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Object: Miser’s purse

This image has Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND Creative Commons BY-NC-ND copyright licence

Title Miser’s purse
Production Unknown, early 1800s
Materials silk, brass, thread
Classification purses, coin purses
Dimensions Overall: 65mm (Height) x 250mm (Length) x 27mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Purchased 2002
Registration number GH009865

This is a miser's purse (also known as a wallet or stocking purse) made in the early 1800s. It was a fashionable style for both men and women, and would have been based on a pattern found in popular women's magazines and knitting books.

It is called a miser's purse because its long tubular shape with a slit down the centre is held tightly by sliding rings (or 'sliders') to keep the coins safe at either end. This meant that it was hard to get the coins out in a hurry - hence the name miser.

Miser's purses were usually weighted at the ends (sometimes with steel bead tassels) to hold the coins in place. In the case of this particular purse, one end has been rounded with a single trimming while the other end has squared corners and two trimmings. This meant that coins of different denominations could be kept in either end, making it easier in a dark carriage to find the correct fare to pay the driver by feeling the difference in trimmings.

Women carried miser's purses held in the middle, letting them fall elegantly over the hand or from their belts. Men carried them in their pockets.

Thousands of women made purses such as these for personal use or as gifts or novelties - sometimes donating them to fundraising causes. This purse was probably made as a gift for a gentleman because green was a popular choice for men's purses at the time.

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