Ask Mark Parker Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine
Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine

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Ask Mark Parker
Volume 31 May 1997

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FOUR BEFOREAsk Mark Parker Image 1

Q. I found this coin while metal detecting in a small town in southwest Louisiana. Although I know that it is an undated 4 reales piece minted in Mexico City, there is one thing which puzzles me. Unlike most of the Spanish coins minted there, it does not have a small "o" above the "M." Any information concerning it would be appreciated.

A. In 1536, by order of Charles (Carlos) I, the first Spanish mint in the New World was established at Mexico City, striking coins in denominations of 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, 3, and 4 reales . Comparable to European coinage of the same era, they were generally of much higher quality than the later "cob" coins. At that time, the mintmarks M and oM were used; the more familiar mark with a small o above a large M was introduced later. Your find, a Carlos & Juana 4 reales, dates from the 1540s. (Juana, the daughter of Ferdinand & Isabella, was the mother of Charles I and supposedly reigned with him over the Spanish empire. In reality, however, she was insane.) Professional numismatists contacted by W&ET estimate the value of a coin of this type in Very Fine condition at $325-375.

CRUISE CONTROLAsk Mark Parker Image 2

Q. Mark, please tell me whatever you can about the history of this medal found in Tacoma, Washington.

A. It's a watch fob commemorating the 1908 around-the-world voyage of the U.S. Navy's battle fleet, under command of Admiral Robley D. "Fighting Bob" Evans. Ostensibly a "good will" tour, the extended cruise was actually a demonstration of America's seapower, intended to control aggression of foreign powers (notably Japan) in the Pacific. As part of its mission, the fleet made a number of public appearance stops along the West Coast, and many medals, badges, fobs, and other items were issued as souvenirs of these visits. Yours is worth $35+.

BARELY A HEROAsk Mark Parker Image 3

Q. During a search of my sister's yard, I turned up this foreign silver medal which pictures a naked man with a sword standing over a bear. Can you identify it?

A. One of several nonofficial patriotic medals struck in Berlin, Germany in 1914, it celebrates General Paul von Hindenburg's liberation of East Prussia from Russian forces. Interestingly, much of the credit for the victory properly belonged to General Erich Ludendorff even though it was Hindenburg who became the national hero, and there are some who view the medal as a thinly veiled comment on that fact. Whether intentionally satirical or not, the reverse depicts Hindenburg in an unflattering "classical" pose-more than a bit potbellied and, er, distinctly vulnerable to the upraised claw of the fallen Russian bear (details discreetly concealed here, of course, by the superimposed obverse). More commonly encountered as an uncirculated piece in the $60-75 range, as dug it's probably closer to $30-35.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCEAsk Mark Parker Image 4

Q. While vacationing in Pennsylvania, I found this gold-plated pendant or medallion. On the back is, "Another mother for peace, Beverly Hills, Calif., 1968." What sort of collectability does it have?

A. The design was one of the most popular of the '60s peace movement, appearing on posters, banners, buttons, T-shirts, headbands, and all sorts of protest paraphernalia. I believe there were a number of "Mothers for Peace" groups in those days; however, the only recently active organization bearing that name was founded somewhat later and eventually became known as the Friends Peace Exchange. So, I'm not sure whether this medallion was an official membership issue or simply a retail item with the inscription custom engraved. What price nostalgia? Well, according to Jan Lindenberger, author of '50s - '60s Memorabilia - Information & Price Guide, your "peace" of past could bring $75-100.

"BADGES?...BADGES?..."Ask Mark Parker Image 5

Q. On a recent trip to an old mine site, I recovered this badge. Thanks for any help you can give in researching it.

A. It's a school safety patrol badge from Balboa, California. These were provided by the California AAA (American Automobile Association) in conjunction with local law enforcement officials. Believed to date from the '40s or '50s, it's a $20-30 find.

FALSE ARRESTAsk Mark Parker Image 6

Q. I acquired this Waffen SS brass tag in trade and would like to know exactly what it is. The back is numbered W-39-129-B-SS, with the S's in the lightning-bolt style shown on the front.

A. The Waffen SS were the militarized special police forces of Nazi Germany. Dr. Eric Johansson of the historical division of Manion's, an international auction firm specializing in militaria, identifies your find as follows: "This is a copy of an arrest warrant. For every real one, there are about 1,000 fakes. The originals were made of a very secret alloy of molybdenum steel that defied the Allies in WWII, and the OSS was unable to replicate the badge satisfactorily for its operatives in occupied Europe. The steel the originals were made from has never been replicated, and the secret of the alloy mix died with the Third Reich. The repro warrants were sold by WWII Limited in St. Louis, Missouri, and Delta International in Hollywood, California, and were made widely in Europe for collectors in the '60s. In addition to the difference in the type of metal, the one shown here is identifiable as a copy by its poor detail and improper numbering system. An original would sell for around $2,500; repros sell for $10 each."

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