Featured World War I love token on 1916 French franc, from a fallen Canadian soldier to his mother

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by lordmarcovan, Nov 6, 2016.

  1. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    This World War I trench art love token on a French franc cost me $37.03, so I posted it in the "post your purchase under $50" thread. But I thought it deserved its own thread, so I'm reposting it here.

    "Bertha's Boy"

    World War I love token on 1916 French franc, from a fallen Canadian soldier to his mother


    Larger obverse picture

    Larger reverse picture

    Host coin: 1916 French 1-franc piece, KM844.1, .835 silver/.1342 oz., 23 mm. Obverse: original French "Sower" design, unaltered. Reverse: "1 Franc" and olive branch planed off, date and legends intact, re-engraved "Bertha / V. Shaver / Montreal / Canada" in script. Ex-"pondcollections" (eBay), 2/9/2016.

    World War I "trench art" pieces and love tokens are commonly found on the French 1- and 2-franc "Sower" coins of the period. This one is visually unremarkable, though the engraved script was well done. At first glance, it's not even as interesting as the "dog tag" or "ID badge" pieces that typically bear a soldier's name, service number, and/or unit.

    However, I decided to research it because of the presence of a full name (first, last, and middle initial), to see if I could pin down more information about the onetime owner of this piece. It turned out I found very little about Bertha V. Shaver of Montreal, Canada, who was obviously the recipient of the love token, but through her name, I was able to determine with a reasonable amount of certainty that the engraving was commissioned by her son, Harold Clinton Shaver, who was serving with the Canadian Army Medical Service in France during the Great War.

    Since the date was left intact on the host coin, we know it was engraved no earlier than 1916. Of course the war ended in November of 1918, but the life of Private Harold Shaver was tragically cut short before that, on May 20, 1918, from wounds suffered the day before in a German air raid on the hospital he was probably working in. Thus we can pretty definitively date the engraving on the coin to sometime between October of 1917, when Harold Shaver enlisted, and May 19, 1918, when he was mortally wounded.

    As a further compelling detail to this poignant tale, I discovered a newspaper photograph of Harold Clinton Shaver on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website. So this is now the second time I've been able to "put a face to the coin", and it was a young and handsome face at that.

    May Harold and Bertha Shaver rest in peace, and I hope the joy of their eventual reunion in heaven eclipsed the suffering they experienced during their earthly existence.


    Data source: Canadian Virtual War Memorial

    (Note that there are some minor discrepancies in the sources. His death date was given as May 19th below, though that was the date of his wounding. He died on May 20th.)


    Data source: Canadian Great War Project
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  3. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    What a nice coin, and fantastic research! Congrats, that is a real gem.
  4. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    You're right it does deserve it's own thread! Great job on the research. I feel this kind of information adds real value to these pieces in ways more than dollars.
    TIF likes this.
  5. trussell

    trussell Active Member

    All I can say is Wow!
  6. carpman98

    carpman98 Active Member

    I live in Ingleside Ontario, which was built and inhabited when Aultsville was evacuated (and subsequently flooded) prior to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958. Osnabruck still exists a couple of miles north of Ingleside. Aultsville was one of the 10 'Lost Villages' flooded and now under about 20 feet of water after the seaway was modified to accommodate larger cargo ships.
    Theodosius and lordmarcovan like this.
  7. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Wow, so even his birthplace town is gone, now? I didn't know that. I think that adds another interesting facet to the story. Thanks!
    Theodosius and Jwt708 like this.
  8. Magnus Maximus

    Magnus Maximus Dulce et Decorum est....

    Poor boy. To add insult to injury, the war was almost over at that point. RIP
    Jwt708 likes this.
  9. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Now this is purely coincidental, and sort of like seeing cloud animals, but look where the engraving on the reverse got done, and how the toning in fields (or lack thereof) is a different color behind the engraving than it is on the rest of the coin, due to the slight surface alteration.

    Does anybody else see a maple leaf in that shape?

    I do,though it's purely imaginary, of course.
    Theodosius likes this.
  10. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, as I did in the other thread, that the person I sold this piece said he is going to donate this coin to the Canadian War Museum. I was delighted to hear that and couldn't think of a better place for it.

    That will be the second or third time one of my finds ended up in a museum. Makes a collector proud.
  11. David Setree Rare Coins

    David Setree Rare Coins Well-Known Member

    I have a couple of those but without the fabulous backstory and much cruder engraving.

    I also have a single US Civil War tag from a soldier in my own county with a wonderful backstory and who survived the entire four years of the war and was in many battles.
    Theodosius, TypeCoin971793 and Jwt708 like this.
  12. Mike Thorne

    Mike Thorne Active Member

    Neat historical research. Well done.
  13. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Numismatics at its historical best.
  14. Nathan401

    Nathan401 Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for sharing this!
  15. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    So sad. A young man and theological student, working to care for the wounded, was among the millions of innocent young men killed in such a needless war.

    Very tragic, indeed.

    Veterans Day is this Friday in the U.S. Let us not forget.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2016
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  16. coin_nut

    coin_nut Supporter! Supporter

    Great job, proud of you! It certainly does belong in a museum. The story brought a tear to my eye, thinking of the hell those guys went through in WWI.
  17. Black Friar

    Black Friar Well-Known Member

    Great piece of research and thanks for your generosity for sharing this missive. Trench art is a very rewarding area of numismatics.

    If you are interested in trench art and ever have a chance to attend ANA Summer Seminar make sure you sign up for Joe Boling and Fred Schwan's class on MPC and other war related material. They devote a lot of time to trench art. Totally amazing.

    Cheers to all,
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  18. Maxfli

    Maxfli Well-Known Member

    Great research and reporting, Rob.

    That's one of the things I like most about coins — almost all of them have a story to tell, if only they could talk. And, as you've just demonstrated, sometimes they can.
  19. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    WOW, that's amazing. Thanks for sharing that. I assume the coin made it's way back to his mother? Do you know anything about the coin between when he owned it and you picking it up?

    How many times have we wondered about who had our coin in the past?
  20. Zohar444

    Zohar444 Member

    That's some great work Lord. Thanks for this.
  21. brg5658

    brg5658 The Horse Coin Guy

    @lordmarcovan , absolutely stellar research and story. I really appreciate all of your work, and thanks for sharing this with us all.
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