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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2001) AMP (01/2001) AMP (03/2001)   Vol. 35 February 2001 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the February 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I'm hoping you can supply some information concerning this "Abraham Lincoln" brass pill box. The bottom half is stamped, "* SUPERIOR CACHOU * & CARDAMOM AROMATISE" and, "FOR CORRECTING BREATH."

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Answer Likely dating from around 1865-75, it was almost undoubtedly issued by the French firm of G. Arnaud, even though it does not bear that name. (Some boxes with identical bases have "Paris" stamped on the tabbed rectangle in the center.) The cachous which filled it were tiny, intensely powerful pills containing the aromatic spice cardamom. Chewed or slowly dissolved in the mouth, cachous helped relieve the all-too-evident olfactory aftereffects of tobacco and strong drink in those Victorian social situations where "correct" everything, including breath, was expected. Containers varied- cardboard, lithographed tin, etc.- but the embossed brass ones seem to have been especially popular. Boxes from the U.S., Austria, Great Britain, and France have been reported, with the last two countries predominating. Among the famous persons depicted on them are Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Napoleon III, and a number of U.S. presidents, including Washington and Lincoln. All are very desirable, and the article "Embossed Cachou Boxes" by Dr. Ben Z. Swanson, Jr., published in the TAMS Journal a little over ten years ago, provides an excellent introduction to them. Pricing varies widely, and estimates for yours ranged up to an offer of $800+.


Question We found this medal in the yard of an early flagstone home in our neighborhood. The inscription says, "Non Silba Sed Anthar Honor," and the cross in the center is surrounded by the initials KIGY. Please tell us its origin and value.

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Answer It's a watch fob worn by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, whose motto, Non Silba Sed Anthar, means, "Not for self but for others." The letters KIGY reportedly stand for, "Klansman, I greet you" or "Klan interests guide you." Some KKK fobs date back to the early 1900s, but I'm not sure about this one. The same sort of design showing an eagle with uplifted wings curving against a circle appears on other KKK items, such as pins and badges, dating as late as the 1970s. While this is admittedly a controversial field of collecting, the demand is definitely there. Even with some loss of gilt and enamel, your fob would probably fetch $150-200.


Question Mark, a good buddy of mine dug this button at Bentonville, North Carolina. It has an elaborate Old English "BS" on the front, and is backmarked "SCOVILL MG CO WATERBURY"; however, we haven't been able to find it in any books. Do you have any resources that might identify it?

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Answer When all else fails, I confidently consult the most comprehensive and authoritative buttons database available... Bob Edmondson! Not surprisingly, he came through in this instance, too. Your friend's find is an early version of Bingham School button from the late 1840s or early '50s. Founded by the Rev. William Bingham at Mebane, North Carolina in 1793, the school later adopted a military organization under the direction of his son, Col. William Bingham, who was succeeded as headmaster in 1873 by his brother, a former Confederate officer, Col. Robert Bingham. Following a disastrous fire late in 1890, the school moved to new facilities near Asheville, North Carolina, where it continued operating well into the 20th century. Value of the button? $100-125.


Question I believe this medal to be Spanish or Portuguese. On the front is a woman's portrait inside a wreath, and underneath are the words "Campaña de Africa" and the date 1860. On the back is a long list: "Serrallo, Sierra-Bulones, Torre-Martin..." Know anything about it?

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Answer It's a Spanish military medal, awarded to men serving in the African (Moroccan) Campaign. The obverse image is that of Queen Isabel II, who ruled from 1833 to 1868, and the names on the reverse are evidently Moroccan cities and battle locations. According to my old history professor, when war erupted between the two countries in 1859, Spain prevailed and exacted a punishing indemnity of $20 million from Morocco. After that... well, I dozed off in class again and never did find out what happened until after the midterm exam. Anyway, let's get back to the medal. W&ET contacted a couple of militaria dealers about it, and they put the price tag at $50-$75+.


Question While coinshooting in a Los Angeles park, I came up with this large bronze piece. What is it?

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Answer It's a souvenir from the Century of Progress (world's fair) held in Chicago in 1933-34. Large commemoratives like this are known as "so-called dollars," and this one is often referred to as the "Indian Head" dollar. Although Hibler & Kappen's book, So-Called Dollars (1963), describes it as "very scarce," it's actually among the more common medals from the '33-34 expo, but still worth $10, VF. Not only that, but it's bound to bring you luck. Says so right on the back!


Question This curious contraption, "Wizard - Pat. Oct. 22, 1889," comes from an old coal mining town in Colorado. As you can see, at one end there's a large spring clip, and at the other there's a head clip which opens with a squeeze and swivels 360°- but why, or what for? Can you solve the mystery?

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Answer Would you settle for a few off-the-cuff remarks? I hope so, because what you've got is a shirt cuff holder. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, men often wore detachable shirt collars and cuffs. Some of these were made of linen, others of celluloid (a sort of plastic). By quickly slipping on a new set (and sometimes a separate shirt front as well), a gent could appear to have put on a fresh, neatly pressed white shirt. Of course, it would be a bit embarrassing to have one of these come off; so, gizmos like the one you found were invented to help keep cuffs securely in place. "Wizard" was among the top brands, and a century or so ago they sold for about 10¢ a pair. Today one might bring a buck or two as an oddity, but mainly it's just a neat little artifact of an age long past.


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