He did it his way!

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars

Gift coin presented to guests at Sinatra’s 77th birthday bash at the Star’s Desert Inn casino

Gift coin presented to guests at Sinatra’s 77th birthday bash at the Star’s Desert Inn casino

Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915. He would have been 98 today.

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra never graduated high school having been expelled for not being a good buy. While working as a riveter and delivering newspapers, Sinatra used to sing for tips—something he had done since he was eight years old. Eventually, Sinatra began signing at local clubs in Hoboken before becoming a professional singer in the 1930s.

Sinatra was a troublemaker throughout his career. Starting with his break-up with the Hoboken Four and subsequent disagreements with Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra went in the 1040s and the beginning of World War II as a capable musician but not liked amongst his peers. Although he was classified as 4-F for military service (“Registrant not acceptable for military service” by the draft board) because of a perforated ear drum, many active-duty entertainers and journalists hated that he flaunted his lifestyle while many were serving, even if they were just entertaining or acting as clerks without the fame or glamor.

Although Sinatra started to act in 1944 and co-starred with Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in Anchors Aweigh, Sinatra returned to acting to help repair his image. He co-starred with Gene Kelly and Esther Williams in Take Me Out to the Ballgame to critical acclaim.

The best is yet to come, and wont that be fine
You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine

Modern Hobo Nickel based on the Hirschfeld portrait of Sinatra by AG

Modern Hobo Nickel based on the Hirschfeld portrait of Sinatra by AG

The 1950s brought Sinatra a series of hits that well lasted into the 1060’s. He was becoming known as one of the best crooners and was name “Top Male Vocalist” by Billboard, Down Beat, and Metronome magazines in 1957. His 1959 hit “High Hopes” lasted 17 weeks on the Hot 100 charts and remains a staple in children’s shows.

Sinatra was a his acting stride in 1960 when he starred with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford, the original “Rat Pack,” in Ocean’s Eleven. He appeared in 17 more movies until 1970. After 36 years in show business, Sinatra announced his retirement in 1970.

Of course he made a comeback playing concerts and making guest television appearances. Sinatra also sang for songs that appeared in movies and later appeared with other artists in duets. He was one of the recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors with Katherine Dunham, James Stewart, Elia Kazan, and Virgil Thomson.

Sinatra’s last public concert was held in Japan in December 1994. The last time he sang for an audience was at a private part for the closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament in February 1995. He ended the show singing “My Way.”

After that show he began reducing his appearances and stopped appearing publicly following a heart attack in February 1997. He died in May 1998 following a second heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at 82 years old.

Frank Sinatra courted controversy throughout his life. Although a later release of FBI files showed he had almost no ties to organized crime, Sinatra embraced that controversy in order to overcome his own insecurities and to gain acceptance and access to what was then mob-controlled Las Vegas, where he saw great success. In fact, the Gaming Hall of Fame inducted Sinatra as a member in 1997.

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.

77th Birthday coin courtesy of Deans and Franks.com. Scroll down this page to find this coin for sale on their site.
Hobo Nickel by AG can be found on this page.

Finding a Modern Love Token

As I was going through my email and found a note from a reader who sent images of a 1993-D Lincoln cent where it looks like someone used a punch to create a heart design in the center of the coin (see image to the right). The reader asked if this may have been the result of the U.S. Mint trying to deface the coin and why it was placed into circulation. I was also asked if the coin had value—which is a natural question.

As the reader suggested, the markings are post minting but they were not made by the U.S. Mint. When the Mint cancels a coin they will run it through a machine that creates a waffle-like impression in the coin. Up until 2003, when the quality control officers at the U.S. Mint would remove coins from being circulated, they were separately bagged and placed under heavy guard between the Mint and the recycling center. The security for coins that would never be circulated was costly. In mid-2003, the U.S. Mint purchased machines that will make the waffle-like impression as a way of defacing the coins to cancel them. These coins are called waffle cancelled. Later that year, the Mint sold these coins to a dealer who encapsulated them and sold them for a premium.

My first impression was that the person who stamped the design on this coin was a modern day love token. Love Tokens are not as popular as they were in the 19th century. Love tokens are circulated coins that were smoothed by sanding or polishing on one or both sides of the coin and then a design hand engraved into the coin. They were called love tokens because they were used as gifts to show love or affection for the person. Love tokens were popular in Great Britain in the early part of the 19th century and their popularity in the United States occurred after the Civil War through the end of the century.

Love tokens were engraved on any coin found in pocket change. Depending on the financial status of the engraver, smaller denominations coins were very popular. When wages were averaging 10 to 15-cents per day, it was difficult to justify higher denomination coins to engrave.

It is typical for love tokens to have a hole punched in the top of the design to be work around the neck. More “expensive” love tokens may have a loop or bezel attached to the top so that the design stands out from the chain. Others who could afford larger, higher denomination coin and could afford to add a pin to the back to wear on a lapel. Love tokens were also made into chains and bracelets. Mothers sometimes had bracelets that had love tokens with the initials of their children.

Each love token is a personal story of a gift given in love. It is rare that these coins have a documented provenance leaving collectors to speculate the meaning behind the fascinating designs. If you are interested in love tokens, you may want to check out the website for the Love Token Society.

Like love tokens, we can only speculate as to why someone punched the heart into the coin and why it ended up in circulation. I hope its appearance in circulation does not represent a rejection of an interesting gift.

Waffle cancelled Missouri Quarter from The Columbus Dispatch.

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