

They would even creatively cut the coins apart and fashion them into lockets with photos inside. Bastable said, “The ones with the soldiers in the photos touch a chord with you because it puts a face on war.”

These servicemen were very creative. She added, “You have to remember that where they are there’s not access to a jewelry store and tools.”

Each one of these trinkets tells a story. One was made by a soldier during WWI. It was inscribed with the message: ‘August 16, 1917. ‘Loving memory, Heber, Killed in Action.’

Another had the message: ‘To my darling Alma, from Mannie. England 1943.’

Bastable said, “They were in the hands of these soldiers, they were mailed home to the loved ones that cared for them and supported them and its history in your hands.”

Not all of the token were sentimental. The soldiers would have fun with it too. One coin was carved to look like a soldier that’s smoking. Others would carve unique pictures or engrave faces onto the coin.

Some of these tokens date back to the Spanish-American war.coin3

But the servicemen would use anything they could find to create gifts. They also made gifts out of bullet cases and airplane parts.

Today these historical artifacts serve as reminders that the faces in your history books were real people with real lives. Bastable said, “It personalizes it. It’s more than places and facts and figures. There were a lot of people involved that gave a lot of sacrifice serving our country.”

Bastable is part of a group called the love token society. It’s made up of coin collectors who collect these unique historical items. The group is actively searching for any World War II veterans who are familiar with these tokens, to see if they can shed more light on their stories and on how they were made.

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