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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2001) AMP (03/2001) AMP (05/2001)   Vol. 35 April 2001 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this "eagle, flag, & cannon," starred-reverse, military button in a Michigan park. Could you give me some background on it and a value for it?

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Answer It's the c. 1808-21 U.S. Artillery variety listed as AY-50 in Albert's Record of American Uniform and Historical Buttons. There are a number of similar Artillery buttons of the period; however, only this one includes a flag in its design. At least some were of British manufacture, as evidenced by backmarks such as "Gilt / London," and "Lewis & Tomes / Extra Rich" [Birmingham, England]. If it's in good dug condition (no significant damage or corrosion, shank intact, etc.), it should retail around $175.


Question Mark, I dug this "60 Speed" watch fob at a construction site near Salt Lake City. The back says, "Gilson Manufacturing Co., Gasoline Engines, Port Washington, Wis. and Guelph, Ont." I would appreciate any information about it.

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Answer Gilson began making gas engines in 1894 and continued through 1914, when the company was sold to Bolens. Patent dates indicate that production of the "60 Speed" was underway at least as early as 1906. I found listings for a couple of "60 Speed" models, 1-3/4 hp (apparently later upgraded to 1-7/8) and 3 hp. U.S. and Canadian versions were reportedly the same except for the paint job (red and green, respectively). The name came from the popular expression, "She goes like 60!" and many of the engines bore a small plate with the "Goes Like 60" slogan. The fob's a fairly scarce one and could command $200+


Question This sword was found 65 years ago in cave in Tennessee. It looks as though the handle is brass, but all the rest is steel. The blade is 1" at its greatest width, 32-1/2" in length, and marked "Toledo" and "Made in Spain." It is in excellent shape except for what might be called a patina. Please identify and price it, if possible.

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Answer The pattern is that of a 17th century Spanish cup-hilt rapier. However, the words "Made in Spain" indicate that it's of much more recent vintage (probably post-1900) and was made for the U.S. or British market- perhaps a theatrical or decorator item. The originals carry five-figure price tags, but relatively recent replicas are generally $100-200. In fact, they're available brand new (still "Made in Toledo") at the same price or even less. Yours, although aged a few decades, is somewhere in there, too.


Question Is there any chance that you can trace this railroad baggage tag that I found in Buffalo, Kansas? It's stamped "FITCHBURG RR - and - C.M. & St. P. Ry. 4923 Via FITCH - B.H.T. & W., D. & HC - N.Y.L.E.&W, NYP&O & C. & Atc." Also, stamped at the top in much smaller letters is "J ROBBINS BOSTON." By the way, the only Fitchburg I can find is in Massachusetts.

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Answer And that fact points us in the right direction! The Fitchburg Railroad began operating in 1845 between its namesake city and Boston, some 50 miles away, and rolled on into the next century as a division of the Boston & Maine Railroad. The other lines named on the tag are the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul; Boston, Hoosac Tunnel & Western; Delaware & Hudson Canal; New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio; and Chicago & Atlantic (or possibly Camden & Atlantic). John Robbins of Boston started stamping out baggage claim checks/tags in the early 1840s, and his firm was still at it in the1880s. My best guess is that yours is 120-130 years old and worth $200-250.


Question A friend found this item, and we believe the U.S.N.G monogram on it may stand for United States National Guard. If so, could it be from the Civil War?

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Answer Yes, and no. It's a National Guard collar disk from World War I. Value, as found? Maybe $10. Incidentally, during the Civil War those troops which would now be classified as the National Guard existed as individual state militias. Direct federalization of these units did not occur until 1903, by which time they had become collectively known as the National Guard.


Question Detecting at a St. Marys River crossing on the Florida-Georgia border, I uncovered this glass eye in a crudely cast mounting. Kinda weird! Is it just a charm or fob, or maybe some sort of fraternal item?

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Answer Usually offered in occult, psychedelic, and New Age shops as an "Evil Eye" or "All-seeing Eye," it's a novelty pendant which sells for $12-25 in pewter, gold-tone, or silver. There are also rings, earrings, and other jewelry featuring the same "eye-catching" design. Must be a tad unsettling to stare down at a find and find it staring back!


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