Skip to main content

Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

To coin a (farewell) phrase

Finding and inscribing your last words to someone you love on a penny (around 36 millimetres in diameter) would be a difficult task – yet that is exactly what many British convicts did between 1788 and 1868.

1Convict love token from J. Waldon, 1832. 2Convict love token from John Camplin, 1818. 3Convict love token from Thomas Alsop, 1833. All . National Museum of Australia

In 1818, 15 year-old Londoner John Camplin was sentenced to death for attempting to steal a silver watch. Perhaps because of his youth and naivety, his sentence was commuted to transportation for life to the Australian penal colonies. Camplin’s story is similar to that of John Waldon, aged 20, and Thomas Alsop, aged 21, both of whom were caught stealing and subsequently transported. Often the only possessions young convicts had whilst awaiting transportation were cartwheel pennies. They would smooth the coins down and hand stipple (engrave) personalised message for their loved ones into the surface. The phrase ‘Remember me’ is common among the tragic, fatalistic and heart-rending goodbye messages on these ‘love tokens’. Young Alsop’s is inscribed with a hauntingly beautiful poem. The tokens that exist today – around 350 of them – have outlived their creators, perhaps indicative that the families of the convicts sought to remember their convict relative, and ensure future generations would too.

That’s one to get your heart started! You are 9 stories away from seeing your love score...

Choose your next love story

Related information

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

Café and shop

The café is open 9:00am-3:30pm every day. The shop is open 10:00am to 5:00pm every day.

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.