Miser’s purses are oblong pouches primarily used to carry coins. The purses usually have center slit openings with pairs of sliding rings to secure coins in the purses’ ends, though sometimes clasp closures are used. The purses probably evolved from the 16th-century practice of storing coins in the toe of a stocking. Miser’s purses were called short or long purses based on their lengths (purse lengths were gender specific until the mid-19th century), or sometimes gentlemen’s purses. The name miser’s purse seems to have originated at the turn of the 20th century, near the end of their popularity.

Miser’s purses were usually silk with glass or metal beads, and could be netted, knitted or crocheted. While many of the designs were purely ornamental, some were intended to make the purses more functional. For example, making the two ends different colors or shapes, or using gold beads at one end and silver at the other, could help the purse’s user distinguish between gold and silver coins. The purses were typically carried by men in a coat or trouser pocket, and by women in a skirt pocket or small pouch.

Featured Image: Miser's purse, USA, early–mid-19th century

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