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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2001) AMP (09/2001) AMP (11/2001)   Vol. 35 October 2001 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Please identify this gilt brass "57" button. It is approximately 15/16" in diameter, and there are no maker's marks or designs on the back.

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Answer It's a British 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment officer's button- and a variety previously unknown/undocumented. Unfortunately, the details of its discovery (omitted here) offered no clear indication of age, although style and construction seemed to favor a guess in the early 1800s. Sending copies of the photos to a couple of well-known specialists confirmed its importance, but still left the date in doubt. The story might have ended there, but then George Juno, Sr., who'd heard about our efforts to research the button, reported that, amazingly, another one had just turned up. In much rougher condition but indisputably identical in design, it surfaced at an undisclosed site in New York State. It was the break we'd been hoping for, and the best news we could have had... namely because the second specimen was recovered in a Revolutionary War context. Talk about filling in the blanks! Frankly, I'd rather emphasize the historical importance of your find, but there's no denying its collectability. So, given its extreme rarity and superb quality, I think we can unhesitatingly tag it at $2,000+.


Question While metal detecting at an old property in New Hampshire, I uncovered what I'm told is a c. 1840 Militia plate. Is that identification correct, and how much is the plate (with the tongue and loop still intact) actually worth?

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Answer The word you heard is pretty much on the money... and in this case the money's not too bad, either. Many similar plates were produced from the 1820s to 1840s, and this particular example, with 17 asterisk-like, six-pointed stars above the E Pluribus Unum banner, has been attributed as c. 1825-35. It should retail around $400-500.


Question I dug this octagonal token where some old row houses once stood in Richmond, Virginia. One side has, "PENDLETON MFG. CO. / 1oo / AUTUN, S. C."; the other is blank. I tried to find out about the company and the town, but failed on both counts. Can you help me?

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Answer Let's ask the man who wrote the book. According to Tony Chibbaro, author of South Carolina Tokens, "The Pendleton Mfg. Co. is perhaps the oldest textile plant still operating in South Carolina, and was founded on the present site in Anderson County, in the northwestern part of the state, in 1838. The town, originally called simply Pendleton Factory, was later named Autun in 1879, and eventually renamed LaFrance in 1927. Autun was a 'put together' name, combining the name of the owner of the mill, a Colonel Sitton, with the maiden name of his wife, which was Aull. The Autun tokens are unlisted and rare, and I would speculate that this one dates c. 1900, although perhaps as early as 1885. They were issued in lieu of wages to mill employees, who were thus required to shop at the company-owned store in the mill village. I would estimate the value of the token, as found, at $125-150; if non-dug and Extremely Fine, $200 or more."


Question What can you tell me about this silver coin, which is a little larger than a quarter and dated 1721?

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Answer What you've got is a Spanish 2 reales, or "two bits." The obverse bears the crowned shield of Spain, surrounded by the Latin legend PHILIPPUS V D. G., or "Philip V, by the grace of God." R II, on either side of the shield, indicates the denomination. On the left, beneath the R, is the "Roman aqueduct" mark, signifying that the coin was struck at the mint in Segovia, in central Spain. On the right, the initial F is that of mintmaster Fernando Vazquez. The reverse bears the quartered arms of Castile and Leon, and HISPANIARUM REX means, "King of Spain." Despite its antiquity, the coin is a fairly common one, currently cataloging at $10-15, Very Good to Fine.


Question Searching in Lake City, a small rural town in Elk County, Pennsylvania, I found this 1901 Indian Head cent with aluminum surround. One side is embossed with a four-leaf clover and, "* Good Luck Souvenir * Buffalo, N. Y. Pan-American Exposition." The other bears a pair of horseshoes and the words, "Lucky Penny. I'm It. Pocket Piece." There is a small suspension hole near the edge. Please identify and price it.

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Answer It's what collectors call an "encased cent" and, as its inscription indicates, it was offered as a novelty souvenir at the Pan-American Exposition (world's fair) held in Buffalo, New York in 1901. In fact, that was the first year that encased cents appeared. The expo itself is perhaps best remembered as the scene of the assassination of President William McKinley, who was shot on September 6, while greeting visitors at the Temple of Music. He died eight days later. Over eight million people attended the expo during its six-month run from May to November, and more than a few came away with one of these keepsakes. Value? $15-20.


Question Mark, I'd like some information about this "U.S. Suspect" tag?

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Answer I suspected as much. Provided by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for use by veterinarians or other authorized inspectors at livestock and poultry processing facilities, such tags are affixed to animals considered possibly diseased or subject to condemnation for some other reason. The animals are then retained, quarantined, and slaughtered separately as a group for postmortem inspection. Other tags marked "U.S. Condemned" are placed on obviously diseased animals, which are banned from processing for human consumption. It's not the sort of thing most folks are itching to own, but I suppose it might bring a buck or two. Meanwhile... burger, anybody?


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