“Of Watch Fobs and Large Cents”

A few weeks ago while visiting my favorite internet bidding site I saw an exonumia item I just had to own. There was a “Buy It Now” provision with the piece, and after a moment’s consideration, I bought it outright and skipped the bidding process.


The piece in question is a watch fob, popular in the mid-to-late 19th century and right on into the early 20th century. I remember my grandfather, born in 1882, wearing a pocket watch with a fob attachment in the late 1950s before he passed away. My new “toy” is a neat watch fob with an 1817 large cent attached. The fob is made of brass or gold-filled metal with an ornate clip at top and a slide attachment of similar design that rides up and down the finely-knit brass “ribbon” from which the large cent is hung. The total length, including the large cent, is 4.5 inches top to bottom, and the “ribbon” is 3/4 of an inch across. The cent is in VG condition with a few old scratches on the reverse. There are traces of “silvering” on the reverse of the cent, though not on the obverse.


Was the date, 1817, significant to the previous owner? Perhaps it was a birth year. I like to imagine it was a 50th birthday or significant anniversary present for someone born in 1817. Given the grade of the coin, perhaps it was taken right from pocket change and turned into the fob. This link to 1817 is now a fun part of my collection, and I’m enjoying the stories it tells me now that it’s in place on the velvet tray on my desk at work!

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